How to Change a Head Gasket on Cars

by Contributing Writer; Updated June 12, 2017

The Detroit Diesel Series 60 was one of the top selling on-highway engines during the 1990s. With a single overhead camshaft and electronic control system, the Series 60 became a popular option with truck manufacturers such as Freightliner, Peterbilt and Kenworth. Normal wear and aging of an engine will necessitate that parts be removed and replaced during the engine's lifetime. The cylinder head is a major component of the engine, and eventually the gasket will begin to leak coolant.

Under The Hood:

 How to Replace the Head Gasket in a Dodge Neon

Access the Engine Block

Open the hood and disconnect the negative terminal of the battery.

Drain the coolant from the car by placing a collection bin under the drain plug on the bottom of the engine.

Remove the bolts securing the air box assembly and remove it from the engine. There will be a wiring harness attached to it. Disconnect it by pressing in on the release tab.

Remove the screws that secure the EGR valve and disconnect the vacuum tube by removing the clamp that secures it. Remove the EGR valve.

Remove the bolts that secure the intake manifold to the head. Remove the intake manifold.

Remove the spark plugs from the head by turning them until loose and then pulling them out.

Disconnect the fuel lines from the fuel injection assembly by removing the hose clamps that secure them.

Remove the serpentine belt by pushing in and rotating counterclockwise on the lug that secures it with a ratchet.

Remove the alternator by removing the bolts that secure it.

Remove the exhaust from the exhaust manifold by removing the bolts that secure it.

Use a car jack to lift up the right side of the car. Place a jack stand under the car.

Remove the front right tire by removing the nuts that secure it.

Loosen the air conditioning compressor by loosening the bolts that secure it. As the unit is loosened, you will be able to pull off the compressor belt. This is the only part you need to remove.

Remove the crank bolt by rotating it counterclockwise.

Use the puller device to remove the crank pulley. First secure the puller to the pulley using three bolts, then actuate the puller counterclockwise to remove it.

Remove the front timing belt cover by removing the screws that secure it.

Place a jack stand under your oil pan.

Unbolt the engine mount. The engine should now be separated from the body frame.

Taking Apart the Engine

Rotate the crank until the marks on the gears line up.

Remove the timing belt tensioner by removing the mounting bolts that secure it.

Remove the timing belt. You should be able to remove this once the tensioner is removed.

Remove the timing gear from the assembly by pulling it out of the camshaft.

Remove the head bolts on the top of the head.

Use a prying lever to remove the head from the engine block.

Remove the old gasket. Be sure to clean the engine head and remove any residual parts.

Insert the new gasket.

Replace the head on the block.

Follow the steps in reverse to piece the engine and car back together.

Reconnect the negative terminal of the battery.

Items you will need

  • Coolant collection bin

  • Socket set

  • Screwdriver

  • Car jack

  • Jack stand

  • Puller

  • Pry bar

 How to Replace the Head Gasket on a Saturn

Open up the hood of the Saturn and locate the battery. Use a wrench to disconnect the bolt from the negative terminal. Lift the negative cable away from the terminal.

Place a drain pan underneath the radiator. Remove the drain plug from the bottom of the radiator and drain the coolant into the pan.

Disconnect the lines attached to the fuel systems pressure and air cleanser outlet tubes. Remove the hoses attached to the upper radiator hose and the coolant bypass hose. All of the hoses can be removed by pulling them from their connectors with your hands.

Remove the covers of the timing belt by using a wrench to remove the mounting bolts which fix it in place. Remove the bolts attached to the head gasket. Make sure you keep track of where each bolt goes as you will need to reattach them in exactly the same order when it comes to installing the new head.

Place the new head gasket on the engine block. Fix in place with the mounting bolts, inserting them in the correct order and positions. Reattach the removed hoses and covers, following the removal steps in reverse. Remove the radiator cap and place coolant back in to the radiator. Place the negative cable back on the terminal.

Items you will need

  • Wrench set

  • Screwdriver set

  • Head gasket

  • Coolant

 How to Replace the Head Gasket in a VW VR6

Disconnect the cables from the battery terminals with a socket wrench and remove the battery from the vehicle. Remove the air cleaner, mass air flow sensor and air inlet duct from the intake manifold.

Open the cap on the radiator, and place a drain pan below the drain plug under the intake manifold. Open the drain plug with a socket wrench and allow the coolant to drain into the pan. Replace the drain plug.

Remove the trim cover from the engine with a socket wrench. Disconnect the distributor cap from the vehicle with the ignition wires still attached. Detach the throttle cable from the intake manifold and disconnect the upper intake manifold from the engine block. Remove the fuel lines and electrical connectors from the fuel injectors. Detach the coolant hoses from the engine block with a socket wrench.

