Can BlueDevil Head Gasket Sealer be effective when combustion gases are getting into cooling system?

overheating

#1

We have a 1999 Camry 4 cylinder with 218,000 miles that has one foot in the grave. The repairs it would need to stay on the road long term dont make financial sense. So we’re going to buy a different car, but we’re going to be really screwed if the Camry dies before we can use it to find one. I’m trying to figure out if Blue Devil Head Gasket Sealer would likely be effective in temporarily keeping this car on the road.

The day after it passed inspection (with no issues, much to my relief) I noticed the temp gauge going up to the high end / into the red. When it happens it erratically cycles between the middle of the gauge (normal) and high / red for pretty brief periods. It’s also lost coolant, had erratic heater performance (plus gurgling in the dash / engine area), and rough idling when started.

I took it to a shop that pressure tested the cooling system and tested the coolant for combustion gases. This is what they wrote on the invoice: “Pressure test showed no external signs of leaking — Block test showed signs of internal head gasket leak”. They told me that the coolant tested positive for combustion gases and that is a sure sign of a head gasket leak (or cracked head or block). They told me the rough idling is from coolant leaking into the cylinders. They suggested that Blue Devil might fix the problem temporarily. They said they could apply the Head Gasket Sealer (not the Pour-N-Go version) for $250 and based on their experience they estimate about a 60% chance of success at fixing the problem for 6-12 months.

That’d be a good value if it bought us that much time or even less – I just need to buy enough time to get a different car without having to rush into a bad deal (e.g. drive a rental car to a dealership).

I had about decided to go for it yesterday, but was reading up a bit before pulling the trigger. The FAQ for the product has a question “My car is overheating. Will BlueDevil correct this?” with an answer that starts off “No.” My understanding was that my car is overheating as a result of the head gasket leak. So if the product seals the leak, wouldn’t it correct the overheating in this case? That’s clearly the implication of the shop suggesting it to me.

Then I was reading some Amazon reviews. A comment by “Alex P.” really got my attention. Note, the comment is on a review of BlueDevil Pour-N-Go Head Gasket Sealer. The shop quoted me the price for an application of the BlueDevil Head Gasket Sealer (non Pour-N-Go) that requires a more rigorous procedure. The comment starts off quoting that FAQ entry I mentioned. It goes on to say that exhaust gases in the coolant means an overheating issue and the Blue Devil product won’t help with that. It then says that the product is more effective in cases where coolant is leaking internally (into cylinders or crankcase) or externally, and not effective in cases where exhaust gases are getting into the cooling system.

Does anyone know if Alex P.'s comments about the Blue Devil not being effective in cases where combustion gases are getting into the coolant are accurate? And why? As I noted, the comments were related to the Pour-N-Go version of the product. Does anyone know if there’d be a difference in that regard between the Pour-N-Go and non Pour-N-Go versions?

I’m also wondering if using this product would interfere with being able to replace the head gasket later. Probably the only chance of selling this car for more than scrap value is to someone who wants to make the repairs it needs, including the head gasket, themself.


#2

Additives are not fixes, but in the case of keeping an old beater running for a few more months you have nothing to lose by trying them. I say “go for it”. If Blue Devil doesn’t seem to work, try another. Your situation is exactly what I believe additives are perfect for.

Kudos on your research, by the way. I wish everyone would put the time in to research these things.

Good luck.


#3

I’m going to say no here because I’m not a big fan of additives. Very few of them work and I don’t think Blue Devil Pour and Go Head Gasket Sealer is one of them. You could go ahead and spend the $250 bucks and one of two things will happen. It will fix your problem or it will be an expensive lesson learned.


#4

Does anyone know if Alex P.'s comments about the Blue Devil not being effective in cases where combustion gases are getting into the coolant are accurate? And why?

I don’t have any personal experience with the product but I can venture a guess as to why they state that limitation. The product works by entering the breach and plugging it up. In the case of combustion gases, they are at much higher pressure than the coolant jacket. While the engine is running, the combustion gases continuously displace the coolant as they are forced from the combustion chamber into the cooling jacket and therefore prevent the coolant mixture from filling the void and plugging up the breach.

In the case of an external (or internal) leak where the cooling jacket is higher pressure than the side it’s leaking into, the coolant cocktail is continuously forced through the breach and gels up to seal the leak.


#5

If you’re going to attempt something like this, instead of spending that kind of money call a local pharmacy and order a bottle of soduim silicate for about $25.00.

