How to Change the Head Gasket on Ford Cars

by Contributing WriterUpdated June 12, 2017

The development of a head gasket leak is not common in the Ford car. However, at times they do occur and require replacement. When a head gasket leak develops, it may sound like a tapping noise to the driver sitting inside the car. The guide provided here Ford car removal and replacement of the head gasket assumes any hoses or cabling located above the valve cover have been removed in preparation Ford car the head gasket replacement. You can replace the head gasket without removing the engine from the vehicle.

Under The Hood:

 How to Change the Head Gasket on a 4.9 Straight Six

Park the vehicle on a level, paved surface and set the parking brake. Allow the engine to cool sufficiently so that you will not get burned when touching it.

Place a drain pan underneath the radiator drain valve. Open the valve drain the radiator. Be sure to close the valve when you are done. Use a flat-head screwdriver to loosen the upper radiator hose clamp at the thermostat. Pull the hose off of the thermostat housing.

Remove the air cleaner, unhook the throttle return spring from the carburetor, lift up the clip on the end of the throttle rod where it attaches to carburetor linkage pulled the rod out of the linkage. Don't lose the little clip. Pull the distributor vacuum advance those off of the carburetor. Pull the PVC valve and breather hose out of the valve cover. Use a slotted screwdriver to loosen the hose clamp on the fuel line at the carburetor. Remove the line.

Wrap a piece of masking tape around each of the spark plug wires and number them one through six, from front to back then remove the spark plug wires. Use a ratchet and spark plug socket to remove the spark plugs. Use a ratchet and socket to remove the valve cover bolts and valve cover. Remove the old valve cover gasket from the valve cover, remove any debris with a putty knife, spray some solvent on a shop rag and clean the gasket surface of the valve cover.

Use a ratchet and socket to loosen the rocker arm pivot nuts far enough so that you can turn the rocker arm to the side and pull out the push rod. As you remove the push rods, put a piece of masking tape with a number on each and put them back in the same order when you install the cylinder head.

Use a ratchet and socket to remove the two nuts from the exhaust pipe flange where it attaches to the exhaust manifold. Pull flange down off the studs on the exhaust manifold. Use a ratchet and socket to remove the nuts and bolts that hold the intake and exhaust manifolds onto the cylinder head.

Use a ratchet and socket to remove the 14 cylinder head bolts. To aid in reassembly, push the bolts into a piece of cardboard in rows, in the same order as you took them out of the cylinder head. One row for the bolts on the driver side of the engine, and one row for the passenger side. Write a number on the cardboard next to each bolt in the following order: Passenger side front to rear: "11-7-3-2-6-10-14," and driver side front to rear: "13-9-5-1-4-8-12." This number sequence will be used when you install and torque the head bolts.

Lift the cylinder head off of the engine block with the aid of an assistant. If the head gasket remain on the engine block, remove it. Place shop rags in each cylinder to catch debris that may fall in the cylinders when you clean the block. Carefully remove debris with a gasket scraper and clean the gasket surface on the engine block with a Scotch Brite pad.

Place the head gasket on the engine block with the proper side marked "Top" facing upward. Have your assistant help you lower the cylinder head onto the block. Remove the head bolts from the piece of cardboard and install them in their proper positions in the cylinder head.

Use a ratchet and socket to tighten the bolts into the cylinder head until they just start to get tight. Using your piece of cardboard is a guide, start with the first bolt and torque it to 40 foot-pounds. Torque the rest of the bolts in their proper numerical sequence. Moving in a crisscross pattern as you tighten. Set the torque wrench for 60 foot-pounds and repeat the sequence. Set the torque wrench for 75 foot-pounds to apply the final torque.

Install the push rods through the cylinder head in their proper positions. Position rocker arms so they are contacting the valve and push rod. Use a ratchet and socket to tighten the rocker arm pivot nuts just enough to remove the play between the push rod and rocker arm. Use a torque wrench to slowly tighten the pivot nuts to 15 foot-pounds.

Position the intake/exhaust manifold, with a new gasket, against the cylinder head and install the bolts and nuts finger tight. The intake and exhaust manifold has a torque pattern that must be followed, similar to the cylinder head. The upper row of fasteners has three nuts, the lower row is all bolts. The upper row is numbered "13-12-11-1-3-2-4" from front to rear, and the lower row is numbered "10-9-8-7-6-5." Tighten the bolts according to the pattern, torquing each to 15 foot-pounds, then 20 foot-pounds and finally 28 foot-pounds.

