Top Signs Accompanying a Damaged Engine Cylinder Head

The engine is a piece of complex machinery, and damage to a single part could affect the entire system. One such crucial component is the cylinder head. 

This machinery performs critical roles in a car’s fueling and cooling system. If it doesn’t function optimally, other parts of the engine will begin to fail, with damage spreading extensively with time. 

It’s only natural you want to save on repair expenses and keep damages to a minimum, which is why timely attending to car issues is crucial. However, you’ll need to know that there’s a problem.

Call Nationwide Report’s Car Genius™ from RepairPal at 1-877-671-3040 from 9am-6pm ET, Monday through Friday. 

What's an Engine Cylinder Head?

A car’s combustion engine has multiple cylinders, with the top of these metal pieces being the cylinder head. In this component, you’ll find small mechanical parts such as valves, lifters, the main combustion chamber, and springs. 

The cylinder head is crucial to the car’s engine, and it combines with the gasket to create the combustion chamber, facilitating the combustion process. 

Cylinder heads are responsible for regulating air and fuel, delivering them in, and expelling exhaust gases. 

Fuel and coolant also flow through it, making it crucial to have this component operating at optimal levels.

Types Of Cylinder Heads

There are three types of cylinder heads, including: 

  • Flathead Cylinder Heads

This type of cylinder head was the first industrial kind to hit the market. Flathead cylinder heads were simplistic, serving only to protect the cylinder block. 

It didn’t feature moving parts nor facilitate efficient air regulation. Flathead cylinder heads had poor performance ratings compared to their counterparts. 

  • Overhead Valve Cylinder Heads

This cylinder head offers superior performance compared to a flathead variant. They feature connected valves and pushrods, regulating air flow smoothly.

You’ll find the camshaft above the overhead valve cylinder head. 

  • Overhead Camshaft Cylinder Heads

These variations are the most advanced of the three. Overhead camshaft cylinder heads feature camshafts inside them, so they don’t require pushrods. This design effectively improves airflow and engine efficiency. 

Top Signs that You Have a Faulty Engine Cylinder Head

Here are some of the top car problems accompanying a damaged engine cylinder head:

#1 An Overheating Engine 

If you have a cracked engine cylinder head, your car will likely experience overheating. This situation can lead to issues in surrounding parts, including total failure. 

The head will expand and repeatedly contract in the presence of excess heat, which could result in cracks. Such damage will likely go through coolant passages, allowing compression gases to escape the combustion cycle and fill them. 

The coolant won’t circulate properly, and the resulting pressure worsens the cylinder head’s crack, leading to overheating in the engine. 

You can avoid overheating damage to the engine cylinder head by ensuring your radiator is filled and in optimal shape. 

#2 Poor Fuel Economy 

Do you find your car consuming fuel at a rapid rate? Then you probably have a faulty engine cylinder head. Fuel economy is vital in automobiles and significantly dictates the value of your car. You wouldn’t want a vehicle that would burn a hole in your pockets especially given the soaring gas prices. 

The engine can’t burn fuel efficiently with a damaged cylinder head. So, more gas will go into it while still providing a deficiency in power. 

#3 Excessive Oil Consumption 

Fuel isn’t the only fluid your vehicle consumes; oil gets this treatment. Cars develop this situation when valves and their guides wear out. Seals coming off or getting dislodged also affect oil levels, and the fluid flows into the intake or exhaust ports leading to excessive consumption. 

#4 Oil Leaks 

Oil leaks frequently happen when your car has a bad cylinder head, and you might visibly spot these spills around your car. However, if you don’t find anything but observe the oil light coming up, check your engine for evidence. 

If you can’t find any leak, have a mechanic run a check to isolate the problem. 

#5 Misfiring or Rough Running Engine 

Three significant processes must happen for complete combustion in an engine. These include:

  • Proper spark 
  • Accurate air/fuel ratio 
  • Adequate compression

A cracked cylinder head throws a wrench into this process, leading to a loss of compression and leaving you with a misfiring or rough-running engine. 

#6 Triggers Warning Lights 

Several warning lights can come on due to a cracked or broken engine cylinder head. 

Warning lights likely to appear on your car’s dashboard are: 

  • The low coolant level light 
  • Check engine light 
  • Engine over-temperature light

Also, if your vehicle features a temperature gauge, you might observe its dial rises.

#7 White Smoke 

One telling indicator of a broken cylinder head is white smoke emanating from the exhaust or the engine itself. Two reasons can be responsible for these fumes, and these include: 

  • The coolant contaminates your oiling system due to a cracked or broken engine cylinder head. 
  • Exhaust gas is escaping from the engine cylinder head, and you’d need to replace it. 

What Are the Root Causes of Damaged Engine Cylinder Heads?

The subsequent sections highlight the top reasons you might end up with a faulty cylinder head: 

  • Overheating

The most common cause of a broken engine cylinder head is overheating. Rapid heating leads to its expansion, and cooling induces the reverse; contraction. 

When the former occurs in the cylinder head due to an overheating engine, it’ll face a significant amount of thermal stress. If this problem goes unchecked, cracking inevitably occurs.

Your car’s cylinder head can crack or break even if an overheating system is only a one-time situation. So, it’s helpful to monitor coolant levels. 

  • Design Flaws

Miscalculations, inferior materials, and other design flaws can also lead to a cracked engine cylinder head. 

Replacing a Cylinder Head

Replacing a cylinder head is one of the more complex tasks regarding fixing engine components. You’ll need some mechanical knowledge to do an engine cylinder repair effectively, so it’s best to have an expert handle it. 