Look at the auto repair catagory. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sodium_silicate

This is the primary ingredient in these stop-leak products.

I’ve had success stopping head gasket leaks with the stuff.

Tester


#6

I’m assuming the mechanic will warm the engine up (radiator cap off), add the sealer, circulate, shut off the engine, then pressurize the system to drive the sealer into the leak, wait a while, etc. You might quiz him on his procedure and if it sounds reasonable, go for it. I’d be wary about the do-it-yourself version.


#7

It could work. It might plug the radiator solidly. That would be bad. One thing you must do is read the instructions and follow them to the letter. That cylinder leak is a two way street so the word might is OK to use.


#8
Additives are not fixes, but in the case of keeping an old beater running for a few more months you have nothing to lose by trying them. I say "go for it". If Blue Devil doesn't seem to work, try another. Your situation is exactly what I believe additives are perfect for.

In this case I’d be gambling the $250 the shop would charge me to apply the product, since I can’t do it myself. If it worked it’d be well worth it, but if not we’d be a bit worse off. Also, s people, e.g. in the Amazon reviews, complain that applying the product put their car in a worse state.

Kudos on your research, by the way. I wish everyone would put the time in to research these things.

Thanks. Mostly I’m told that I overanalyze things.

I'm going to say no here because I'm not a big fan of additives. Very few of them work and I don't think Blue Devil Pour and Go Head Gasket Sealer is one of them. You could go ahead and spend the $250 bucks and one of two things will happen. It will fix your problem or it will be an expensive lesson learned.

Just to be clear, the $250 is to have a repair shop apply the non Pour-N-Go version of the product, which calls for a more elaborate procedure than the Pour-N-Go.

I don't have any personal experience with the product but I can venture a guess as to why they state that limitation. The product works by entering the breach and plugging it up. In the case of combustion gases, they are at much higher pressure than the coolant jacket. While the engine is running, the combustion gases continuously displace the coolant as they are forced from the combustion chamber into the cooling jacket and therefore prevent the coolant mixture from filling the void and plugging up the breach.

In the case of an external (or internal) leak where the cooling jacket is higher pressure than the side it's leaking into, the coolant cocktail is continuously forced through the breach and gels up to seal the leak.

Thanks for venturing that. That does sound plausible. I’m guessing that in this case the pressure with which combustion gases are meeting the coolant varies since sometimes the radiator has fluid and sometimes it doesn’t.

If you're going to attempt something like this, instead of spending that kind of money call a local pharmacy and order a bottle of soduim silicate for about $25.00.

I've had success stopping head gasket leaks with the stuff.

Thanks for the suggestion, I read the info you linked to. What kind of procedure do you have to follow to use that? I could get the Blue Devil product pretty cheaply myself. I think the shop is, for some reason, overcharging me quite a bit for the product itself, but most of the expense of the $250 they quoted me is for following a pretty elaborate application procedure that I wouldn’t be able to do myself. (They described it to me, and I don’t remember if it exactly matches up, but I assume they’d be following the same procedure that’s described in the directions on Blue Devil’s website.)

I'm assuming the mechanic will warm the engine up (radiator cap off), add the sealer, circulate, shut off the engine, then pressurize the system to drive the sealer into the leak, wait a while, etc. You might quiz him on his procedure and if it sounds reasonable, go for it. I'd be wary about the do-it-yourself version.

You can see the directions the manufacturer gives in the link I posted – that’s the procedure I assume the shop would follow.

It could work. It might plug the radiator solidly. That would be bad. One thing you must do is read the instructions and follow them to the letter. That cylinder leak is a two way street so the word might is OK to use.

I’m told that the Blue Devil products have a reputation for not plugging stuff up. The people that report success with it emphasize following the instructions to the T, as you suggest. The instructions for the version the shop would apply for me call for removing the thermostat and flusing the system before applying the product. The other version, Pour-N-Go, does not call for those steps. You can see the full directions the manufacturer prescribes for the version of the product the shop would apply for me in the link I posted.

Thanks again, @the same mountainbike, @missileman, @TwinTurbo, @Tester, @insightful, @pleasedodgevan2.


#9

I was just driving the car and temp gauge was going up and down on me. When I stopped driving I popped the hood and watched for a while. At first the cooling fans were going on and off quite a bit. Then for quite a while they stopped coming on altogether, even when the temp gauge went into the red. What does that suggest? I’m guessing that’s a separate problem from a possible head gasket leak?


