How to Change a Head Gasket on the Nissan Cars

by Contributing Writer

The head gasket on your Nissan car is found in between the cylinder head and the engine block. The job of the head gasket is to bond the cylinder head to the engine block. This enables the cylinder head to prevent oil from spraying all over your engine. If your head gasket becomes damaged and you don't act to replace it, it can cause long-term damage to your engine. Replacing the head gasket in your Nissan car is a job that will take you an afternoon to complete.

Under The Hood:

 How to Change a Head Gasket on the 2001 Nissan Sentra

Disconnect the negative cable from the battery. Jack up the front of the vehicle and support with jack stands. Remove the right front wheel and the front right inner fender splash guard. Unfasten the right engine side cover and remove it. Drain the coolant into a pan by loosening the drain plug located in the engine block and the petcock drain valve in the bottom of the radiator. Unbolt the fasteners holding on the generator and move the generator to loosen the belt. Remove the generator and the drive belt. Unclamp the air duct that runs from the air cleaner to the intake manifold and remove it.

Loosen the bolts securing the power steering pump and remove it and the drive belt. Remove the water pump pulley by loosening the bolt in the center with a socket. Unplug the engine wiring harness and set it aside. Remove the fuel supply hoses and the regulator. Unplug any sensor wiring connecting to the cylinder head. Be careful not to break the plastic wiring clips. Remove the power brake vacuum booster hose and all of the power steering hoses. Remove the spark plug cables and all of the spark plugs.

Remove the rocker cover bolts starting in the center of the cover at the front of the engine then remove the one in the rear. Skipping the bolts in the four corners of the cover, remove the bolts from the front to the back. Remove the rocker cover bolts in the four corners. Loosen the four bolts securing the intake manifold supports and remove them. Remove the water pipe assembly at the front of the engine. Turn the engine over by hand until the piston closest to the front of the engine is at top dead center of its compression stroke. Feel for the piston rising through the spark plug hole. You can observe all of the valves are closed on the compression stroke.

Rotate the engine until the mating mark on the camshaft sprockets are in position. The mating mark is located on the outer part of the sprocket just under the timing chain. When looking at the front of the engine, the mark on the left sprocket should be at the 10:00 position, and the right side should be at the 1:00 position. Remove the cam chain tensioner by unbolting it, and remove the distributor. Apply a paint mark between the camshaft sprocket index marks to the cam chain. This is where you will install these parts when re-assembling. Remove the timing chain sprockets by unbolting them.

Mark the camshafts so that they can go back in their original position and remove them. Remove the heater hoses and the front oxygen sensor. Unbolt and remove the exhaust manifold cover and the EGR tube. Remove the exhaust manifold bolts working from the outside in and remove the manifold. You may need to tap it with a hammer to loosen it. Unbolt the outside cylinder head bolts. Starting at the outside of the cylinder head rear, then the outside front. Work inward from there. Remove the cylinder head with the intake manifold assembled to it. Clean and remove all of the head gasket material. Install the new head gasket on the engine and reverse the procedure to install.

Items you will need

  • Set of metric sockets and ratchet handle

  • Set of metric combination wrenches

  • Gasket scraper

  • Pliers

  • Screwdrivers

  • Medium ball pein hammer

  • Floor jack

  • Jack stands

  • Drain pan

 How to Replace a Head Gasket in a 2001 Nissan Xterra

Turn the engine of your Xterra off and leave it to cool down completely. Pop open the hood and use a socket wrench to remove the bolt attached to the clamp on the negative terminal. Remove the clamp and lift the negative cable away from the terminal.

Place the drain pan underneath the radiator. Locate the drain plug at the bottom of the radiator. Use the socket wrench to remove the bolt that holds the plug in place. Turn the bolt counterclockwise to loosen it. Remove the plug and drain the coolant into the pan.

Detach the upper and lower radiator hoses from the engine. Loosen the bolts attached to the upper and lower radiator hose clamps using a socket wrench. Pry the clamps from around both radiator hoses. Lift the hoses away from the connectors.

Remove the bolts that hold the alternator and air cleaner unit in place Turn the bolts counterclockwise until they come free. Lift the air cleaner and alternator away from the engine. Loosen the tensioner bolt attached to the drive belt tensioner by turning it counterclockwise. Pull the drive belt away from the engine. Remove the bolts attached to the rear timing belt cover. Lift the cover away to gain access to the cylinder head.

Use a socket wrench to remove the mounting bolts attached to the cylinder head. Keep track of where you remove each bolt so you can reinstall them in the same places. Use a putty knife to pry the old gasket away from the engine block.

Place the new head gasket on the engine block. Reattach the cylinder head by inserting the mounting bolts in the same places. Reattach the timing belt cover, alternator and air cleaner by reattaching their respective mounting bolts.

Move the drive belt back onto the drive belt tensioner and secure by tightening the tensioner bolt. Place the upper and lower radiator hoses onto their connectors. Place the clamps back over the radiator hoses. Tighten the bolts on the clamps to secure them around the radiator hoses.

