Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls

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

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details
Icon-warranty_badge-02

Skip the repair shop, our top-rated mechanics come to you.

At your home or office

Choose from 600+ repair, maintenance & diagnostic services. Our top-rated mechanics bring all parts & tools to your location.

Fair & transparent pricing

See labor & parts costs upfront, so you can book with confidence.

12-month, 12,000-mile warranty

Our services are backed by a 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty for your peace of mind.

Get A Quote

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

More related articles

Veteran and Military Driver Laws and Benefits in Idaho
The state of Idaho offers a number of benefits and perks for those Americans who have either served in an Armed Forces branch in the...
P2422 OBD-II Trouble Code: Evaporative Emissions Control System (EVAP) Vent Valve Stuck Closed
Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC): P2422 P2422 code definition Evaporative Emissions Control System (EVAP) Vent Valve Stuck Closed Related Trouble Codes: P2441: EVAP Vent Valve Stuck Open EVAP trouble...
P0477 OBD-II Trouble Code: Exhaust Pressure Control Valve Low
P0477 code means that the PCM has detected an abnormally low voltage reading often due to the exhaust back pressure control valve circuit.


Related questions

Q: What does it mean if you are in Africa but still see the warning message: "Possible Ice. Drive with care"?

Most likely, this means the external, ambient air sensor has failed completely, or the wiring to this sensor has been cut. Checking this circuit will show it to be "open", that is, infinite resistance. The vehicle computer "sees" this as...

Q: Are front and rear wheel cylinders the same?

Hi. The rear wheel cylinders should be interchangeable with the front wheel cylinders. The drum set in the rear should be exactly the same as the front. If you are unsure then remove a wheel cylinder from the front and...

Q: Stuck in first gear - 2001 Chrysler Neon

These codes reference a malfunction in the transmission assembly. The problem may be another sensor or an internal fault within the transmission. The best thing to do in this case would be to diagnose the gear issue and pinpoint the...