What Are The Best Header Gaskets? – 2018 Edition

Best header gasket kit - review guide featured imageShopping for header gaskets? Fortunately, you don’t have to blow a gasket yourself in order to find a great one for your vehicle. We’ve thoroughly reviewed the best header gaskets for 2018 below. Plus, we’ve created a thorough, and thoroughly user-friendly, guide to selecting the best header gasket for your car or truck.

Ready to get started? Let’s put the pedal to the medal!

Our #1 Pick – Fel-Pro 26415 PT Cylinder Head Gasket

A high-quality head gasket with a robust seal which meets or exceeds original equipment specifications.

Pros

  • Precision crafted to meet or exceed OEM specs
  • Tight seal for improved engine performance
  • Works great even in new, powerful engines

Cons

  • Fel-Pro’s part lookup system can be confusing

These PermaTorqueMLS head gaskets fit as precisely as OEM equipment. In fact, we found Subaru certified techs online who claimed to use these parts in their own cars, because they’re cheaper than dealer gaskets but just as reliable.

A tight seal allows for optimum pressure and temperature. Designed specifically to handle casting motion caused by newer cars. Fel-Pro is a trusted name in automotive.

An affordable way to change your gaskets every five years or so without having to pay dealer prices for original parts.

Our #2 Pick – Evergreen HSHB8-10401 Cylinder Head Gasket Set

A premium head gasket with Viton valve stem seals and OEM specifications at an affordable price.

Pros

  • Built to meet or exceed OEM standards
  • Much more affordable than original gaskets
  • Made from multi-layer steel for long-lasting durability
  • Vitro valve stem seals keep liquids safely contained

Cons

  • For best results, additional sealant required

Using cutting-edge manufacturing techniques and designs, these head gaskets from Evergreen are just as precise and durable as OEM parts but for a fraction of the cost. Features non-asbestos materials, silicone rubber, Viton valve stem seals and multiple-layer steel.

These premium replacement gaskets are suitable for a wide variety of cars and trucks. The graphite head construction promotes thermal regulation and chemical resistance. A safe, affordable alternative to original gaskets.

Our #3 Pick – SCITOO Replacement for Head Gasket Kits

Although not packed with fancy frills, these are dependable, well-made header gaskets which fit a wide range of Chevy vehicles.

Pros

  • Tough enough for professional racecars
  • Affordable replacement OEM gaskets
  • Suitable for Chevys, Pontiac, Buick and Oldsmobile vehicles

Cons

  • Doesn’t contain updated intake style (OEM only)

SCITOO parts are typically considered geared towards professional racing, but their head gaskets are worth consideration for everyday cars and trucks, too. Made from high-quality rubber, these gaskets are able to maintain a tight seal in both high and low temperatures. Tough and dependable, these replacement gaskets are even suitable for a professional racecar engine.

Kits are available for a wide range of vehicles including Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile and Buick models. Their included database will help you find the right model, although it could be made easier to navigate.

Our #4 Pick – MLS Cylinder Head Gasket from CNS EngineParts

A complete head gasket set includes two multi-layered steel head gaskets, Viton Valve Stem seals, and everything else needed to completely replace OEM gaskets.

Pros

  • Complete kit includes everything needed for gasket replacement
  • Fits most trucks in Ford F class.

Cons

  • Only suitable for narrow range of vehicles

This complete kit meets or exceeds OEM parts for a variety of Ford vehicles. Designed to fit F250s, F-350s, F-450s, F550s and more.

Package includes an MLS Cylinder Head Gasket Set, an RTV Gasket Silicone, two multi-layered steel head gaskets with 18mm, intake manifold gaskets and more.

Our #5 Pick – Bar’s Leaks 1111 Head Gasket Fix

A quick, easy way to chemically repair damaged gaskets quickly. An affordable and unique alternative to replacement.

Pros

  • Quick repair solution for damaged header gaskets
  • Easy to use and store
  • Fast-acting solution seals cracks in less than an hour

Cons

  • Not as safe or effective as complete head gasket replacement

While replacement is the best long-term option, this unique “fix in a can” from Bar’s Leaks is an effective way to plug leaks in any damaged head gasket. Simply spray directly onto the head gasket. The antifreeze-compatible sodium silicate sealing liquid fills gaps and cracks before hardening.

Safe for damaged, leaking or blown head gaskets. Although the manufacturer claims this is a permanent solution for gasket damage, most experts recommend using it only as a temporary fix. Carry a bottle in your car for a fast solution to an unexpected roadside emergency. Don’t let a blown gasket stop you in your tracks!

Frequently Asked Questions about Head Gaskets

What is a Head Gasket?

Small, simple and incredibly important, head gaskets play an important part in the safe operation of any vehicle. Head gaskets play two key roles:

  • They contain engine compression.
  • They keep three liquids in the engine from touching one another.

Cars, trucks, motorcycles and basically all other motorized vehicles are powered by internal combustion engines. These engines create power through what’s basically a controlled explosion.

First, a mixture of fuel and air is created in the cylinder. Then the spark plugs create a spark. This spark ignites the fuel/air mixture, resulting in an explosion.

The energy from the explosion moves a pistol. The motion from the piston turns the crankshaft. As the crankshaft turns, it transfers energy to the transmission. From there, the wheels turn and the vehicle moves.

The head gasket starts this entire process, making it instrumental in basic operations. But, perhaps more importantly, the head gasket contains the potentially dangerous explosions processes.

What Does a Head Gasket Do?

Inside an internal combustion engine three different fluids each have a specific purpose:

  1. The first fluid is oil. Circulating throughout the engine, oil keeps the parts lubricated while preventing friction.
  2. The second is coolant. This fluid reduces excessive heat buildup in the engine.
  3. The third is the fuel/air mixture. Engines run on either gasoline or diesel fuel.

