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Corolla Head Gasket Leak

I just took my 2004 Corolla LE in for its 90k service. The dealer says there’s a slight leak in the head gasket, and it would cost $1200 to replace the gasket. If it is okay to watch and wait while I save up the $1200, what do I watch for? Oil consumption? Drips under the car? Thanks for any advice.

Get a second opinion, but if you really have a blown headgasket it needs to be fixed. Left unrepaired the breech path will erode into the head, fluids may mix, the engine will begin to overheat because combustion gasses will blow through the breech into the coolant and heat it up, the overheating may warp the head, and if coolant gets mixed in with the oil you may trash your main bearings…in which case the engine will be a nice boat anchor.

However if it’s just an oil leak to the outside world it may be perfectly usable as-is as long as you monitor the oil level. The headgasket contains oil passages too.

Get a second opinion from a reputable independent shop and post back.

Don’t wait on this one. Leaky head gaskets can cause major damage to your engine if ignored.

I would get a second opinion to verify the leak. I wouldn’t normally tell a customer that they have a “slight” head gasket leak, it’s a leak or it isn’t. $1200 also is a little on the high side. You should be able to find somebody to do it for less that $1000.

I’d get a second opinion from an independent mechanic to verify this condition. It’s too expensive to take chances with, and you don’t want to pay for something you don’t need. This is very unusual for a Corolla with only 90K miles.

If the diagnosis is confirmed it has to be fixed, but an independent mechanic may cost less.

Thanks, all of you. I will get it in for a second opinion next week and let you know what I find out.

Okay, so I got the second opinion. This independent mechanic confirms that there is a small amount of oil on the corner of the head, that it’s oil not anti-freeze, that it’s just seeping, not scary. He also said that the O2 test shows there’s no leaking into the radiator. He agrees that I can keep an eye on the leak, and the oil, but that I’ll have to have the repair eventually. He quoted a price of $900. What’s your advice? And thanks for your help!

That seemed like a good diagnosis, incluidn the price. I would still fix this soon, but if only oil is leaking and to the outside, and the car is not overheating, you don’t have to do it tomorrow. It’s very important to keep an eye on all fluids at this time, and don’t take the car on a trip.

Well, your “Don’t take the car on a trip” advice convinced me to have it taken care of now. Agai, thanks for helping me out here.

So the alternate mechanic repaired the head gasket leak during the week of 9 May. Since then, oil drips have appeared on the previously pristine garage floor under my car’s engine - not very many, but they are there. I’m taking the car back to the mechanic tomorrow. What should I expect? In my view, the drips are clearly the result of their work on my car. There were no drips before they did the work, now there are.

I always advise to not open the engine up unless there is a really good reason and small outside oil leakage is not a really good reason. Taking the head off is not like changing the battery.

Some months ago we has a similar question,I advised not to do the work as it did not warrant the risks associated with head removal and the results were the same for the other Poster,increased oil leaks. Leave those minor outside oil leaks alone. A perfect mating of head and block is a thing of beauty and should not be disturbed.

Is there some way that I can make sure it is only outside oil leakage? Can I expect the amount of oil leaking to get worse over time?

My advice about not removing the head when the leakage was only from the outside applied before you had the head removed and the leakage “fixed”. Now the mechanic that removed your head must do what ever is required to stop the oil leakage his fix created.

Thanks for clarifying.

Are you sure it’s leaking from the same place? There are many, many places an engine can leak oil. Perhaps you had another leak besides the one from the head gasket?

Having a “slight leak” from a head gasket is very much like being “a little bit pregnant”.
These situations inevitably progress to a new stage, and in the automotive sense they do not progress in a good way.

Get a second opinion, and if the second mechanic also says that you have a head gasket leak, you need to either get it repaired promptly or be prepared for catastrophic failure of the engine due to (pick one or both)–overheating and/or lack of proper lubrication.

While most dealerships will try to use scare tactics to get people to authorize repairs, this dealership is erring in the other direction by understating the seriousness of the problem.

There was never any oil leak on the garage floor until after the “slight head gasket seepage” was “repaired” by the mechanic that gave me the second opinion (which agreed with the dealer’s, but cost $300 less).