The first sign of a wrinkle on the face is enough to send people into a tizzy. They make a beeline to the supermarket and pick up the best anti-aging cream or concealer that money can buy. Sadly, your body is not the only thing that’s aging. Your set of rods is probably not as swanky as it once used to be. Despite trying your best, you can feel an occasional cough and hiccup. But none of the niggles can be as serious as a damaged head gasket.
This tiny, but very important component that seals the gap between the cylinder block and the engine head is often, one of the first auto-components that begins to wear. You may maintain an immaculate coolant system but the corrosion does get to the gasket and eventually, it will wear down. One of the choices you have is to head to an auto-mechanic and risk being fobbed off or even ripped off. The other is to buy a head gasket set yourself and replace it with a little help from YouTube.
Be warned that it does take a set of tools and skills to tackle the job. Last and the most preferred option is to buy the best head gasket set yourself and give it to your mechanic to replace. You are assured of getting a quality product and not blowing a hole in your wallet.
But head gaskets are available in a mind-boggling number of choices that can make it a tad difficult for you to choose one of the aisles. Here’s a small guide that helps you navigate the terrain and keeps you armed with enough information to make an informed choice.
Things to consider while buying head gasket sets
You may have noticed that we have repeatedly mentioned ‘head gasket sets’ and not a head gasket. The reason is that if your head gasket has already failed, then all the other gaskets in your engine have most likely been exposed to corrosive materials which can wear them faster than you’d expect. A safe bet would be to replace them along with the head gasket, rather than cutting corners and replacing only the head gasket now and finding out later that each gasket is failing one by one.
Some of the other gaskets that are included in a head gasket set are exhaust and intake manifold gaskets, spark plug seals, oil seals, thermostat gaskets, and OEM head gaskets. This is not an exhaustive list. But it’s close.
Head gaskets are made of different materials, the most notable ones being aluminum and copper. These are by far, not the only ones though.
In terms of design, there are two types that you need to be aware of.
Composite head gaskets: A composite head gasket has a compressible flat design and features a tangled sheet of metal with a layer of composite material rolled on either side. So, you have a layer of composite material on the engine block side and one on the cylinder head side. Protection to the composite material is provided by fire rings which are also known as metal beads. These work by sealing the combustion chamber to protect the composite material. This can be graphite or non-asbestos with a steel core.
Metal Type Head Gasket: The second design is the metal type head gasket which is available in a variety of materials, including shim steel, multi-layer steel, and solid copper. Of these, Shim steel is the oldest variety that has a proven track record. Multi-layer steel is a more recent addition and is also known as MLS head gaskets. These are commonly seen on high-performance engines on cars like Chevy, Ford, GM, Mitsubishi, Toyota, Chrysler, Pontiac etc. MLS gaskets are also being used by some NASCAR teams on their cars.
Last but not the least, we have Copper head gaskets which are renowned for its durability and are used by high horsepower engines, such as racing cars. Copper is one of the most durable metals with a coefficient of elasticity at 25%. This makes it a perfect choice for these engines which can have pressures and temperatures way above normal. These head gaskets are available in a variety of combinations of bore and thickness.
Without much ado, here’s our pick of the best head gaskets that you can buy for your cars. We have tried to include all possible options. But considering the enormous variety that we had to sort through, we have limited the selection to five of the best ones that give you the most bang for your buck.
1. Fel-Pro Head Gasket Set
Fel-Pro is one of the market leaders in replacement auto engine components and this HS26170Pt1 is a complete head gasket set that replaces almost 90% the gaskets for a whole range of Subaru engine models including Legacy, Outback, and some Imprezas.
Constructed from molded rubber, these gaskets clamp evenly across the entire gasket area ensuring zero leaks.
The Head gaskets in this kit are Multi-Layer Steel complete that is flawlessly made. It includes with dowel pins and is riveted to allow a perfect seal. To top it off, it comes pre-coated with a tough blue gasket sealant.
To ensure that the vehicle doesn’t over torque, the Fel-Pro HS26170Pt1 features Grommets and other features, which give you the much-needed reliability.
One of the best features of the HS26170Pt1 is that it includes spark plug tube seals which are often lacking even in higher priced OEM replacement gasket sets. Considering the price, the Fel-Pro HS26170Pt1 offers complete value for money.
What is lacking
The only drawback is that this head gasket set does not include front or rear crank seals.
With a 95% positive customer rating from car owners, this head gasket set is a no-brainer purchase if you have a Subaru. It is cheaper and offers better value than higher priced gasket sets.
2. Fel-Pro Hs26236Pt2
Fel-Pro has successfully bridged the gap between affordability and quality. Most of their head gasket sets are priced at least $50 lesser than what you’d get at your local auto store. Club that with Amazon Prime, next day shipping and you have an unbeatable deal. The HS26236Pt2 is a complete head gasket set that is ideal for repair or replacement of your worn out gaskets.