Head gaskets prevent those fluids from escaping the engine block. It also keeps each fluid separate from the others.

What is a Blown Header Gasket?

You’ve probably heard the phrase “blown a gasket” used to describe a person who has exploded in anger. Well, that expression originated here. A blown engine gasket is one which has failed in some way.

A blown gasket can be very serious right away or it can start small and grow. But there’s really no such thing as a minor blown gasket. You’ll want to fix the problem fast. Driving with even minor problems can be unsafe.

Head gaskets have a few weak spots. If the gasket does fail, the problem will likely occur in one of these three areas:

  1. The areas between cylinders. This is where the material used to make the gasket is thinnest.
  2. The insertion points on the head of the block where the bolts are connected.
  3. Anywhere on the gasket where the thickness of the metal has a variation or defect

What Causes Head Gasket Failure?

There are a few different ways a head gasket can become weak and then fail. Some of these problems can be very hard to detect beforehand, and originally start developing well before they’re installed in your car.

Basically, there are three different scenarios which can cause gasket failure:

Operation Failure

Problems with the cooling system or ignition timing can cause damage to the header gaskets.

Installation Failure

Errors occurred during the manufacturing process. Materials, bolts or sealers used to make the gasket were low-quality or improperly handled.

The engine itself might be another source of potential problems. While engine construction is rare, it can cause problems with gaskets.

Design Failure

Certain new vehicle models of vehicles can put extreme thermal stress on the gasket due to poor design. This is also relatively rare.

What Problems are Caused by Head Gasket Failure?

Head gasket failure can cause a variety of problems to spread throughout your entire vehicle. Gaskets control the flow of three different liquids. Depending on which liquids leak and where they go inside the engine, different types of damage can occur.

Here’s a rundown:

Liquid is Lost

Damage to the header gaskets can result in fuel, coolant and/or oil leaks. Typically, you’ll be able to see a mess of fluid on your engine. In the short-term, you can usually safely operate your vehicle if you keep fluids topped off. However, you’ll want to have the issue repaired as soon as possible.

Fuel leaks aren’t exactly safe, but oil and coolant leaks are the two you’ll really want to watch. If either oil or coolant remains low for too long, the entire engine can overheat and cause substantial damage to the vehicle.

Fuel Mixes with Coolant or Oil

White smoke from the vehicle’s exhaust usually means fuel is mixing with coolant. When fuel is exposed to coolant, the coolant overheats and overall levels of compression are raised. This will likely warp and damage pistons, values and more.

Blue smoke likely indicates fuel is mixing with oil. Any normal engine combustion will then cause the oil to burn. This is damaging to the engine (and unpleasant for other drivers on the road).

Oil Mixes with Coolant

Oil and coolant contaminate each other if mixed. Both the ability to cool and lubricate are removed, leaving the engine extremely vulnerable. Unfortunately, a minor leak can be damaging but also hard to detect.

Coolant which has been contaminated by oil will have a noticeable film, discolored texture and, at the very bottom of the fluid, a brown sludge.

Oil which has been contaminated by coolant will look like milk chocolate. This contaminated substance can show up on the dipstick, valve cover, oil cap or at the bottom of the oil pan.

How is a Blown Head Gasket Fixed?

The quicker a problem can be identified and fixed, the less likely it is permanent damage will occur. Don’t let a damaged gasket remain in a vehicle for long. A blown gasket can cause catastrophic damage. In certain cases, you’re not just looking at replacing a damaged engine, but the entire car could be a total loss!

However, if damage is discovered early, the head gasket can be replaced and major problems can be prevented. Head gaskets aren’t universal. When shopping for a new one, you’ll want to start your search by narrowing down the options specific to your car’s make, model and year.

Can you replace a head gasket yourself? Maybe. If you’re familiar with car maintenance, you should probably be alright. However, you’ll want to be careful when installing a header gasket on your own. Any mistakes during installation can lead to serious damage once you’re on the road. This really isn’t a “learn by doing” type of project. If you have any doubts about your ability to do it correctly, contact a professional and trustworthy mechanic.

Here’s a breakdown of the steps required to change a header gasket.

Part 1: Removing the Head Gasket and Identifying Damage

  1. First, the cylinder block is removed from the engine block. This exposes the head gasket.
  2. Both head gasket and cylinder block are inspected thoroughly. Identifying the cause of the gasket failure is an important step in preventing it from re-occurring.
  3. All surfaces are then given a thorough cleaning with a solvent to remove debris build-up.

Part 2: Installing a New Head Gasket

  1. A gasket dressing (also called a sealer) is applied.
  2. Dressing is allowed to cure 20 minutes to an hour.
  3. The head of the gasket is placed on the engine block.
  4. Bolts are torqued according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Installing the head gasket is simple but can be time-consuming. Many installers prefer to torque most of the bolts but then wait overnight for the final twist. This allows the gasket to fit more securely.

Is Replacement the Only Option?

Not exactly. As shown in our list above, products are available which can repair a damaged head gasket. These unique liquids harden and cool once applied, stopping leaks in the tracks.

Automotive experts recommend using the liquid repair solution as only a temporary measure should header gasket damage occur while you’re on the road. While the liquid is effective at stopping leaks, they don’t really do anything to stop any underlying issues which caused the damage in the first place.

After applying a liquid leak solution, you’ll want a professional mechanic to examine your engine block for any damage. Sealing leaks with this type of liquid is usually best as a temporary solution until head gasket replacement can be completed.

Final Thoughts

Head gasket issues can lead to big problems on the road, including complete engine failure. Fortunately, fixing minor gasket problems helps prevent major issues. Our guide above will help you find the perfect gasket for your needs, and keep your car running safely and smoothly.

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