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

Troubleshooting a blown head gasket, on your 1.6L Toyota Corolla (or 1.6L Geo Prizm), is not hard.

You can easily do the same tests that are done at a professional shop right at home.

This tutorial will show you the 4 tests that you need to do to find out if you have a blown head gasket on your hands.

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

  1. Symptoms of a Blown Head Gasket.
  2. TEST 1: Engine Oil the Color of ‘Coffee With Too Much Cream’.
  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).
  6. More 1.6L Toyota Tutorials.

Symptoms of a Blown Head Gasket

The head gasket is tasked with several important jobs. Among them are: Keeping coolant from entering the cylinders. Keeping the engine coolant from entering the oil passages in the block and cylinder head.

If your Toyota still starts and runs... the most common symptoms of a blown head gasket is that the engine overheats rapidly.

Here are a few other common symptoms a blown head gasket:

  1. Your Toyota is overheating. You've checked that:
    1. Thermostat is good.
    2. Fans are working.
    3. Radiator is not busted (leaking coolant).
    4. Water pump is OK (not leaking coolant).
    5. Cooling system is full of coolant.
  2. White smoke is coming out of the tail-pipe and it smells like anti-freeze being cooked.
  3. Your Toyota won't start. You've checked:
    1. All cylinders are being fed spark.
    2. All fuel injectors are injecting.
    3. Fuel pump is good.
  4. The engine oil is thick and tan to off-white color.

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

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

A very common end-result of a blown head gasket is coolant entering the crankcase and mixing with the motor oil.

This turns the oil into a thick mess that looks like ‘coffee with too much cream’. This condition can be checked very easily by simply pulling out the dipstick and checking the color of the motor oil adhered to it.

Once this is confirmed, changing the engine oil doesn't help because within minutes of engine operation it gets mixed with coolant once again.

These are the test steps:

  1. 1

    Open your Toyota's hood and pull out the engine oil dipstick.

    What you're looking for is to make sure that the engine oil IS NOT mixed with coolant. If the engine oil is mixed with coolant, it'll be the color of ‘coffee with too much cream’.

  2. 2

    Check the color of the engine oil on the dipstick. You'll get one of two results: It'll be mixed with coolant and a creamy tan/ off-white color or... 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’. This tells you that the head gasket is blown.

CASE 2: The color of the engine oil is normal. This is good since it means that coolant isn't entering the crankcase via the head gasket.

There's still another test to do and this is to check to see if coolant shoots out of the radiator (with the cap removed) when you crank your Corolla's engine. For this test go to: TEST 2: Coolant Shooting Out From Open Radiator.