CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Head gasket

Can anyone give me a ballpark on a head gasket job on a 2003 Nissan Xterra? I know it’s expensive, but are we talking $1000…$1500…more???



It depends a lot on what size city or town you are in, its labor rates, and if you have been tithing regularly to your friendly local indy mechanic.

Both heads or just one.

$1000-$1500 for both heads should be a fair price. But it really depends on where you live. Here in NH some independents charge over $100/hr.

On a mulitple bank engine, both head gaskets should always be replaced. If one went the other is likely not far behind.

Before even recommending that you replace the head gaskets I would want to know more about the vehicle and the circumstances behind the head gasket failure.
High mileage, severe overheating, how long being operated while overheating, symptoms, etc.

Overheating can ruin piston rings pretty quickly. Replace the head gaskets and you may have a vehicle that dumps oil like the Exxon Valdez.

Since an '03 Nissan Xterra should really not be suffering a head gasket failure to begin with there must be a story behind this failure; if the diagnosis is legitimate.

Hi OK, here’s what’s been going on…Vitals: '03 Xterra, 4cyl, 2.4L, 2WD, about 92K miles (mostly highway), no real problems to date, all regular maintenance done. I was in a traffic jam a few weeks ago when it started to overheat. I figured it was just b/c I’d been stopped for a while, running the air, so I turned off the AC and the temp promptly went down. Didn’t think too much of it. Then about a week later I’d been running errands for a while and it started to overheat right as I got home. Checked the coolant reservoir and it was almost empty. So I filled it with coolant, and that seemed to work for a few days. Then it started to overheat again while driving. So I drove to a shop where they replaced the thermostat and gasket, and that has worked for about a week. Last night again, while driving it started to overheat. Got out and checked the coolant reservoir - empty. Checked the radiator hoses, and there was little/no pressure in them. Checked the oil and it wasn’t milky (I got on the phone w/my uncle who’s a mechanic, and he was saying if it was the head gasket it might be pumping the water into the oil and it might look milky but it didn’t). He was the one who was saying it kind of sounded like a head gasket problem, which I knew was expensive, but he didn’t know about how much it would be and I just wanted some idea before I go in to the shop. I have a pretty good shop here (by reputation), but I just moved here and I’ve only been there once, to have the thermostat replaced.