Exhaust manifold gasket

Hello I’ve got a 1999 VW Lupo, essentially a small version of the Golf. I’m soon having the exhaust manifold gasket changed . My mechanic, an old salt, mentioned that in the old days he used to fashion shims, of sorts,with soft lead to improve the seal between the exhaust manifold and the engine block, this because the gaskets were generally too thin. He suggests we start with a VW-brand gasket then make improvements where needed. Question: are there aftermarket gaskets available that don’t require this?

Are exhaust gasses hot enough to melt lead. I would think the lead would melt, and put lead contaminates in the exhaust stream. Wasn’t there a reason “lead” was remover from motor fuels?

Cast iron manifolds had a tendency to warp and blow the gasket or crack. Mechanics developed tricks to deal with the problem. My local machine shop could surface grind the manifolds that were excessively warped. I have a device that presses small block Chevrolet exhaust manifolds into alignment with the head so that the bolts could be installed. I never heard of using lead though. But I’m not surprised that someone did use it.

Yes, there likely are better exhaust manifold gaskets from aftermarket suppliers. As @Rod Knox pointed out, manifolds tend to warp so the aftermarket makes multi-layer gaskets to help deal with the smaller leaks. Check your local auto parts store or check online to see what is available beyond VW factory parts. There are some areas where the aftermarket parts are superior.

Thank you all for your sage advice. In the end I had the exhaust gasket changed with a VW-brand aluminum gasket. No more CO in the car and a lot more power.


I hope you weren’t driving around too long with that exhaust leak. It’s pretty dangerous

I’ve driven plenty of vehicles with leaking exhausts, and not only is it dangerous, it’s also physically tiring. I assume the exhaust displaces oxygen, making you lightheaded

Years ago, the pipe right after the exhaust manifold rotted through. It sure made a lot of noise, and I lost a lot of power. After replacing it, it was quiet, and had regular power again. It was a very small car with a tiny 4 banger, so the loss of power was a big problem