How to Buy a Good Quality Cylinder Head

The cylinder head is one of the single most critical parts of your car’s mechanics, and one part that can trigger the most engine damage if it becomes compromised.

The cylinder head, along with the head gasket, sits on top of the engine block, creating a perfect seal over the cylinders that allows the pistons to function and protects the engine’s delicate components. It also maintains the vacuum necessary for the engine to operate normally. If this cylinder head develops a leak, cracks, or sustains other damage, it can bring the engine to a grinding halt – and quickly. The damage caused by a bad cylinder head can be so severe that the engine itself could end up needing replacement.

Obviously you want to keep the head in the best possible condition in order to keep your engine running smoothly and prevent significant damage. If something does happen to it, you’ll want to have a mechanic check out the problem immediately. Signs of a bad cylinder head include:

  • Leaking oil around the head – engine oil circulates in the engine block so if there’s a crack or other compromise, oil may seep out.

  • Misfiring – because the head maintains proper compression in the engine, if it’s damaged you will notice the engine “missing” or running abnormally.

  • Leaking coolant – anti-freeze keeps the engine cool, and if you notice it leaking around the head, there’s likely a problem.

  • Smoking head – the operation of the engine produces smoke, so if the head is leaking you may see it coming through.

If you’re lucky enough to catch the broken head before your engine blows, there are some things you should take into consideration to prevent the problem from happening with the new cylinder head.

How to make sure you’re getting a good quality cylinder head

  • Be careful with rebuilt cylinder heads. This is a very expensive part (from $200 up to a thousand or more) so you may be eager to save a few hundred by going with a remanufactured head. If you do choose this route, only go with a shop that has positive reputation, and make sure you ask to see all the documentation for the new parts used in the rebuild. It can be reasonable to go with remanufactured cylinder heads for a very old vehicle that may not outlast a pricey brand new head.

  • Choose compatible metal. Cylinder heads come in aluminum or cast iron but don’t just choose randomly – use whatever your engine block is made of. The two metals contract and expand at different rates under heat and pressure so mismatched components is just asking for cracking.

  • Make sure the bolts match. Whether your head cracks or the bolts aren’t the right ones for the head and engine block, it won’t matter how the damage happens once your engine blows. Improperly fitting bolts won’t hold the head in the tight fit needed to protect your engine.

  • Look for a warranty – even on rebuilds. Get the best possible mix of guarantee and price that you can afford.

Replacing your engine’s cylinder head is a difficult, involved process that is best performed by an experienced mechanic. YourMechanic supplies top-quality cylinder heads to our certified mobile technicians. We can also install a cylinder head/temperature sensor that you've purchased. Click here to get a quote for a cylinder head/ temperature sensor replacement


Next Step

Schedule 75 Point Safety Inspection

The most popular service booked by readers of this article is 75 Point Safety Inspection. YourMechanic’s technicians bring the dealership to you by performing this job at your home or office 7-days a week between 7AM-9PM. We currently cover over 2,000 cities and have 100k+ 5-star reviews... LEARN MORE

SEE PRICING & SCHEDULING

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Recent 75 Point Safety Inspection reviews

Excellent Rating

(428)

Rating Summary
393
16
10
1
8
393
16
10
1
8

Pardeep

21 years of experience
1068 reviews
Pardeep
21 years of experience
Ford Fusion L4-2.0L Hybrid - 75 Point Safety Inspection - San Jose, California
I have ordered a 75-point inspection of the car since my dealership claimed it had an oil leak and the timing cover replacement was due (this kind of repair costs in the ballpark of a thousand dollars). I mentioned the need for a second opinion on that since the car had been bought relatively recently from that dealer (certified pre-owned) and not very actively used. Pradeep performed the safety inspection in a very timely manner and addressed my main question by honestly concluding that there was no leak but just some dust collected over time. This has saved me much time and money. Finally, I was also very glad to learn a tip on how to find a matching paint for a body scratch from him.
Ford Escape - 75 Point Safety Inspection - San Jose, California
Pradeep immediately found the suspension problem I was worried about and fixed it. We had just purchased this car and now feel a lot better about it now that he has checked it out.

H

26 years of experience
828 reviews
H
26 years of experience
Hyundai Accent L4-1.6L - 75 Point Safety Inspection - Sunnyvale, California
Honorio not only told me what is going on with the car but was so honest about everything. Looking forward to having Honorio taking car of my requests.
Acura RDX - 75 Point Safety Inspection - Palo Alto, California
Honorio went above and beyond my expectations. He was honest about which repairs needed to be done even though my service revision decreased his income. Will absolutely use again!!!! Thank you!

Robert

4 years of experience
61 reviews
Robert
4 years of experience
Nissan Versa L4-1.6L - 75 Point Safety Inspection - Lakewood, Washington
Robert is a rockstar. I can't express enough (again) the quality of his work and his ability to work around our schedules here. Honest, professional and courteous. I would recommend his services to any and everyone.

Juan

12 years of experience
55 reviews
Juan
12 years of experience
Mazda Protege5 L4-2.0L - 75 Point Safety Inspection - Vacaville, California
Professional, clear, & courteous when discussing results of inspection & recommendations going forward. If I still live in the area when I need to do future services, will definitely book again.

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.

GET A QUOTE

Related articles

How to Replace an EVP Position Sensor
The EGR valve is monitored by a valve position sensor. This sensor helps your car's EGR system to run more efficiently and better control emissions.
How to Replace a Camshaft Position Sensor
Camshaft position sensors determine the position of the camshaft in relation to the crankshaft to control the fuel injector.
How to Replace a Yaw Rate Sensor
Yaw rate sensors monitor traction, stability, and the anti-lock braking system to alert you when the car tilts at an unsafe degree.

Related questions

2012 VW Tiguan with 33,440 miles and engine malfunction sensor came on and VW dealership quoted me $990 for decarboxylation and sa
Hello, thanks for writing in about your 2012 Volkswagen Tiguan. The Decarboxylation is necessary if you have a sensor reading that you need this done. Unfortunately I am not sure what your question is, however, if you'd like a second...
Will my car turn on normally again once I fix the crankshaft position sensor?
A faulty crankshaft position sensor (https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/crankshaft-position-sensor-replacement) could cause hard starting but to determine if the sensor itself is faulty it has to actually be tested. Often, there will be a Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC), that is generated by the car's...
2007 Acura mdx 125K miles. Won't upshift above third gear. Codes p1717, p0842, and po743. Do I need a new transmission?
Hello, thank you for writing in. In this situation facing a potential several thousand dollars repair, you will likely feel better with a second inspection. The codes you have are for several electrical systems on the transmission. These do not...

How can we help?

Our service team is available 7 days a week, Monday - Friday from 6 AM to 5 PM PST, Saturday - Sunday 7 AM - 4 PM PST.

1 (855) 347-2779 · hi@yourmechanic.com