Oil and Water Not Supposed to Mix!
May 6, 2011 6:11 PM Subscribe
Diagnosing head gasket problem - do I really have to spend $1K here?
posted by VikingSword to Technology (19 answers total)
2004 Hyundai Elantra, 73K miles. I went to a Korean mechanic just to change the oil, and he lifted the oil cap and saw some grey deposits on the inside of the cap. He says it's a mixture of oil and water, indicating that there's a head gasket problem. Lifting the entire gasket assembly and sending it to a shop to retool, plus all the labor and stuff, is about $1K.
Now, the problem is that his English is very poor, so it's a bit of a hand sign issue, so I can't be sure of all he said, but that's about the gist of it.
He advised watching the temp gauge very carefully, topping off the radiator water, and if temps ever climb above safety, shut off the engine immediately and bring it in.
He also said, that based on his cap diagnosis, he's 99% sure it's a head gasket problem and I'll need to spend the $1K. I trust him completely as far as honesty goes, but I just don't know if he's right here, based just on the cap oil+water evidence.
My fear is that if they need to disassemble the engine and it's not clear that there is in fact a head gasket problem, then it amounts to a fishing expedition that fixes nothing. I don't even mind the $1K, but I simply don't feel confident that this in fact takes care of any real problem.
FWIW, I have never observed the temperature gauge go above the half-way mark, and have in fact been paying attention (this is a habit, based on having had a water pump fail on my Toyota once).
I don't feel like dragging this thing to various mechanics just yet, with all the time sink and diagnosis issues, so I turn to the hive mind first.
How accurate is a cap deposit of oil+water as a diagnostic of serious head gasket problems? Do I need to take action now, or can I just watch the temps until more clarity obtains - if the temp goes up, at least I know for sure there's an issue, and then I can go to a mechanic with a clear conscience... I just hate fishing expeditions. Is it advisable to do the following: clean off the deposit inside the cap, and then re-check in a month or so, to see if a new deposit of oil+water appears, at which point I'll have confirmation of a body buried somewhere. What's the next step, short of immediately throwing the car to the mechanic's mercy and accepting whatever comes?