Here’s an overview of replacing a faulty cylinder head: 

Tools Needed 

Ensure you have these vital tools to execute a cylinder head replacement:

  • Spanner set 
  • Aluminum paint 
  • Socket set 
  • Engine seals 
  • Screwdriver set 
  • Pry bar 
  • Breaker bar 
  • Torque spanner 
  • Rags 

If you’ve got the aforementioned tools at your disposal, follow these 7 steps to execute a successful cylinder head replacement:

Step 1: Drain the Coolant and Remove the Cylinder Head

You’ll need to drain the coolant before removing the cylinder head. Consider using a suitable pan as a receptor for the drained fluid. 

Correctly place this pan beneath the radiator, then open the drain valve. Draining takes a few minutes. 

Afterward, remove all components that could hamper the main task; removing the cylinder head. Examples include the air filter system, the steering pump, and the throttle body. 

Step 2: Deconstruct the Engine Intakes and Manifolds

You’ll still need to remove several more parts before the cylinder head. These components include the intake and exhaust manifolds and the valve covers. You can efficiently complete this task using the socket and spanner set. 

You can remove each part partially from the engine, as unbolting them from the round cylinder would suffice. Afterward, proceed to remove the timing belt. 

If your car’s engine features one, you’ll need to detach the rocker arm next. 

Step 3: Remove the Old Cylinder Head 

Now it’s time to remove the old cylinder head. You’ll find that mounting bolts hold it in place. The breaker bar, ratchet extension, pry bar, and socket will come in handy here. 

Step 4: Prepare the New Cylinder Head 

Manufacturers include instructions with new cylinder heads. Adhering to these regulations is best as it sets up the equipment for optimal conditions. Perform any paint job before introduction. 

When installing the new cylinder head, ensure it properly aligns with the dowel pins. 

Step 5: Apply Oil and Attach Bolts 

Next is applying a fresh oil coat to the cylinder head and block bolts. Afterward, tighten the latter, employing the manufacturer’s recommended sequence to perform this action. 

Step 6: Reattach Engine Intakes and Manifolds 

Begin this step by reattaching the rocker arm if available. You’ll need a spanner and torque to restore the timing belt or chain. 

After completing this task, proceed to reattach the valve covers and the intake and exhaust manifolds. It’s best to use new seals as this material holds the components better and prevents exhaust fumes or air from escaping. 

Step 7: Reattach Parts and Refill the Coolant

The final step involves reattaching the parts from the start, after which you refill the coolant. It’s best to use a 50/50 mix of water and antifreeze to achieve top-class performance. 

Benefits of Repairing a Cylinder Head with an Expert

Reconditioning your automobile’s cylinder head with a professional mechanic leading the charge comes with several perks, including:

  • Cost Effective

Opting for a repair is more affordable than selecting a complete overhaul, and you can spend your savings on other expenses. Reconditioning cylinder heads is a great way to maintain your car’s resale value without spending as much as with a replacement. 

  • Specifications Guarantee 

A new engine cylinder head might not fit your car, and it can be challenging to find an exact match. However, if you take the repair route, you’re confident of perfect compatibility and won’t roll the dice on performance. 

  • Reliability

A top cylinder head repair service won’t let you down, and you can rest easy knowing they’ll return the component promptly and in functional condition. 

This approach eliminates spending months waiting on matching specifications. There’s also no guarantee that when the cylinder head arrives, it’ll fit your car. 

  • Quality Guarantee 

Reputable cylinder head repair companies guarantee quality and possess the expertise to provide the best service for your car’s engine. 

A top professional rates their reputation highly and will only give the best solution. If there’s something better than reconditioning, they’ll notify you of the best action to get your engine performing at peak levels again. 

Parting Shot

A broken or cracked cylinder head can damage your engine and its parts. Watch out for tell-tale signs of this situation, such as overheating, poor fuel economy, and oil leaks. 

If you think your vehicle has a bad cylinder head, it’s best to hire the services of a mechanic promptly. They can assist with repairing or rebuilding this component. So, contact a reputable auto professional today before setting sail on engine cylinder maintenance or repairs.


What Causes Cracked or Broken Cylinder Heads? 

Overheating is the primary cause of faulty cylinder heads. Trauma or loss of coolant can often trigger this high-temperature rise, exposing the head to thermal stress. 

Design defects can also lead to cracked or broken cylinder heads. 

What Are the Signs of a Faulty Engine Cylinder Head? 

Our write-up highlights the top signs of a broken cylinder head, including a misfiring engine, poor fuel economy, and overheating. 

If you observe any one of these signs, it’s best to have a professional mechanic run a check as soon as possible. 

Can You Repair a Damaged Engine Cylinder Head?

Yes, depending on the extent of damage, it’s possible to repair a damaged cylinder head. However, given its importance to your engine, you should have an expert handle this job. 


They’ve got the necessary experience and can perform this task efficiently. Taking the DIY route puts your car at risk of further damage if done incorrectly. Also, an expert provides the best solution to get your vehicle in top shape after performing an assessment. 

Can You Drive a Car With a Faulty Engine Cylinder Head? 

You can technically drive with a faulty cylinder head, but it has significant risks. Your engine might fail at any moment, and other parts will also break down without attending to the problem promptly. 

How Much Does It Cost to Repair a Faulty Engine Cylinder Head? 

The cost of reconditioning a malfunctioning cylinder head depends on the damage extent. So, it’s best to attend to such issues asap, as prompt action prevents further problems, saving you significant repair costs. 

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