ForumFix: He Blew a Gasket!

Oil leaks, coolant leaks, transmission fluid leaks…they all have one thing in common. No one wants to see them, or the puddle of fluid they leave in the driveway. A blown gasket is one of the most common causes for these leaks, but how can you tell which gasket has blown — and, once you figure out where the problem is, how can you fix it?

One forum user, posting under the username jadski, faced that issue with his 1998 Mustang. This 17-year-old driver had a blown head gasket in his classic pony car and no idea how to fix it. What did jadski end up doing with his Mustang, and what can do you do if your head gasket blows?

Blowing a Gasket

If you notice a lot of power loss when you’re trying to accelerate, or smoke coming from under your hood or your exhaust pipe, chances are you’ve blown a head gasket. Jadski, a 17-year-old automotive student, diagnosed a blown or cracked head gasket in his 1998 Mustang GT with a 4.6-liter engine. While it wasn’t overheating, it was blowing a lot of smoke on warm days and had noticeable power loss. It also developed a distinct knock in the engine at higher RPMs.

With a master mechanic — his teacher — looking over his shoulder, and a full garage of tools at his disposal, jadski was wondering how long it would take to swap out the blown head gasket.

The consensus from his forum-mates was that as a new mechanic, swapping out the head gasket on a 4.6L was a weekend job.

Save More By Fixing It Yourself

For an automotive student, the chance to change a head gasket is a great learning experience — but it’s also an excellent way for a young driver to save money. The cost of a professional head gasket replacement can range anywhere from $800 to $2,100, depending on the amount of damage the leaking oil or coolant has caused.

Even if you spend $200 on a head gasket set, $50 on new head bolts and a couple of hundred dollars on new plugs and wires while you’re at it, you still won’t be spending anywhere near the cost of a professional repair.

A Common Problem

Jadski’s eventually fixed his ‘98 Mustang, but he’s not the only one who has had head gasket problems with a Mustang. Far from it.

Jadski’s car was running a 4.6L engine, but if he had the smaller 3.8L V6, he might have even been able to get help from Ford. In 2000, they released an extended warranty on their head gaskets up to 100,000 miles, because the factory gasket was not designed to work with the aluminum head on the cast-iron block, so it would blow frequently.

If you’re worried about your Mustang’s head gasket, keep an eye — and an ear — out for things like power loss, ticking or smoke. Checking your fluid levels is a good idea, too — a dropping coolant level with no visible leak could mean it is leaking into the oil through the blown head gasket. Check your oil — if it looks milky white, like coffee with too much creamer, you’ve got a blown head gasket on your hands.

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