Screw an 8 x 10 mm bolt into the tensioner for the accessory drive belt to relieve the tension on the drive belt. Remove the drive belt from its pulleys and unscrew the bolt from the tensioner. Disconnect the alternator and the tensioner for the accessory drive belt.

Remove the heat shield from both exhaust manifolds with a socket wrench and disconnect the exhaust manifolds from the engine. Disconnect the mounting bolt from the cover of the timing chain and remove the timing chain cover. Remove the cover from the cylinder head and turn the crankshaft clockwise to align its timing marks. Mark the timing chain with white paint to indicate its direction of rotation.

Hold each camshaft in place with a 24 mm wrench and disconnect the camshaft sprockets from the camshafts with a socket wrench. Remove the cylinder head bolts from the cylinder head and lift the cylinder head from the engine block.

Remove the cylinder head gasket from the engine block. Clean any traces of the gasket from the cylinder head and engine block with a gasket scraper. Mount the new gasket onto the engine block with the word "TOP" facing up. Place the cylinder head over the dowels on the engine block.

Fasten new mounting bolts to the cylinder head by hand. Tighten the bolts to 30 foot-pounds with a torque wrench on the first pass, then tighten them to 44 foot-pounds on the second pass. Tighten the bolts by 1/4 turn on the third pass, then tighten them an additional 1/4 turn on the fourth pass.

Turn the crankshaft clockwise to align its timing marks again and lock the camshafts in place with special tool 3268. Mount the camshaft sprockets with the timing chain to the camshafts and fasten the mounting bolts for the sprockets with a 24 mm wrench. Mount the distributor drive on the camshaft and tighten the mounting bolts for the camshaft sprockets to 74 foot-pounds.

Connect the timing chain tensioner and the upper cover for the timing chain temporarily. Remove special tool 3268 from the camshafts and turn the crankshaft four complete turns clockwise. Tighten the mounting bolts for the upper timing chain cover to 82 inch-pounds with a torque wrench. Tighten the mounting bolt for the tensioner to 15 foot-pounds.

Replace the cover for the cylinder head with a socket wrench. Install the intake manifold and exhaust manifolds to 18 foot-pounds with a torque wrench. Attach the drive belt for the alternator belt and adjust its tension with the belt tensioner. Connect the coolant hoses to the engine block. Install the electrical connectors and fuel lines for the fuel injectors.

Install the upper intake manifold to the engine block with a socket wrench. Connect any electrical wiring and vacuum lines that you removed from the upper intake manifold. Attach the throttle cable and distributor cap assembly to the upper intake manifold. Replace the trim cover for the engine.

Install the battery, and attach the cables to the battery with a socket wrench. Fill the radiator with coolant. Replace the oil and oil filter.

Items you will need

  • Socket wrench set

  • White paint

  • 24 mm wrench

  • Gasket scraper

  • Torque wrench

  • Special tool 3268

 How to Change a Head Gasket on a Detroit Diesel

Changing a Cylinder Head Gasket

Clean debris and oil residue from the fire-deck of the cylinder head using a shop towel and brake clean. After the oil and dirt has been removed check the cylinder head for carbon build up. Remove carbon by scrubbing the cylinder head surface with a Scotch Brite pad at the areas of carbon build-up. Wipe the fire-deck clean with a shop towel

Clean the surface of the cylinder-block where it mates with the cylinder head with a shop towel and brake clean. Wipe away any excess accumulation of oil being certain that the mating surface is flat and clean. Install guide studs at the front and rear of the engine block and set cylinder head gasket on the cylinder block deck.

Apply copper coat to the fire-deck of the cylinder head in the general areas where the cylinder head gasket will seat. Wipe away any excess copper coat which may have smeared onto the valve heads.

Lift the cylinder head above the engine and ease gently down onto the cylinder block until it seats on the block deck dowels. Remove the studs and install the 38 cylinder head bolts. Torque the bolts between 185 and 210 foot pounds in the proper sequence as stated by the Detroit Diesel Series 60 troubleshooting manual.

Items you will need

  • Mechanics tools

  • Shop towels

  • Brake clean

  • Scotch Brite pads

  • Copper Coat

  • J35784 Kent Moore guide studs

 How to Replace the Head Gasket on a Dakota

Park the Dakota, turn the engine off and open the hood.

Disconnect the cable from the negative battery terminal using a socket wrench.

Set a drain pan underneath the radiator, and remove the pressure cap. Unscrew the radiator drain plug to allow all of the coolant to empty into the tray. Replace the pressure cap and drain plug.

Disassemble the engine components so you can access the Dakota's head gasket. Remove the engine cover with a socket wrench. Unscrew the bolts that secure the distributor with a socket wrench.

Unfasten the cylinder head bolts with the socket wrench and unscrew the bolts attached to the valve cover using an adjustable wrench.

Lift the the damaged gasket from the top of the cylinder block by hand. Clean sticky residue from the surface of the block with a scraper.

