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How to Drive a Car With a Blown Head Gasket

by Paul Vaughn

You should drive a car with a blown head gasket only as a last-resort emergency. The longer you drive the vehicle, the more you'll damage the internal parts. Long-term use can compromise the entire engine. These steps assume that you are at a location where you have access to oil and coolant.

Allow the vehicle to completely cool down.

Place the drain pan under the coolant drain valve at the bottom of the radiator. Open the drain valve by turning it counterclockwise by hand, and let all the coolant drain out.

Dispose of the old coolant in an OSHA-approved container.

Reposition the drain pan under the vehicle's oil drain plug. Remove the oil drain plug, using the 3/4-inch wrench to turn it counterclockwise, letting all the oil drain out.

Remove the oil filter with the oil filter wrench, and replace it with new filter.

Close the oil drain pan plug with the wrench. Use the oil fill funnel to fill the oil pan with 5 quarts of the oil recommended for your particular vehicle.

Close the coolant drain valve by hand, and use the coolant fill funnel to fill the radiator with 2 gallons of coolant---or until the coolant level is up to the level marked on the overflow container.

Drive your vehicle directly to a service station that is as close as possible. You should drive no more than a mile away, as the engine will overheat and be further damaged. Shut off the engine as quickly as possible, and let the mechanics take it from there.


  • If the head gasket is blown, you will see oil mixed with the water when you drain the oil.


  • Driving the car with a blown head gasket is not advisable unless no other option is available. It would be better to call a wrecker and have the vehicle towed to a service station.
  • Do not handle engine parts, coolant or oil until they have completely cooled down.

Items you will need

About the Author

Paul Vaughn has worked in the auto and diesel mechanics field for 10 years and as public school automotive vocational teacher for five years. He currently teaches high school auto tech, covering year model vehicles as old as 1980 to as new as 2007.

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