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Head Gasket in a 1988 Toyota Camry

Should I replace the head gasket? The mechanics said it could open up a pandora’s box of other problems-putting a new part in an old engine. The car is in good repair. I recently replaced the alternator, radiator, timing belt, water cooling system, brakes, tires and front axles. I could save and buy another car for maybe 3000$ or I could replace my head gasket. What should I do?

THANK YOU FOR ANY HELP!!! :slight_smile:

I don’t understand the “Pandora’s box” statement from the mechanic. All those parts you just had replaced are “new parts on an old car.” What do they have against replacing a head gasket? If the head gasket is leaking it should be replaced. Is it leaking? Why do you think it needs to be replaced?

Please tell us how many miles your Camry has on its odometer.

If your car is in good order SURE replace the head gasket. But make sure that the shop doesnt just replace the gasket UNLESS they use a machinists ruler across the cylinder head after it is off the engine. This is how they determine if the head is warped…hopefully they know this already. If it is out of spec and warped…the head needs to go to the machine shop to be “cut” THEN you can install the new gasket.

My machine shop charges me $50 to cut a head…so dont let them tell you it costs 2000 bucks to do this.

I’d save the car…OR you could pour BLUE DEVIL in the radiator and fix it for $60…but if you were keeping it…Id fix it mechanically

Thanks! We did put in some blue ‘Conditioner’ that Subaru put out - SOA635071. I guess their cars were having head gasket leaks. You answered my other question which was, “should I have my crazy brother do it? lol” sounds like the answer is no. It needs to be done at a shop where they can cut the head properly. Or maybe they can cut it and then I can have my brother install it. He is not real great with attention to details and is not a mechanic, but he replaced the other parts just fine (except for a few missing screws and washers I found later) :wink:
Thanks so much for your help!!!

Replacing a head is different from the other things you list. You’ll want an experienced mechanic to do it the right way. And the mechanic’s shop doesn’t do the machining, they send it out to a machine shop, which is fine.

OK. THANK YOU! That helps a lot.

Oh! Good point. 180,000 miles on the odometer.
I questioned the mechanic about the “Pandora’s box” statement too! I asked for specific examples of what could go wrong. They couldn’t name anything specific. A mechanic at another place said that if I replaced the head gasket it would be like plugging a cracking damn in one place and other cracks would appear. However, he couldn’t give me any specific examples either. Wierd. I thought they would rather take my money and do the job than try and talk me out of it.

If you or your bro are capable of doing this job then sure…take the head off…and go to a local machine shop that does engine work preferrably. Speed Shops do this too…but good luck finding one of those anymore. Yeah take it off…get it cut and proceed to do the gaskets.

Also look on Ebay and buy a Timing belt Kit…You want to replace the Head gasket, Timing belt, the water pump if its driven by the T-belt, the idler bearings, timing belt tensioner…front main seal and thats about it…You will see them on ebay. Dont buy the cheapest one you can find… OEM Toyota is perfect, and Conti-tech, Gates etc is also acceptable…NO CHINESEUM! If you are going to do it do it right. The kit should be $150-200 with shipping or free shipping.

But, you never answered the Q.

Why do you think the head gasket is leaking?

How many miles on it?

Has it ever overheated? E.g. blown radiator, or hose?

The mechanic at the shop told me that it was. I think they diagnosed it by using a pressure test. It has 180,000 miles on it. It has never totally overheated. The thermometer would go up and I would pull over wait and water to the radiator. The radiator and water cooling system both had leaks. So I would have to always make sure that water was in the resivoir. The radiator and water cooling system were recently replaced. The radiator or hose was never blown and I never drove the car with the thermometer in the red. There were about 7 times when the thermometor would start to rise rapidly and I would pull over. My main question is it worth fixing the head gasket and keeping the car? Thanks so much!

Running a compression test should always a first step in diagnosing a potential head gasket problem. This is quick and easy to do on this particular car and a head gasket diagnosis should never be given without performing that test, and a few more tests if need be.

That being said, oftentimes a fair number of overheating problems are blamed on a bad head gasket when that is not the case at all.
Maybe this overheating is nothing more serious than a faulty thermostat and that is a cheap and quick fix.

Just my opinion, but a thermostat is a regular maintenance item that should be replaced every so many years just to prevent an overheating incident. Many an engine has been roasted due to a 5 or 10 dollar thermostat and most of the time the T-stat is pretty much forgotten until it acts up and causes the engine to overheat.
Since this car had multiple cooling system repairs the T-stat should have been replaced at that time IF it was not done.

Don’t invest more than $500 in your $500 car. Maybe a 2nd opinion, but this car is over 23+ yrs old and has lived long past its normal life.