Set the new head gasket on the cylinder block. Place all other engine components that were removed back into position, securing them tightly with the socket wrench.

Refill the cooling system with coolant to an appropriate level as directed in the Dakota owner's manual.

Remove the oil cap, adding motor oil in the amount specified by the owner's manual. Replace the oil cap and close the hood. Start the engine, allow it to run for 10 minutes and check for leaks.

Items you will need

  • Head gasket

  • Ratchet and socket wrench

  • Drain pan

  • Adjustable wrench

  • Coolant

  • Scraper

  • Funnel

 How to Replace the Head Gasket on a Mercedes

Open the hood. Disconnect the negative battery terminal to prevent electrical shock. You can disconnect the cable by finding the negative terminal, and using a socket wrench to turn the bolt on the terminal connector counterclockwise.

Remove the header, intake and exhaust unit. The removal process will vary based on the model and year of Mercedes. The header is generally bolted on, but it may need to be cut off with a welding torch depending on the age. the intake can be generally removed with a screwdriver by unscrewing the bracket holding it on. The exhaust will have to be cut off with a welding torch.

Remove the plastic insignia plate covering your valve cover, if one exists. Remove it by prying it off with your hands or a screwdriver. Plastic insignia plates are generally held on by clips and can be removed by hand. Pull carefully as to not break any clips.

Remove each bolt securing the valve cover by turning counterclockwise with a socket wrench.

Slide off the valve cover.

Flip over the valve cover to view the gaskets.

Remove the gaskets from the valve cover by peeling them off. You may need to scrape the remains off with a flat-head screwdriver.

Inspect the groove that the gaskets sit in to assure that there is no warping or cracks.

Use any automobile cleaner to clean the inside of the valve cover.

Place the new gaskets into the valve cover ensuring that they fit in exactly.

Place some RTV silicone on each corner of the cam journals to ensure a tight and secure fit. The cam journals are merely the openings to the cam. They are circular in shape, and they are the first thing you'll see when you remove the valve cover.

Position the valve cover back in place.

Reattach the bolts to secure the valve cover using the correct torque technique. The center bolt is first working side-to-side and outwards.This will insure that the cover sits uniformly.

Reattach and reconnect any parts or lines you removed to provide access to the valve cover. The parts removed will vary based on the year and model of your Mercedes. Most Mercedes don't require you to remove anything to get to the valve cover -- other than the plastic insignia plate -- so you won't have anything that you need to reconnect.

Press the plastic insignia plate back into place with firm pressure until you hear the clips lock into place.

Reconnect the negative terminal of your battery.

Test your engine to ensure that it is running properly.

Items you will need

  • Socket wrench

  • Screwdriver

  • Welding torch -- depending on year and model

  • Torque wrench specific for your model of Mercedes

  • Auto cleaner

  • Head gasket

  • RTV Silicone

 How to Replace the Head Gasket on a Mazda

Pop the hood of the Mazda and find the battery. Disconnect both the positive and negative terminals of the battery. You should be able to pull them off with your hands, but if they are bolted on, use a wrench or pliers to carefully remove them.

Open up the radiator cap and drain all of the coolant out of the system. This must be done before you carry on with the work.

Remove the chain tensioner from the gasket with a camshaft sprocket. Remove the mounting bolts from the air conditioner compressor with a wrench. Lift the compressor out of the vehicle and place it on a work bench or other flat surface.

Remove the lines out of the radiator by pulling them out with your hand. This will give you access to the head gasket. Remove the bolts which are fixed to the head gasket.

Remove the gasket and replace it with a new one. Ensure it is placed in exactly the same position from which you removed the old one. Secure it firmly in place with the bolts. Reassemble the radiator and engine following the removal steps in reverse. Fill the radiator with coolant and turn on the engine to check that everything works correctly.

Items you will need

  • Wrench set

  • Replacement head gasket

  • Replacement coolant

 How to Replace the Head Gasket on a 2000 GMC Sonoma 4.3

Disconnect the negative battery cable. Drain the engine coolant. Remove the engine cooling fan assembly. Remove the power steering pump mounting bracket. Remove the power steering pump mounting bracket stud from the cylinder head.

Remove the lower intake manifold. Remove the exhaust manifold. Remove the spark plug wire harness and the spark plug wire support. Remove the ground wire bolt and the ground wire from the rear of the cylinder head. Make sure you secure the ground wire out of the way.

Remove the bolt holding the fuel pipe bracket to the rear of the cylinder head. Now you have access to the cylinder head gasket. Remove the cylinder head and gasket. Clean the engine block and the cylinder head sealing surfaces. Clean the cylinder head bolts and the engine block bolt holes.

Install the new cylinder head gasket. To re-install all parts follow the same procedure in reverse.

Items you will need

  • Set of screwdrivers

  • Torque wrench

About the Author

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