Piston Slap: Morality and the Blown Head Gasket

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap morality and the blown head gasket

Stargazer writes:

I have a slight head gasket leak in a 1993 GMC van, 350 cu. in. engine. I know that I will have to replace the gasket eventually; however, a friend suggested a head gasket sealant. This sealant drops into the radiator, and seals the leak. This friend had worked on cars professionally, so his recommendation has weight with me. Would you recommend this fix for a one hundred mile trip? I need the van to tow something.

Sajeev responds:

TTAC certainly has a lot of readers with vans. Which is somewhat awesome when you stop and think about it.

I think these gasket sealers (or block sealers) are a mixed bag. They can work, depending on the gasket’s condition. On a small block Chevy with iron block and heads, the odds of a quick re-seal are in your favor. Hell, it might handle the rigors of towing “without a hitch.” (Thank you, I’m here all week. Tell your friends.)

If this van is a keeper, there’s a downside: the cooling system gets coated with leftover sealant, making for a colossal mess for whomever tears into this motor. Who knows, you might need a new water pump or heater core after all is said and done.

If it’s not a keeper, then you have two distinct moral paths. There’s the path of righteousness and a path more, um, frequently chosen. Using such automotive band-aids so your hooptie van lives long enough to find a new owner is less than honorable. If greed is good, this is how you make some cash. But if you’re like me, you’ll tell the van’s next owner what you did, why you did it, what they could experience in the future. And maybe, just maybe, this is why nice guys always finish last; or why every van eventually winds up in a junkyard.

Technical question? Email Piston Slap: sajeev.mehta@thetruthaboutcars.com

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  • Jeff S Always liked this generation and thank you again Corey for an excellent and thorough series.
  • Lou_BC What ever happened to Reid Bigland and his law suite against Ram?
  • Lou_BC This car looks a lot like my son's 2008 4 door Mercury Grand Marquis Ultimate .
  • Theflyersfan ...and then the market for large personal luxury coupes choked on a hairball right around this time as everyone lost their minds and decided that they had to get the exact same Explorer Eddie Bauer edition as four other people also had on their cul-de-sac, or worse, the woefully under-braked and scary in most manuvers Suburbans and Expeditions so they can travel in solo bliss surrounded by 5,500 pounds of unused steel and glass because 'murca dammit!!! Those were the same people who were interviewed weeping at their local Exxon station around the year 2000 when a gas price spike hit and the .75/gal gas in 1998 was now at over $2.00/gal. I look at this Lincoln, and while I wasn't a big fan of it, I did like the Thunderbirds and Cougars of that era as I thought they made a bigger statement about perceived power and wealth compared to "I drive Brayden and Ashleigh to a dozen different activities that they will dump the second they turn 13 and get tired of that stuff" crude SUVs that were becoming the rage. And I have to say the taillights of the Lincoln drove me nuts. The neon part was really cool at night - excellent effect. I recall the rest being your regular old Thomas Edison lightbulb and the look clashed royally, especially when the brakes were hit. You had an LED center brake light, incandescent brake lights, and a neon light smack in the middle. That's kind of busy.
  • Cprescott Why complain? You bought an overpriced golf cart and you know full well the company routinely plays games with its owners and has outrageous repair costs and insurance rates (which no one wants to talk about).