Troubleshooting A Blown Head Gasket (5.2L, 5.9L Dodge Ram Pickup And Van)

In this tutorial, I'm gonna' show you the 3 most common tests that are done to check for a blown head gasket.

Two of the three are extremely easy and don't involve using any tools at all and can be accomplished in less than 10 minutes.

NOTE: For the 3.9L V6 equipped Dodge pickup and van, see this tutorial: How To Test For A Blown Head Gasket (3.9L Dodge Ram Pickup And Van).

In Spanish You can find this tutorial in Spanish here: Cómo Probar Los Empaques De Las Cabezas (Chrysler 5.2L, 5.9L) (at:

Symptoms Of A Blown Head Gasket

The most common cause of a blown head gasket is that the engine overheated because: 1) Fan clutch is not working, 2) All of the coolant leaked out of the engine and you kept driving it this way. 3) Thermostat went bad and is stuck closed and the coolant could not circulate. The most common symptoms a blown head gasket are:

  1. Your 5.2L, 5.9L Dodge van (pickup) is overheating. You know it's not the fan (or fan c-lutch) or thermostat.
  2. White smoke is coming out of the tail-pipe and it smells like anti-freeze being cooked.
  3. Your 5.2L, 5.9L Dodge van (pickup) 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.
  4. The engine oil is thick and tan to off-white color (mixed with coolant).

TEST 1: Oil The Color Of Coffee With Too Much Creamer

Oil The Color Of Coffee With Too Much Creamer. Troubleshooting A Blown Head Gasket (5.2L, 5.9L Dodge Ram Pickup And Van)

There's a good chance you may not need to do all three tests described in this article, to find out if the head gaskets are blown on your Dodge 5.2L, or 5.9L equipped van or pickup.

If one test conclusively confirms a blown head gasket condition, you don't have to continue on to the next test.

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

  1. 1

    Pop open the hood on your 5.2L or 5.9L van (pickup).

  2. 2

    Pull out the engine's oil dipstick.

  3. 3

    Now, check what the color of the oil is and how thick it is.

  4. 4

    You'll see one of two things:

    1.) The oil on the dipstick is a creamy, off-white color and is thick as syrup.

    2.) The oil is its normal color and viscosity.

Now, let's find out what each of the two results mean:

CASE 1: The color of the oil is a light tan, like coffee with too much creamer. This is bad news and tells you without a shadow of a doubt that you do have a blown head gasket.

Why does the oil look like this? Mainly because your Dodge pickup (van) over-heated and:

1.) The cylinder head (or heads) warped. This warpage causes the head gasket (or gaskets) to burn.

2.) A blown head gasket loses its sealing power/ability and if its not sealing the oil and coolant ports in both the engine block and the cylinder head.

3.) This will lead to the coolant entering the engine oil pan, as both oil and coolant mix the resulting combination gets thick and becomes an off-white color.

CASE 2: The color of the engine oil is normal. So far so good, the next step is to check to see if compression/exhaust gases are leaking into the cooling system. Go to: TEST 2: Exhaust Gases Shooting Out Of The Radiator.

Here's why: Normally (about 90% of the time) when a head gasket gets blown on a 5.2L, or 5.9L Dodge van (pickup), coolant will enter into the crankcase and mix with the engine oil. But not always so the next test is to see if the engine's compression/combustion gases are escaping thru' the radiator.

Dodge Vehicles:

  • B150, B250, B350 5.2L, 5.9L
    • 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994
  • B1500, B2500, B3500 5.2L, 5.9L
    • 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998
  • D150, D250, D350 5.2L, 5.9L
    • 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994
  • Ram 1500, 2500, 3500 5.2L, 5.9L
    • 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003

Dodge Vehicles:

  • RamCharger 5.2L, 5.9L
    • 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996
  • Ram Van 1500, 2500, 3500 5.2L, 5.9L
    • 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003