It is the preferred kit by auto mechanics for head reconditioning jobs as well as valve grind repairs for the Civic EX Vtec and other models of the Honda. The kit is designed to perfection for application-specific tasks like the ones we mentioned earlier. This gives it a precision based fit that has no risk of leaks.
If you have a Honda Civic 2001-2005 or an Acura EL 2001-2005, then this Fel-Pro HS26236Pt2 will be the perfect replacement head gasket set that will have your car on the road performing to its best.
What is lacking?
As with other Fel-Pro head gasket kits, the front and rear crank seals are missing which are a let down to this flawless package.
The Fel-Pro Hs26236Pt2 has a 100% positive customer rating. This is one of the top rated head gasket sets for the Honda Civic and is available at a very competitive price. Go for it.
3. Evergreen Head Gasket Set
Unless you have a street vehicle which is on the road all day and some nights too, you can very easily save yourself some money by opting for lower-priced head gasket sets. The Evergreen HSHB8-10401 is one of the better kits that offer you a complete gasket kit at almost half the price of a Fel-Pro and even more than half of an OEM kit.
The kit contains all the gaskets that you need for a complete repair or replacement job. Evergreen is quite popular in the DIY auto circuit for its budget-priced replacement parts. When it comes to head gasket sets, they have a healthy mix of non-asbestos, rubber, Viton Valve seals while their head gaskets are usually graphite or MLS (multiple layer steel).
The HSHB8-10401 contains some gaskets which are made of plastic and are considered thin, as compared to higher priced models. But there are no complaints of leakages or misfits even after the vehicles have logged thousands of miles.
The Evergreen HSHB8-10401 kit also contains a couple of extra gaskets for the EGR valves, which is a great addition to the kit.
What is lacking?
The plastic components may not be the best quality for a durable replacement. Although there are no complaints so far, there may always be a risk of leaks forming a few years down the road.
For a budget-priced package, the Evergreen HSHB8-10401 outperforms some of the higher priced OEM models. It may lack the high-quality components that Fel-Pro boasts of. But hey, it costs almost half the price. So, no complaints unless you plan to put this under some real stress.
4. Mopar Head Gasket Set
Sometimes, you do not want to cut corners and prefer the reliability and the durability that comes with an OEM part. Mopar, along with Crown has been the OEM parts manufacturers for the Jeep for years now. This 6800 3564AA is an engine cylinder head gasket set for the Jeep Grand Cherokee WK 3.7L, Jeep Liberty KJ 3.7L, Jeep Liberty KK 3.7L and the Jeep Commander XK 3.7L.
Coming from Mopar, you can rest assured of the quality of the gaskets used in this kit. It is perfect for any repair or replacement jobs. So, if you have a cracked cylinder head and are looking to replace the gasket kit, then this 6800 3564AA comes across as a great choice.
All the gaskets fit to precision since it is an OEM and creates the perfect seal that will keep your Jeep in prime condition for months to come. Manufactured to precision to sustain the repair environment, the Mopar 6800 3564AA includes the cylinder head gaskets, upper intake manifold gaskets, lower intake manifold gaskets and exhaust manifold gaskets.
What is lacking?
Nothing. This is a flawlessly designed OEM kit that you cannot go wrong with.
Reliable. The Mopar 6800 3564AA may be priced a tad higher than other cheap replacement parts. But that price difference is clearly visible in the quality. With this head gasket kit replacing your old or worn one, your Jeep will be ready to tackle thousands of miles without white clouds of smoke.
5. Domestic Gaskets Gasket Set Head
The aftermarket product range for head gasket sets is huge. But not all of the products that you find are built equally. This is a complete replacement head gasket set for a range of cars including the Chevrolet Cavalier, S10, GMC Sonoma, Isuzu Hombre and Pontiac Sunfire.
The standout features of this head gasket set are a graphite head gasket that offers the perfect seal with minimal tightening, Viton valve stem seals, Valve covers, Intake and exhaust manifold gaskets and a camshaft seal.
Engineered according to OEM specs, each gasket, and valve seal fits perfect. The high-quality manufacturing also ensures optimum performance even under high pressure and temperature. Irrespective of your repair or restoration jobs, this Sonoma Chevrolet S10, Cavalier, Pontiac head gasket replacement kit comes across as a great choice at a mid-range price.
What is lacking?
This head gasket set is a recent addition to the market. But it has a very impressive profile and some great quality components. So far, there are no negative ratings either. If we find anything that must be added to this section, we will update it here.
The mid-range pricing is not the only reason why this versatile head gasket set features in our list of best head gaskets. It is a complete package with some great quality components. It has a great customer rating also highlighted by a 100% rating on Amazon. If it is compatible with your car and you are looking for a mid-range priced replacement part, then this should be on your wish list for sure.
If you are planning to go the DIY route to replace the head gasket set, ensure that you are well aware of the procedure and make ample preparations to ensure that the workflow is uninterrupted and free of glitches. Good luck.