Should I Sell a Car with a Cracked Cylinder Head or Repair? 

Your car isn’t doing so hot. In fact, you’ve been limping it along for months now. The engine has overheated a bunch of times – the big plume of white steam, a puddle of green coolant, and a call to AAA has become second nature. It’s so bad, you can count on your engine to overheat on any trip further than the grocery store. You even map out where you’ll need to stop to cool down your engine. 

From overheating so often, your head gasket is blown. But most likely, that’s not the extent of the damage. Your car probably has a cracked cylinder head too.

But what exactly does that mean? How does it happen, is a cracked cylinder head worth to repair, and what is a cylinder head in the first place?

Did You Know?

Cylinder head repair or replacement can be one of the most costly repairs your car can endure. If it doesn't make sense to spend so much based on the value of your car, the best option might be selling.

Selling a damaged or non-running car to private sellers can be difficult, but at we give you an instant offer and tow your car for free! See how much you can get here.

How Does a Cylinder Head Function?

Unless you drive a car with a wacky Wankel rotary engine, your car has at least one cylinder head. Vehicles designated as a V design – V6, V8 and such – have two cylinder heads, one for each side of the V.

The cylinder head contains valves which operate the intake of air and fuel, as well as valves that release exhaust gases from the combustion chamber.

How Does a Cylinder Head Function?A camshaft also works its way into the cylinder head, usually on the top. There might be more than one too, for engines with DOHC, or dual overhead cams. The camshaft rotates when the engine is running, timed perfectly with the crankshaft so the engine runs smoothly.

Then there are the gaskets. On the top is a valve cover gasket, preventing oil from spraying all over the place. Under the cylinder head where it meets the engine block is a cylinder head gasket. It seals the combustion chambers, the oil passages, and the coolant passages in the cylinder head to the block.

How a Cylinder Head Gets Cracked

There really are three main ways a cylinder head can crack, and all three are doozies.

  • The bolts fastening the cylinder head to the engine block are overtightened. It’s a thing, and it does happen very infrequently. When the bolts are tightened too much, it stresses the cylinder head. Combined with the violent explosions that happen inside the engine and the heat produced, the stressed metal gives way and cracks.

  • The engine freezes. Obviously, it only happens in cold climates and when the coolant mixture is too light to prevent freezing. When the water freezes, it expands inside the engine. There’s nowhere for it to go, so it makes room by pressing outwards, cracking the cylinder head. However, it’s not usually the only part to get damaged.

  • The engine overheats. Hot and cold, then hot and cold again. Frequent extreme temperature changes cause the cylinder head material to expand and contract. After a few times, or some really extreme overheating, the cylinder head gives out and cracks.

Once your cylinder head cracks you will have to decide if it’s worth repairing, or just selling your car.

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Symptoms of a Cracked Cylinder Head

If you have a cylinder head cracked, there are a few different ways you’ll find out.

Symptoms of a Cracked Cylinder HeadYou might find engine coolant or engine oil dripping onto the ground. That’s the case when the cylinder head cracks externally, and it depends where the head cracks.

You might have a Check Engine light and the engine runs rough. It’s the case when the cylinder head cracks in a way that allows coolant or oil into the combustion chamber. You’ll also have abnormal smoke from the tailpipe.

The cylinder head can crack across a couple valves or between cylinders. When that happens, the engine has lower compression and won’t run very well at all.

Also, the engine can easily overheat. It’s the most common symptom you’ll hear of.

What Does a Cracked Cylinder Head Repair Cost?

Like most engine repairs, the repair cost for a cracked cylinder head depends on the extent of the damage. There really are just two options for the repair: rebuilding the cylinder head or cylinder head replacement.

Rebuilding a Cylinder Head Costs

Rebuilding a Cylinder Head CostsRebuilding a cylinder head involves removing it from the engine and testing it to determine the exact location of the crack. Minor cracks can be fixed in a few locations, namely the ones where there isn’t high pressure.

Honestly, there aren’t many cases where rebuilding a cylinder head because of a crack is feasible. The cost of replacement parts and the labor involved is extreme. You can expect $1,050 to $2,600 if the cylinder head can be rebuilt.

Replacing a Cracked Cylinder Head

In nearly every case, replacing a cracked cylinder head is the better way to go. It might cost more, ranging from $1,850 to $4,400 but the repair success is better. Plus, there’s no chance parts that were reused will fail.

Perhaps You’d Rather Sell Your Car

The cost to repair a cracked cylinder head is significant. If you’d rather not travel that road, you might consider selling your car to DamagedCars instead and getting the right price for your junk car.

Perhaps You’d Rather Sell Your CarIt’s easy and it’s free. All you have to do is request a guaranteed quote for your car in as-is, where is condition. It doesn’t matter if the cylinder head is leaking or cracked – we’ll still buy it as it is. We’ll give you a guaranteed offer for your car.

If you accept the offer, DamagedCars will pay you fast, then pick up your car from where it sits. There’s no cost for the service, and no cost for the tow. What’s better yet is you’ll have cash in hand! Get your guaranteed offer to see how much your car is worth now.