Reinstall the remaining parts in reverse order of their removal. Refill the radiator with coolant.

Items you will need

  • Drain pan

  • Flat-head screwdriver

  • Marker

  • Masking tape

  • Ratchet and socket set

  • Shop rags

  • Gasket scraper

  • Cardboard box

  • Assistant

  • Scotch Brite pad

  • Parts cleaner

  • Torque wrench

  • Gasket sealer

 How to Change a Head Gasket on a Ford F-150


Disconnect the negative battery cable.

Drain the engine oil and coolant.

Remove the coolant hose from the cylinder head.

Remove the valve cover.

Remove the timing cover, timing chain, and belts.

Remove the intake manifold and exhaust manifold.

Remove all sensor plugs hooked to the cylinder head.

Remove cylinder head bolts a quarter of a turn at a time in sequence to protect the bolts from snapping.

Use a pry bar in the corners and the rubber mallet to break the cylinder head free from the engine block.

Lift the cylinder head out of the engine and store it on a soft surface.

Remove the cylinder head gaskets, keeping note of the placement of the gaskets.

Clean the engine block surface with a scraper and rubbing alcohol.


Make sure that the engine block surface is clean.

Install the head gaskets on the engine block surface.

Make sure that gaskets are flat on the surface and in the correct dowels.

Clean the cylinder head surface and make sure that the surface is flat.

Place the cylinder head on top of the gaskets.

Install the cylinder head bolts, tighten and torque.

Reinstall the sensor plugs.

Reinstall the intake and exhaust manifolds.

Install the intake and exhaust manifold bolts and nuts.

Tighten and torque the intake and exhaust manifold bolts and nuts.

Install the timing chain, belts and timing chain cover.

Install the valve cover and coolant hose.

Fill the radiator with coolant.

Fill the engine with oil.

Reconnect the negative battery cable.

Start and run the engine at idle for 10 to 20 minutes and inspect for leaks at the head gaskets.

Items you will need

  • Standard screwdriver

  • Phillips screwdriver

  • Rubber mallet

  • Pry bar

  • Pliers (lineman's)

  • Set of metric and standard wrenches

  • Ratchet and metric and standard sockets

 How to Replace a Head Gasket on the 3.8 Ford

Removing the Cylinder Head

Disconnect the battery cables from the battery. Drain the radiator coolant into a tub and transfer the coolant to a sealed container for disposal. Remove the bolts at each side of the engine hood hinges. Ask an assistant to help lift the hood off and set it aside.

Read the procedures in the repair manual for removing a cylinder head. The 3.8 engine has a right and left head. Most often, rust on one side of the engine block denotes a bad head gasket. Remove the valve cover and valve cover gasket on that side of the V-6 engine.

Pull the three plug wires off three spark plugs on the head. Remove the exhaust header bolts from the cylinder head. Pull the header away from the side of the engine and discard the individual exhaust manifold gaskets.

Remove the air cleaner from the carburetor. Disconnect the fuel line, vacuum lines, choke wires and throttle linkage from the carburetor. Take the carburetor off the intake manifold.

Mark the position of the distributor on the intake manifold for reference. Remove the distributor and lay it to one side. It’s not necessary to remove the spark plug wires from the distributor cap.

Remove the bolts that hold the intake manifold to the right and left cylinder heads. Remove the intake manifold and discard the right and left manifold gaskets.

Examine the area around the cylinder head. Determine any components that need to be removed so you can access and remove the cylinder head, such as the power steering pump and belt or the air conditioning unit and belt. Disconnect any wires or the EGR tube that may be in the way and lay these to the side.

Installing the Head Gasket

Loosen and remove the cylinder head bolts from the top of the cylinder head. Lift the head and rocker arm assembly off the top of the engine. Remove the old head gasket from the top of the cylinders.

Clean the top of the cylinders and underside of the cylinder head to remove old gasket material. Do this using a putty knife and a wire wheel attachment in an electric drill.

Position the new cylinder head gasket on the cylinders, making sure the “Top” and “Front” markings on the gasket are correct. Reinstall the cylinder head atop the new gasket. Torque the head bolts in the sequence given in your repair manual.

Reattach the exhaust manifold header and include the new gasket from the kit. Reinstall the intake manifold and include the new intake gaskets from the kit. Reattach the remaining components, hoses and wires in the reverse order as removed. Include the new valve cover gasket when attaching the valve cover.