#10

It suggests that the temperature sensor that turns the fans on isn’t functioning properly.
It very likely is a separate problem, however of the headgasket leak is causing the coolant to drop to where the temp sensor is in an air pocket, it might not be.

You can, if you want, bench test the fans themselves using two 6VDCV dry cells connected in series. They draw little current and should run freely on the two 6V dry cells. I’ve even used a 9VDC transistor radio battery to test 12VDC fans. They’ll run a bit slower, but if they’re loading up you’ll see it.


#11

What about the thermostat in all of this? Has that been considered or changed?

Thermostat closes randomly, fans operate until the coolant temp in the radiator (where the fan sensor) is located drops and the fan shuts off while the engine continues to operate in the red due to coolant not circulating through the radiator.

If the T-stat has never been changed then I’d throw one in there and see what happens.
Misdiagnosis of head gasket issues is not that rare when it comes to overheating.
Just a suggestion anyway and maybe you’ll luck out here.


#12

I once had a car that ran extremely hot BECAUSE of a brand new faulty thermostat

I replaced it, and the problems disappeared


#13

Let’s not forget this tidbit from the original post:

They told me that the coolant tested positive for combustion gases and that is a sure sign of a head gasket leak (or cracked head or block). They told me the rough idling is from coolant leaking into the cylinders

Rough idle, combustion gases in coolant…if trusted then its not a thermostat or the fans. They may have contributed to the overheating that resulted in a breach but the problem is beyond that now. The horse is out of the barn…

Here we go again with post formatting. Paragraph breaks work in editor but disappear in thread view.


#14

Thanks @the same mountainbike.

It suggests that the temperature sensor that turns the fans on isn't functioning properly. It very likely is a separate problem, however of the headgasket leak is causing the coolant to drop to where the temp sensor is in an air pocket, it might not be.

Ok. I don’t know where the temperature sensor is located (next car I’m getting a maintenance manual for first thing), but the overflow bottle was pretty full at the time, so I’m not sure how much coolant was in the radiator.

You can, if you want, bench test the fans themselves using two 6VDCV dry cells connected in series. They draw little current and should run freely on the two 6V dry cells. I've even used a 9VDC transistor radio battery to test 12VDC fans. They'll run a bit slower, but if they're loading up you'll see it.

Are you suggesting that to test whether the fans work, or to force them to come on when the temperature goes up to see if they bring it down? At first when I was watching they were definitely going on and off, then they just stopped coming on even when the temp gauge rose.

Thanks @ok4450.

What about the thermostat in all of this? Has that been considered or changed?

I don’t know if it’s been considered, but it hasn’t been changed. I took it to a mechanic to diagnose and they pressure tested the system and tested the coolant for combustion gases. I’m not sure what else they did – I assume they would’ve checked that the cooling fans were operating, but if the car was behaving then like it was yesterday, the fans could’ve been working when they checked. They diagnosed a head gasket leak as causing the overheating based on the combustion gases in the coolant, losses of coolant, erratic heater performance, and rough idling when started.

If the T-stat has never been changed then I'd throw one in there and see what happens. Misdiagnosis of head gasket issues is not that rare when it comes to overheating. Just a suggestion anyway and maybe you'll luck out here.

Thanks for the suggestion. I guess I’ll look into what that involves – I can’t do it myself unless it’s really simple, so more likely I’m looking into how much it costs to have a shop do it and if it’s worth rolling the dice on.


#15

Twin Turbo’s post makes it all moot. Your combustion chamber(s) is(are) blowing hot combustion gasses into the water jacket, heating it up high and fast, forcing the coolant to go into the reservoir, and the intake strokes are drawing coolant into the cylinder(s), leaving the reservoir full and the engine with air pockets, one of which is around the temp sensor for the fans and that is causing the fans to operate improperly. The temp sensor will not sense the temperature of the engine properly unless it’s immersed in the coolant.

All of this is a result of a blown headgasket (or cracked head or block… actually rare in a stock engine, but possible). The headgasket provides a seal between the combustion chambers and the water jacket. A blown headgasket is one with a breech in that seal. Once that happens, very hot combustion gasses get blown into the coolant, coolant gets drawn into the combustion chamber and vaporized, the engine overheats, the head often warps, and you have serious engine-destruction going on. It sounds like this engine has been assessed by a mechanic and you’ve been told this, but are trying to fix the engine with inexpensive parts and very expensive dreams.

I sincerely mean no disrespect, but rather than investing in a repair manual for your next car you might be better to invest in a trusting relationship with a good reputable mechanic.

