As you may be aware, the typical car engine is made from many hundreds of parts, and they need to interact with each other for proper performance. Many of these parts are bolted together, and this includes the engine casing itself, which is, in turn, divided into several sections. Did you know that there are actually parts designed to fit in between those sections to provide a proper seal and that they can occasionally deteriorate or break down? What do you need to know about these purpose-made gaskets and how they can affect your car's performance.
Typically, an engine has three separate, major sections — the sump, the block and the head. This can vary, of course, if the motor is in a "V" configuration, but the principle remains the same. Each one of these sections has to be separate so that the interior components can be assembled correctly and maintained as necessary. Nevertheless, it's important to ensure that the sections are tightly connected once assembled, or the engine simply will not run.
If you look at a cross-section of the engine block, you will see a myriad of individual passages designed to transport lubricating oil and coolant. These liquids flow under pressure between the block and the cylinder head, and it is vital to ensure that the gasket seals are properly installed.
You may be surprised to learn that the typical head gasket is a very sophisticated product. It can be made from multiple layers of thin steel, copper or composite material but must be able to perform under pressure regardless of the temperature condition. They are also designed to separate the liquid channels and ensure that oil does not leak into a cooling channel and vice versa. When these gaskets are first installed, the bolts connecting the two sections must be carefully tightened using a torque wrench.
Signs of Failure
Unfortunately, gaskets can sometimes fail, and if the problem is significant, this can lead to major issues. If they lose their efficiency, then oil and coolant can leak. This can cause the engine to overheat or lead to internal corrosion. You may notice black smoke coming out of the exhaust and a significant performance loss.
The Paying Attention
Some gaskets are designed to be replaced regularly and when you change filters or carry out some tuning. Others should always be replaced if the engine is disassembled for service or repair, and this will help avoid any problems down the road.
If you've noticed a loss of performance, black smoke, or oil or coolant on the floor of your garage, you may have a failed gasket. Take this in for repair as soon as possible. A company that offers things like European car servicing can provide more information.