Fill the radiator with fresh coolant before starting the engine. Ask an assistant to help position and reattach the engine hood on the hinges.

Items you will need

  • Chilton or Haynes repair manual

  • Head gasket replacement kit

  • Standard gauge sockets and ratchet

  • Screwdrivers

  • Pliers

  • Torque wrench

 How to Replace a Head Gasket for a Ford Escort

Disconnect the negative battery cable from the car battery and set aside. Battery cable can be removed using a 5/16-inch wrench, depending on the type of battery terminal connections being used.

Open the petcock at the bottom of the radiator by turning it counterclockwise to drain all the coolant out of the radiator and engine block. Once the coolant has drained, re-tighten the petcock by turning clockwise to close the drain valve.

Remove the exhaust downpipe bolts with 9/16-inch deep socket and remove the manifold from the head.

Remove the bolts from the valve cover attached to the head with the leaking head gasket using the 1/2-inch deep socket. With bolts removed, take off the valve cover from the head and set aside.

Remove the four bolts holding the valve rocker assembly onto the head with the 9/16-inch deep socket. Carefully pull the valve rocker assembly free from the head while holding the pushrods in place. Mark the pushrods to ensure they are replaced in the same order in which they were removed.

Remove the 10 bolts holding the head to the engine block using 9/16-inch deep socket. With bolts removed, grasp the head with both hands, tilt the bottom of the head up toward the intake manifold and lift away from the engine block.

Set the head onto a clean work table or flat surface to remove the old head gasket and prepare the sealing area for the new head gasket.

Scrape the head gasket from the head and block by lightly prying a flat gasket scraper around the surface until all of the old gasket is removed.

Lightly sand the sealing area of both the head and engine block with emery cloth to prepare the surface for the new gasket.

Install the new gasket onto the engine block by lining up the bolt holes and water ports to fit evenly between the block and gasket.

Inspect the water jacket ports and bolt holes in the engine block and head to ensure they are clean and clear of any debris.

Set the head back onto the engine block, being careful not to misalign the head gasket.

Install the 10 bolts back into the head with 9/16-inch deep socket and torque to 40 foot-pounds.

Place the rocker arm assembly back into place and install the 4 bolts hand tight. When setting the assembly in place, take care that the pushrods are properly seated and installed in the same order in which they were removed.

Torque the rocker arm assembly bolts to 25 foot-pounds with the 9/16-inch deep socket.

Install a new valve cover gasket onto the valve cover and install onto the head. Install the valve cover bolts and hand tighten. Torque valve cover bolts to 8 foot-pounds of torque using the 1/2-inch deep socket.

Install a new down exhaust manifold gasket and place the manifold back into place. Insert the mounting bolts that secure the down exhaust manifold in place and torque the bolts to 55 foot-pounds with the 9/16-inch deep socket.

Re-install the hoses and plugs that were removed to access the engine head.

Re-connect the negative battery lead to the battery using the 5/16-inch wrench and refill the radiator with coolant.

Crank the vehicle engine and visually inspect for any air or coolant leaks.

Items you will need

  • 5/16-inch wrench

  • 9/16-inch deep socket

  • 1/2-inch deep socket

  • Gasket scraper

  • Emery cloth

  • Head gasket

  • Exhaust manifold gasket

  • Valve cover gasket

  • Engine coolant

 How to Replace the Head Gasket on a 4.0 Ford

Disconnect the negative battery cable using a ratchet and socket, then relieve pressure from the fuel system by following your vehicle owner's manual specifications. Different models feature different specifications for this process.

Place a drain pan beneath the radiator drain plug, remove the drain plug using a ratchet and socket, then drain the radiator into the drain pan.

Pull radiator hoses and electrical connectors from the cylinder head, then unbolt the radiator fan using a ratchet and socket, and pull the fan belt and shrouding out.

Pull the spark plug wires free from the plugs, then remove the spark plugs with a spark plug wrench.

Unbolt the drive shaft pulley and cylinder head using a ratchet and socket, then tap the cylinder head lightly with a rubber mallet until it comes free.

Remove the head gasket, clean the surface with Formula 409, coat both sides of the new gasket with gasket sealer, then install the new gasket and follow the previous steps in reverse to complete the installation.

Items you will need

  • Ratchet and socket

  • Drain pan

  • Spark plug wrench

  • Rubber mallet

  • Formula 409

  • Gasket sealer

  • Replacement gasket

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