The Big Three of Automotive Repair
An Annual Auto Survey made by analysts at Consumer Reports found that problems with head gasket issues in some models of cars stood out, not only because of the frequency, but also the resulting costs behind a head gasket repair---especially if signs of an impending problem are ignored until it is too late and thereby necessitates additional repair costs.
The Head Gasket’s Job
Head gaskets have the job of sealing the interface between the engine block and the cylinder heads. Between the two engine components, the pounding of firing pistons and the pressure of expanding gases; and, the pressure from oil and coolant fluids places an extreme amount of pressure on the gasket’s hold between the surfaces. On top of that, you also have a significant amount of heat that affects the expanding, shrinking, and warping of block and cylinder heads that adds to the stresses placed on the seal.
Signs and Symptoms of Head Gasket Problem
White smoke coming out of the tailpipe is a classic sign. Gasket seals are needed to isolate engine coolant from the cylinders as the coolant circulates through the block to help control temperature. If white smoke is observed coming out of your tailpipe, then this is a good indication that coolant is seeping past the gasket and getting burned inside the cylinders and exhausted out.
You might also observe bubbling in the radiator and/or in the coolant reservoir; loss of coolant with no discernable leakage; a milky white discoloration of the engine oil; engine overheating warning light; and, a noticeable lack of power due to cylinder compression leakage.
HOW TO CHECK FOR A BLOWN HEAD GASKET
The Cost of a Blown Head Gasket
The cost of a blown or leaking head gasket can vary from several hundred dollars to a few thousand depending on how much damage occurred from the blown gasket. Essentially, the longer a problem goes unchecked and addressed, the more you can expect to pay toward the higher end of estimated repairs. According to Consumer Reports’ chief mechanic John Ibbotson:
“It is striking how such a simple component can lead to such catastrophic problems. Catch a failure early, and you might limit the expense. Better yet, learn from others, and avoid models known to have a higher risk of these dreaded issues.”
As such, here is a summary of car models from the past 10 years that analysts from Consumer Reports recently identified as having an increased chance of developing a blown head gasket problem; plus, recommended alternative models without head gasket issues.
Models with a History of Head Gasket Problems
1. 2011 Chevrolet Cruze
Typical mileage: 107,000 to 143,000 miles
Alternatives without this problem: 2011 to 2013 Honda Civic, 2012 and 2013 Mazda3, 2011 to 2013 Toyota Corolla
2. 2011 BMW 3 Series
Typical mileage: 72,000 to 122,000 miles
Alternatives without this problem: 2011 to 2013 Infiniti G
3. 2014 BMW X1
Typical mileage: 76,000 to 82,000 miles
Alternatives without this problem: 2013 and 2014 Acura RDX
4. 2011 Buick Lucerne
Typical mileage: 101,000 to 162,000 miles
Alternatives without this problem: 2011 to 2013 Toyota Avalon
5. 2011 Subaru Impreza
Typical mileage: 85,000 to 109,000 miles
Alternatives without this problem: 2011 to 2013 Toyota Corolla, 2011 to 2013 Honda Civic, 2011 to 2013 Mazda3
6. 2012 BMW 5 Series
Typical mileage: 92,000 to 98,000 miles
Alternatives without this problem: 2011 and 2012 Infiniti M, 2011 to 2013 Lexus ES, 2013 and 2014 Lexus GS
7. 2012 BMW X3
Typical mileage: 76,000 to 77,000 miles
Alternatives without this problem: 2011 to 2013 Acura RDX, 2015 and 2016 Lexus NX
8. 2013 Mini Cooper/Mini Clubman
Typical mileage: 76,000 to 89,000 miles
Alternatives without this problem: 2012 to 2015 Mazda3, 2011 to 2015 Honda Civic
9. 2015 Buick Encore
Typical mileage: Approximately 75,000 miles
Alternatives without this problem: 2015 and 2016 Lexus NX
COMING UP NEXT: The Sealed Automatic Transmission Flush Deception
For more about CR-recommended vehicles to avoid or at least bear some watching over if you own one, check out these popular midsized SUVs to avoid and to buy, as well as these recently rated best new SUVs Consumer Reports recommends to buy today.
Timothy Boyer is Torque News Tesla and EV reporter based in Cincinnati. Experienced with early car restorations, he regularly restores older vehicles with engine modifications for improved performance. Follow Tim on Twitter at @TimBoyerWrites for daily Tesla and electric vehicle news.
Photo by Caleb Pudewell on Unsplash