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Old 05 Jan 2017, 04:49 am
Fresh Cruiser
Join Date: Jan 2017
Posts: 1

Hello, my name is Emma and I really need someone's help with my very loved PT Cruiser!

I am struggling to find anyone who knows much about PT's and I am a little unsure if what I am being told is correct as the garage has not got much experience in PT's

I am filling up the water container and the car runs perfectly, I have been told its the head gasket that needs replacing and am looking at around 1,000 - 1,400 to have it replaced. Could this be something less simple like a leak somewhere? I am also being told that they could strip the engine down and then still not be able to repair it if its damaged the engine but I would then have to pay the 3-4 hours labour charges!

I would welcome and feedback or advice!
Thank you!
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Old 05 Jan 2017, 07:22 am
rckstein's Avatar
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: Texas
Posts: 15,518

Welcome to the forum
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Old 05 Jan 2017, 10:20 am
Obsessed Cruiser
Join Date: Aug 2014
Location: Thousand Oaks, CA
Posts: 7,321

Welcome to the forum.

How did the mechanic verify that your PT Cruiser needs a head gasket?

Did the PT Cruiser overheat?

Was a coolant pressure test done to verify no engine coolant leaks?

Does it overheat at high speeds as well as low speeds?

With the engine cold, you start the engine, turn on the A/C. does the radiator fan come on immediately?
If at First You Don't Succeed - Try, Try Again

Last edited by ptcruisersteve; 05 Jan 2017 at 10:22 am.
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Old 05 Jan 2017, 10:22 am
Handy_Cruiser's Avatar
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Join Date: Oct 2013
Location: Arkansas
Posts: 10,369

Hi Emma! And welcome to the forum from the great sovereign state of Arkansas!

Head gasket failure is fairly common on PT Cruisers. The cause is that the engine initially overheats for some other reason such as loss of coolant or radiator fan failure which is very common. The initial overheating causes the cylinder head to expand at a different rate than the engine block. Coupled with heat, the expansion causes movement that spoils the head gasket and causes failure.

Symptoms of a failed or "blown" head gasket often include periodic or frequent overheating of the engine. This is often caused by compressed gas in one or more cylinders escaping past the failed head gasket and entering the area inside the engine where the coolant circulates. This gas then forces the coolant out of the engine and the engine overheats. There may also be a leak of coolant down the side of the engine block that comes from between the cylinder head and engine block where the head gasket has failed. But this is more rare.

Your mechanic should have used one or more techniques to determine if the head gasket has failed. He or she may have conducted an engine pressure test and/or chemically tested the coolant for combustion gas. The mechanic may have instead simply observed that after starting the engine (when the engine is cold), coolant soon begins to be ejected from the radiator and overfill the reservoir before the engine overheats.

If you are unsure of your mechanic's diagnosis, you should ask the mechanic how he or she determined that the gasket has failed. True professionals are usually happy to explain their methods and it helps educate their customers as well. But if the mechanic cannot clearly explain the method diagnosis, it may be time to take your PT to a different mechanic.

In many cases, repair of the failed head gasket involves removing the cylinder head and placement of a new head gasket. Many mechanics and "do-it-yourselfers" often also insist on having the head rebuilt at a machine shop while it is off the engine. This helps assure the overheating did not warp or crack the head. Rebuilding the head also includes resurfacing the valves and it helps assure other components in the head will function as they should.

Specific to the PT Cruiser, removal of the head from the engine involves removal of the timing belt and other various components from the side of the engine. This increases the time required and the labor cost for the work. In most cases, the timing belt and other timing components (idler, tensioner, water pump) are changes at the same time since replacement of these is required every hundred thousand miles. If these components are not near one hundred thousand miles, replacement is not required. But the mechanic may ask if you want them changed since much of the labor to do that job is also required for head gasket replacement.

Also, in the majority of the cases, proper replacement of the head gasket as described will solve the problem. The potential for lower engine component damaged is small, but it will increase if the engine continues to be operated and overheats multiple times and/or if the engine is not repaired promptly. Allowing an engine with a failed head gasket to sit unrepaired may allow coolant to leak into the cylinders and eventually corrode lower engine parts. Once leaked into the lower engine, coolant may also displace motor oil and allow bearings and cylinder walls to become scored and damaged when the engine is started.

Again, a professional mechanic should be able to explain all of this to a customer in clear terms. If he or she cannot, it may indicate a lack of skill and/or voracity.

Last edited by Handy_Cruiser; 05 Jan 2017 at 11:32 am.
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gasket, head, leak, water leak

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