Testing for a blown head gasket on your Dodge Neon (or Cirrus, Stratus, Voyager, Caravan, PT Cruiser) can be done in several ways.
In this tutorial I'm going to present to you four of the most effective techniques I've used over the years and that have helped me to nail down a blown head gasket problem.
Two of these tests are done with absolutely no tools at all, one is done using a engine compression tester, and the other requires a combustion leak tester (commonly known as a block tester). I'm gonna' explain all four in detail and in step-by-step fashion.
Contents of this tutorial:
- Symptoms Of A Blown Head Gasket.
- TEST 1: Is the Oil The Color Of ‘Coffee With Too Much Creamer’?
- TEST 2: Exhaust Gases Escaping Through The Radiator.
- TEST 3: Checking Engine Compression.
- TEST 4: Using A Chemical Block Tester (Combustion Leak Tester).
- Saving Money On The Head Gasket.
- Related Test Articles.
You can find this tutorial in Spanish here: Cómo Probar El Empaque De La Cabeza (Chrysler 2.0L, 2.4L) (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: 1) A bad radiator fan 2) No coolant in the engine due to a leak somewhere in the coolant system 3) Bad thermostat.
The most common symptoms a blown head gasket are:
- Your car or mini-van is overheating. You know it's not the fan or thermostat.
- White smoke is coming out of the tail-pipe and it smells like Anti-Freeze being cooked.
- The car or mini-van won't start.
- You have already verified it's not an ignition system problem because you have spark coming out at all of the spark plug wires.
- You know it's not a lack of fuel, because you have verified that the fuel pump is delivering fuel to the fuel injectors.
- The engine oil is thick and tan to off-white color.
TEST 1: Is The Oil The Color Of ‘Coffee With Too Much Creamer’?
Before you start, I want to let you know that you don't have to do all of the 4 tests if one of them proves to you that the head gasket is blown.
Also, one test may prove inconclusive and yet another (of the four) may prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the head gasket is burned. This is normal, since a blown head gasket condition may not present all of the symptoms that the tests are testing for.
OK, to get this show on the road, this is what you need to do:
Open the hood of your vehicle.
Pull the engine oil dipstick out of the engine.
Now, take at the oil is sticking to the dipstick. You'll see one of two things:
1.) The oil is the color of coffee with too much cream or a milky white/tan color.
2.) The color of the oil is its normal color.
Take a look at the following interpretations to find out which one best fits what you have observed of the color of the oil:
CASE 1: The color of the oil is a light tan, like coffee with too much creamer. This confirms that the head gasket is blown. No further testing is required, since this confirms beyond a shadow of a doubt that the cylinder head gasket is blown.
If you're wondering why does the oil look like this? There are 3 main reasons:
1.) The engine overheated and caused the cylinder head to warp and the head gasket to burn.
2.) This in turn causes the head gasket to stop sealing the oil and coolant ports in both the engine block and the cylinder head.
3.) This leads to the coolant entering the engine oil pan and mixing with the oil. As both of these mix, the resulting oil gets thick and turns to an off-white color.
CASE 2: The color of the oil is its normal color. Although this is a good result, it does not confirm the condition of the head gasket yet, go to: TEST 2: Exhaust Gases Escaping Through The Radiator.
Here's why: You would think that every time a head gasket gets blown, it would let the coolant mix with the engine oil but this is not always the case. So, further testing is required to make sure that the reason your vehicle is not starting, or overheating is not due to a blown head gasket.