How To Test for a Blown Head Gasket (1.6L Mazda Protegé)

There are 4 simple tests that can be done to confirm (or disconfirm) a blown head gasket. So, if you think you've got a blown head gasket on your hands because your 1.6L Mazda Protegé has severely overheated and doesn't start or it starts and runs but overheats, then this tutorial will help you.

Contents of this tutorial at a quick glance:

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

Symptoms of a Blown Head Gasket

The most common cause of a blown head gasket is that your 1.6L Mazda Protegé's engine severely overheated. The most common problems that cause the engine to overheat (and provoke a blown head gasket) are:

  1. The radiator fan motor failed and stopped working.
  2. Engine lost all of the coolant (due to a leak somewhere in the cooling system).
  3. Thermostat went BAD and got stuck closed.

Now, the most common symptoms a blown head gasket are:

  1. Your 1.6L Mazda Protegé 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 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.

NOTE: There are instances the head gasket starts to leak engine oil yet the engine has not overheated. This is a very common problem with multi-layered steel head gaskets, which the 1.6L Mazda Protegé's engine uses.

TEST 1: Engine Oil the Color of ‘Coffee With
Too Much Creamer’

How To Test for a Blown Head Gasket (1.6L Mazda Protegé)

The first test is also the easiest to do. It's to see if the head gasket is letting coolant into the crankcase.

When this happens, the engine oil mixes with the engine coolant and turns the color of ‘coffee with too much creamer’.

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

These are the test steps:

  1. 1

    Open your Mazda Protegé'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 creamer, and your 1.6L Mazda Protegé starts and overheats or does not start. This test result tells you that your 1.6L Mazda Protegé's head gasket is blown.

CASE 2: The color of the engine oil is normal. This the correct and expected test result, but more testing is necessary to make sure the head gasket is not blown (especially if your 1.6L Mazda Protegé is overheating or not starting). Your next step is to go to: TEST 2: Coolant Shooting Out From Open Radiator.