Take the cap off the radiator and pour coolant back inside the radiator. Put the negative cable back on to the battery terminal and fix in place with the bolt.

Items you will need

  • Drain pan

  • Socket wrench set

  • Head gasket

  • Putty knife

 How to Replace a Head Gasket on a Z24

Place the drain pan underneath the radiator. Remove the drain plug and drain the coolant in to the pan.

Use the wrench to remove the mounting bolts that attach the carburetor to the top of the intake manifold and remove the carburetor. Unscrew the bolts attaching the distributor and remove it.

Use the socket wrench to remove the bolts securing the intake manifold and the exhaust manifold and remove both of them. Loosen the clamps of the upper and lower radiator hoses and place the drain pan underneath them. Pull the hoses from their connections. Drain the leftover coolant in the hoses into the drain pan.

Remove the bolts securing the cylinder head. Start at the top left hand corner of the cylinder and remove the bolts in a crisscross pattern. Keep track of where each bolt was installed, because you will need to reinstall them in the exact same way.

Lift the head gasket off the engine block. If the gasket is damaged you may have to use a scraper to remove it. Clean the mating surface and Insert a new gasket on the engine block. Place the cylinder head back on top and reinstall the bolts.

Reattach the lower and upper radiator hoses to the engine and secure in place by reattaching the clamps. Follow the removal steps in reverse order to reattach the intake manifold, exhaust manifold, distributor and carburetor back on the engine.

Unscrew the radiator cap and replace the coolant. Check all connections, start the engine and check for leaks.

Items you will need

  • Socket wrench set

  • Screwdriver set

  • Drain pan

  • Coolant

  • Replacement gasket

 How to Replace the Head Gasket on a Nissan 2.4L Engine

Assure the engine is cold prior to starting. Empty the cooling system by unscrewing the drain plug from the radiator. Allow the coolant to fall in a clean pan. Drain the engine oil tank in a separate drain pan. Alleviate the fuel system pressure.

Disconnect, unhook or take off wires, assembly, tubes, mounting bolts and other components situated close to the top portion of the engine, such as ground wires, spark plug wires, power steering pump, oil pump, air duct, distributor, camshaft and manifolds.

Take off the cylinder head bolts in the opposite order of the tightening sequence. The bolt numbers for the tightening sequence for the top level is 9, 3, 1, 6 and 8 and the lower level is 7, 5, 2, 4 and 10. Pick up the old head gasket and throw in the trash. Tap on the bottom section of the cylinder head with a plastic mallet, if you have an issue moving the head gasket.

Wipe, scrape and clean the cylinder block, cylinder head holes and mating surfaces. Look for any wear and tear on the cylinder block. Lubricate the new cylinder head bolts with new and clean motor oil. Lower the gasket on top of the cylinder block. Line it up with the dowel for the correct position. Place the cylinder head back on the cylinder block.

Place the new cylinder head bolt in position. Torque the new bolts in a five-step process. Tighten to 22 foot-pounds on the first pass. Tighten to 59 foot-pounds on the second pass. Completely loosen each bolt. Torque to 18 to 25 foot-pounds on the fourth pass. Turn an additional 86 to 91 degrees to the right.

Replace or connect all other upper engine components, including camshafts, timing chains, camshaft sprockets, cylinder head cover, manifolds, mounting brackets, air duct power steering pulley, drive belt and distributor.

Connect the negative battery. Replace coolant in the cooling system and motor oil in its reservoir. Start the car and run for five minutes. Look for leaks.

Items you will need

  • Drain pan

  • Wrench

  • Ratchet and socket

  • Screwdriver

  • Coolant

  • New head gasket

  • New bolts

  • Torque wrench

 How to Replace the Head Gasket of a Nissan Maxima

Work on the upper engine components when the Nissan Maxima is cold. Disconnect the negative batter cable from the terminal. Position a pan under the radiator to drain the cooling system. Empty the motor oil reservoir. Release the pressure from the fuel pressure system.

Mark and place labels on the upper engine components. Disassemble or disconnect the belts, mounting brackets, cables, hoses, covers, mounting bolts, wires, assemblies and various engine parts toward the top of the vehicle: timing chain, camshafts, intake manifold, engine assembly, exhaust manifold and thermostat housing.

Remove the cylinder head mounting bolts in the opposite sequence of the tightening. Look at a Nissan Maxima service book for the correct bolt sequence. Lift the cylinder from the Maxima and old gasket from the cylinder block. Use a light screwdriver if the head gasket is stuck to the unit.

Clean the cylinder head and mating surface of the gasket. Inspect the area for leaks, dents, crack or defects. Position the No.1 piston in Top Dead Center or TDC by turning the crankshaft. Install a new gasket and position the cylinder head. Use new mounting bolt on the cylinder head.

Insert the mounting bolts and tighten in five steps. Torque to 72 foot-pound for every bolt. Loosen each bolt. Torque to 26 to 32 foot-pounds. Turn the bolts an additional 90 to 95 degrees to the right. Pivot clockwise to an extra 90 to 95 degrees.