Sorry, this engine is toast.


#16

@TwinTurbo‌, sorry for going off topic, but I am gathering data…what’s the trouble you’re having with the paragraph breaks? Are you inputting them with enter, or using the html tag? Same goes for anyone else having issues. I see many people are able to write with paragraph breaks, but others seem to note difficult here and there. Sometimes mine disappear despite using tags.


#17

I have used alumaseal with good results, but never heard of the blue devil product.


#18

If the thermostat has no bleed hole, drilling one might reduce the wild swings in the temperature gauge which indicate that the damage is worsening. And speaking from experience, the block sealers often work but don’t get too far from home driving on an engine running on a snake oil remedy ‘fix.’


#19

If coolant is getting into the cylinders there should be some white smoke coming out of the tailpipe.


#20
I once had a car that ran extremely hot BECAUSE of a brand new faulty thermostat

I replaced it, and the problems disappeared

Thanks @db4690. I have no experience with that, but I’ve read that supposedly a fairly high percentage of new thermostats can be faulty.

...if trusted then its not a thermostat or the fans. They may have contributed to the overheating that resulted in a breach but the problem is beyond that now. The horse is out of the barn....

Thanks @TwinTurbo. I don’t have enough experience with them to trust them implicitly, but I have no reason to distrust them. In the limited experience I’ve had there I feel I’ve been treated totally fairly. The day before I noticed the temp guage problem I took the car there for inspection and was holding my breath, and it passed without issue, so I have no reason to believe they’re into making up phony problems. They went very easy on me for the charge to break the bad news about the head gasket. I probably should know this, but I can’t really say how competent they are, I don’t know if they’re all ASE certified for example.

Here we go again with post formatting. Paragraph breaks work in editor but disappear in thread view.

This is pretty quirky forum software. I appreciate that you attempted to make paragraphs (a lot of people don’t even try).

actually rare in a stock engine, but possible).

Thanks @the same mountainbike. Is that right?

It sounds like this engine has been assessed by a mechanic and you've been told this, but are trying to fix the engine with inexpensive parts and very expensive dreams.

As I reported in my original post this engine has been assessed by a mechanic. I’ve been told that the head gasket is leaking and combustion gases are getting into the coolant. I discussed with the mechanic that it may not make financial sense to make the expensive head gasket repair on this vehicle. The mechanic suggested that they could apply Blue Devil Head Gasket Sealer and estimates it has a 60% chance of “fixing” the problem for 6-12 months. This thread is requesting feedback on whether it is indeed possible for the product to produce the effect that the mechanic suggested it can.

I sincerely mean no disrespect, but rather than investing in a repair manual for your next car you might be better to invest in a trusting relationship with a good reputable mechanic.

Finding a mechanic like that would super, but those are two totally separate things. It’s not as though getting a repair manual is a substitute for mechanic services in my case, and it’s not as though finding a mechanic like that is as simple as acquiring a repair manual. And in this case the most trusted and reputable mechanic I know of suggested the Blue Devil product to me. I plan to get a repair manual for the next car for reference just so that I understand how the car is put together a little better. I welcome suggestions on how to find a good mechanic.

Sorry, this engine is toast.

Yeah, the car is a goner, I’m just hoping to keep it a limping along a bit longer. To wit, I’m trying to evaluate my mechanic’s suggestion to try Blue Devil Head Gasket Sealer.

I have used alumaseal with good results, but never heard of the blue devil product.

Ok, thanks @rattlegas. Did you have combustion gases getting into the coolant?

If the thermostat has no bleed hole, drilling one might reduce the wild swings in the temperature gauge which indicate that the damage is worsening.

Thanks for the suggestion @Rod Knox. Are you saying that the temperature gauge readings are misleading and drilling the hole would just make the reading appear normal, or would do something to reduce the actual problem?

And speaking from experience, the block sealers often work but don't get too far from home driving on an engine running on a snake oil remedy 'fix.'

Do you think it could work in a case like this where combustion gases are getting into the cooling system? What I’d hope for out of the sealer is to keep the car getting my girlfriend to work and back, and get us around enough to look at cars for sale and buy one before this one dies. I’d avoid any unnecessary trips far from home.

If coolant is getting into the cylinders there should be some white smoke coming out of the tailpipe.

Thanks @ok4450. I’ll take a look again. What does it mean if there’s no white smoke, but the coolant tests positive for combustion gases, and temp gauge is spiking?