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Leaking head gasket - what can I expect?

Discussion in 'Off Topic [BG]' started by SoComSurfing, Feb 14, 2014.

  1. SoComSurfing

    SoComSurfing Mercedes Benz Superdome. S 127. R 22. S 12-13.

    Feb 15, 2002
    Mobile, Al
    2007 Ford F-150. 5.4L, 2wd, 143k miles. Only ran hot once in it's life, about 4 years ago when I had a cracked radiator.

    Took it in yesterday to have the #2 plug and ignition coil changed because it was reporting a misfire. Plug and coil is changed, still misfiring. They check again and feel like it's a leaking head gasket. You can put a finger in the plug socket and it comes out wet. :(

    Instead of patiently waiting on a call from the shop with a quote, I impatiently ask the internet's small corner of utmost intelligence and expertise, TBOT.

    If it is indeed the head gasket, what am I looking at? I've seen comments of various F-150 message boards ranging from $1200 to $3500. What say you, Off Topic?
  2. Probably need to surface the head, it's likely warped if the engine ran hot. That is, if the head can be ground, some of the newer heads are not made to be ground!

    Of course, the head may be cracked too. In the worst case: the head would need to be replaced (sometimes they can be welded but and reworked but that's not always possible).

    So...depends on which shop is doing it. If it's the Ford dealer, yep $3000 could be possible. An honest independent shop you might luck out at maybe $1500, if the head isn't cracked.
  3. Runnerman

    Runnerman Registered Bass Player Supporting Member

    Mar 14, 2011
    I just had the head gasket changed on my 2001 F150 5.4L two weeks ago.
    I did not have it done at the dealer and I would recommend you don't.
    It cost me less than $500 at my local mechanic that does all my work.
    The gasket is a steel/rubber sandwich and can take a set over time.

    This engine has the plastic intake manifold and it can warp and if you need to replace that he quoted me right around $1000. They won't know until the intake is removed. I doubt the heads will need resurfacing.

    I had the exact same situation at first with misfire and they replaced one of the coils as well. Then it kept doing the same thing and got the same diagnosis. Now it runs like a dream again.

    Good luck.
  4. wraub


    Apr 9, 2004
    ennui, az
    deviated prevert
    My 98 Malibu had the same problem. Was quoted 900-1400 to fix, with minimal guarantees.

    Made for a decent trade-in towards my current vehicle.
  5. DerHoggz

    DerHoggz I like cats :| Banned

    Feb 13, 2009
    Western Pennsylvania
    I've had a head on a Vulcan V6 replaced with one from a junkyard for $900.
  6. Truktek2


    Sep 5, 2008
    Queens, NY
    Make sure it's not the intake manifold. Those are notorious for leaking coolant into the spark plug chambers, causing the symptoms you describe. I wouldn't be surprised if you didn't need headgaskets at all. I'd get a second opinion.
  7. I have a Ford Taurus wagon head gasket went $1200 local shop I shut it down when I smelled the oil the smoke came after it was off had it towed I have blown up engines in the past street racing so I knew that smell was trouble and let me add no check engine light before as a warning
  8. jamminology101


    Aug 22, 2012
    Indianapolis In
    Endorsing Artist: Glockenklang
    Any shadetree mechanic will be able to tell just by looking if the head gasket has a leak in it. Water will be coming out from the jackets that cool the head and even oil can leak out if your rings are shot and getting blowback from the crankcase. I agree with the consensus that a good mechanic can do this for around a grand IF the head is not warped. The motor running hot that one time is probably the culprit for the problem. ..doesnt take long to get hot enough to bust the seal and possibly cause warpage. If they have to resurface both the deck and the head...I would consider other options. A motor with that many miles on it is bound to become the money pit from hell and you can get a fresh reconditioned crate motor for those small blocks installed for 3 to 5k depending on what you get. If you have to spend more than a grand on the head gasket ordeal...go for a crate motor install. ..it will save you alot of $ and headaches in the long run if you are going to keep her for some years...
  9. Mike N

    Mike N Missing the old TB Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2001
    Spencerport, New York
  10. Mike N

    Mike N Missing the old TB Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2001
    Spencerport, New York
    You sure they replaced head gaskets and not something else for $500? Labor alone to R&R heads on that truck is more than $500 at pretty much any shop. Either I've been doing it wrong for all these years or your mechanic likes working for free. While they're semi serviceable in the truck the best way to get the head off a 5.4 is to remove the engine or remove the cab from the frame.
  11. Head gaskets on my mom's 2004 pontiac grand am basically disintegrated and the cylinder heads were damaged. I believe it cost $2000 for refurbished cylinder heads, head gaskets, and labour.. They also completely cleaned the engine. I saw pictures of what it looked like before they started working on it and it was absolutely terrible
  12. Mike N

    Mike N Missing the old TB Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2001
    Spencerport, New York
    OP- if the diagnosis is a head gasket and you plan on fixing the truck then I would send the heads out to have them surfaced to be sure they're true. Also you may need to replace the head bolts of they're the torque to yield style that many new engines have. Do it once and do it right..... no sense in cutting corners and doing the job half assed, imo and ime.
  13. Mike N

    Mike N Missing the old TB Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2001
    Spencerport, New York
    Probably one of the easiest head gasket jobs to do is the GM 3.1 and 3.4 OHV V6. I do them all day long for $1250, and for that you get new gaskets (Fel Pro), new head bolts, heads pressure checked and surfaced, new thermostat, coolant, oil & filter change and all labor to complete the job.
  14. ZenG


    Dec 13, 2013
    Near the fridge
    Don't ever get anything fixed at a dealer...unless there is absolutely no other choice....

    Their rates are such that you pay the wages of a lot of people at the dealership that had nothing to do with fixing your vehicle.

    And all the aftermarket parts they sell at dealers are way higher than the same part bought from auto-part stores.
  15. DerHoggz

    DerHoggz I like cats :| Banned

    Feb 13, 2009
    Western Pennsylvania
    I don't think that mileage is so bad for a modern engine.
  16. kev b

    kev b

    Nov 28, 2012
    You can have a sniffer test done for a few dollars, this is a device that fits in place of the coolant cap. It contains a solution which changes colour if combustion gases are present in the coolant, indicating a failed gasket.

    If this is negative then pressurising the cooling system with a standard radiator tester and seeing if the cylinder is filling up with coolant with and without the inlet valve open would check the intake gasket.

    Any decent tech should be capable of doing this, and will probably have a borescope to see inside the cylinder.

    DO NOT remove the head until you have a proper diagnosis, you could save yourself a lot of money.
  17. Im a former Ford tech. Have a compression test done. Along with a cylinder leakdown test. Could also be a bad fuel injector, which can also cause a loss of compression. No "shadetree" mechanic can diagnose this stuff.
  18. If a head gasket is leaking into the cooling system there will be eratic temperatures on the gauge. It will probably push the coolant out of the resevoir.
  19. Mike N

    Mike N Missing the old TB Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2001
    Spencerport, New York
    You pay for a factory trained tech that has seen vehicles like yours over and over to the point that we probably know what's wrong before we get the hood open, unlike the flunky slap straight out of Wyo Tech that still can't fix a sandwich. And we use factory quality parts to fix your car.

    Otoh if you want to have some low paid parts changer throw Chinese parts at your car, knock yourself out.
  20. +1