How To Test for a Blown Head Gasket (1.6L Honda Civic)

If your Honda Civic has a blown head gasket, it'll do one of two things: over-heat or not start. Now, if you have already verified that the cooling system is full of coolant, that the water pump is working, and that both the thermostat and radiator fan motor(s) are working too... then your Honda Civic probably has a blown head gasket. This article will show you how to verify this with four different tests.

Two of the Honda Civic blown head gasket tests don't require any tools to do and can be done under 5 minutes. The third blown head gasket test requires a compression tester and fourth a block tester. All four are very easy to do and will effectively let you know the condition of the head gasket on your Civic.

Here are the contents of this article at a quick glance:

  1. Symptoms of a Blown Head Gasket.
  2. HEAD GASKET TEST 1: Engine Oil the Color of ‘Coffee With Too Much Cream’.
  3. HEAD GASKET TEST 2: Coolant Shooting Out From Open Radiator.
  4. HEAD GASKET TEST 3: Engine Compression Test.
  5. HEAD GASKET TEST 4: Using a Chemical Block Tester (Combustion Leak Tester).
  6. More 1.6L Honda Tutorials.

En Español You can find this tutorial in Spanish here: Cómo Probar El Empaque De La Cabeza (1.6L Honda Civic) (at: autotecnico-online.com).

Symptoms of a Blown Head Gasket

The most common cause of a blown head gasket is that the engine overheated due to one of the following: 1) The radiator fan not working, 2) Engine has No Coolant, due to a leak somewhere in the cooling system 3) Thermostat went BAD and is stuck closed. The most common symptoms a blown head gasket are:

  1. Your car or mini-van is overheating. You know it's not the fan or thermostat.
  2. White smoke is coming out of the tail-pipe and it smells like Anti-Freeze being cooked.
  3. The car or mini-van won't start.
    1. You have already verified it's not an ignition system problem because you have spark coming out at all of the spark plug wires.
    2. You know it's not a lack of fuel, because you have verified that the fuel pump is delivering fuel to the fuel injectors.
  4. The engine oil is thick and tan to off-white color.

HEAD GASKET TEST 1: Engine Oil the Color of ‘Coffee With Too Much Cream’

How To Test for a Blown Head Gasket (1.6L Honda Civic)

This first test is a simple test and checks for one of the most common results of a blown head gasket on a Honda Civic which is coolant mixing with the engine oil.

In most cases, this is probably the only test you may have to do, to verify a blown head gasket, and not have to do the other two tests. But if this test doesn't conclusively verify a blown head gasket, then by all means proceed to the other two head gasket tests.

OK, I'll stop talking and we'll get this show on the road... this is what you need to do:

  1. 1

    Open your Honda's Hood and check the condition of the engine oil by pulling out the engine oil dipstick.

  2. 2

    You're gonna' see one of two things:

    1.) The engine oil will be a creamy tan/ off-white color or...

    2.) The engine oil will be its usual normal color.

Alright, let's interpret the color of the engine oil:

CASE 1: The color of the oil is a light tan, like coffee with too much cream, and your Honda Civic starts and overheats or does not start.. then this result confirms that you Honda Civic's head gasket is blown.

If you're wondering why the oil looks like this? Well this is what happened:

1.) Your Honda Civic overheated to the point that the cylinder head warped (since it's made out of aluminum). This led to the head gasket to burn.

2.) Once the head gasket burns and the head warps, the head gasket is unable to keep engine oil, coolant, and Compression/ exhaust gases from mixing.

3.) This leads to the coolant entering the engine oil pan.. As both of these mix... the result is an engine oil that is an off-white/tan color.

CASE 2: The color of the engine oil is normal, so far so good, but more testing is necessary to make sure the head gasket is not blown (especially if your Honda Civic is overheating or not starting), go to HEAD GASKET TEST 2: Coolant Shooting Out From Open Radiator.

Here's the reason why: In about 90% of the times, a blown head gasket will cause the engine's coolant to mix with the oil, but not always. And so another test or tests are needed to either confirm a blown head gasket or exonerate the head gasket as blown. The next test is to see if the engine's compression/ combustion gases are escaping thru' the radiator.