Replace and reconnect the exhaust manifold, thermostat housing, intake manifold, fuel injection assembly, camshafts, timing chain, engine assembly and the battery cables. Place coolant in the reservoir. Refill the motor oil in the Maxima. Crank the engine and inspect for leaks.

Items you will need

  • Ratchet and socket

  • Screwdriver

  • Coolant

  • New head gasket

  • Torque wrench

 How to Replace the Head Gasket of a 240SX

Disconnect the negative cable from the battery using a wrench to loosen the nut. Turn the crankshaft until the no. 1 piston is at top dead center using a wrench. The no. 1 piston is at top dead center when you line the timing marks up on the engine with that on the pulley. Do not turn the engine backward to get on the mark. If you pass it, go around another turn until you reach the mark again. Open the valve on the bottom of the radiator and drain the coolant into the drain pan.

Remove the radiator and heater hoses using a screwdriver to loosen the hose clamps. If the car has an air conditioner, unbolt the AC compressor and move it to the side using a socket and ratchet. Do not disconnect the refrigerant lines on the compressor. Unbolt the alternator using a socket and ratchet and move it to the side. Remove the power steering pump from the engine. Set the pump aside. It is not necessary to disconnect the hose on the pump.

Label each of the spark plug wires with the marker and masking tape noting the proper location of each one. Unplug each spark plug wire by grasping the boot and pulling it off. Pulling by the wire will damage the filament. Disconnect the throttle linkage from the throttle body by unhooking it. Disconnect the air cleaner and housing and remove it from the engine using a wrench. Remove the spark plugs using a socket and ratchet.

Relieve the pressure from the fuel system by opening the valve on the fuel rail. Label the electrical wires and vacuum hoses using the marker and masking tape. Disconnect the wires and vacuum hoses by unplugging them from their fittings. Disconnect the EGR tube from the rear of the engine by loosening the clamp. Loosen the clamps on the air exhaust induction tubes using a screwdriver and remove them.

Disconnect the exhaust pipe from the manifold with a wrench. Disconnect the PCV valve from the rear of the engine. Remove the valve cover using a socket and ratchet to remove the bolts. Remove the valve cover gasket carefully if you intend to use it again. Mark the relationship of the camshaft sprocket to the timing chain using a marking crayon. Doing this allows you to avoid trying to line up factory timing marks.

Remove the camshaft sprocket using a socket and ratchet. Hold the other end of the camshaft using a wrench of the proper size to keep it from turning when you are removing the sprocket bolts from the shafts. Loosen the cylinder head bolts starting from the ends and working your way in using a socket and ratchet. Remove the cylinder head from the engine block. You may have to tap it with a rubber mallet to break it free from the engine block.

Remove and discard the old head gasket. Take the cylinder head to an automotive machine shop to have it resurfaced before you reassemble the engine. This is important. The new head gasket may fail if the face of the cylinder head is not completely smooth and warp-free. Ensure the engine block is clean and damage-free before you place the new head gasket on it.

Place the new head gasket on the engine block, making sure the right side is face-up. The gasket will be marked noting the proper placement. Place the cylinder head on the engine block gently so that you do not damage the new gasket. Line the cylinder head up and loosely install the cylinder head bolts. Temporarily tighten the right and left cylinder head bolts to 14 foot-pounds using a torque wrench. Install the camshaft sprocket and line up the marks you made.

Tighten the sprocket bolt with the socket and ratchet. Tighten the cylinder head bolts with the torque wrench in three steps as follows:

Step 1: Tighten the bolts to 20 foot-pounds.

Step 2: Tighten the bolts to 40 foot-pounds.

Step 3: Tighten the bolts to 58 foot-pounds.

Install the spark plugs and tighten them with a socket and ratchet. Take care that you do not over-tighten, which will damage the threads in the cylinder head. Install the valve cover gasket and the valve cover. Tighten the valve cover bolts using the socket and ratchet. Plug in the PCV valve. Connect the exhaust pipe to the exhaust manifold and tighten the bolts with a wrench. Connect the air exhaust induction tubes to the exhaust manifold.

Install the EGR tube to the rear of the engine. Connect the throttle linkage to the throttle body. Install the air cleaner to the engine. Connect the fuel lines and tighten the fittings with a wrench. Install the vacuum lines and electrical leads according to the labels you made when removing them. Install the power steering pump and tighten the bolts with a wrench. Install the alternator and AC compressor. Adjust the belt tension so that you can depress it 1/2 inch.

Reconnect the heater and radiator hoses. Tighten the clamps with a screwdriver. Fill the radiator and reservoir with fresh engine coolant. Connect the negative cable to the battery and tighten the terminal nut with a wrench. Start the engine and check the work area for leaks.

Items you will need

  • Socket set

  • Wrench set

  • Screwdriver

  • Marker

  • Masking tape

  • Drain pan

  • Torque wrench

  • Fuel line plugs

  • Rubber mallet