Niagara Gazette

Columns

August 22, 2013

TOM'S CORNER: Indication of a blown head gasket

Niagara Gazette — This week’s column features a few questions and answers.

CANDY FROM CINCINNATI: I own a 2002 Chevy Cavalier with a 2.2 liter 4-cylinder engine and it’s been running rough lately. The other day I checked the oil to see if it was low and it looked weird. Instead of that clear caramel color, it looked like light chocolate milk and it was foamy. Is this an indication of trouble? Please help!

TOM: This would explain the engine running rough. Based on what you describe, I would say that a head gasket has blown in the engine. When a head gasket blows, if it’s close to a coolant passageway in the head, water spills down into the crankcase (or oil pan). This contaminates the oil causing it to take on a milky appearance. If run too long in this condition, the lower end of the engine will suffer. Rod and main bearings will be damaged because the oil has mixed with water, which causes heat and friction buildup and if let go too long, engine failure. Get it into a shop to confirm my suspicions.

•••

DEB FROM LITTLE ROCK, Ariz.: I drive a ‘98 Honda Civic with 40K miles (automatic transmission). Lately the transmission seems to be amiss. Sometimes the car seems to downshift or lurch slightly. I told my husband about it and he asked me if the “check engine light” comes on, and I told him no. He said not to worry about it. However, I have a feeling that he is just too lazy to check it out himself. Should I be concerned? Also, my mom changes the oil every 3,000 miles on her car. Is it okay if we change it every 5,000 miles instead? Thanks for your help.

TOM: There is a TSB (Technical Service Bulletin) from Honda for this very condition on your transmission (bulletin # 00-012). Call your local Honda dealer and ask them what this TSB entails. As for the mileage recommendation, if you are using synthetic oil, then every 5,000 miles is fine. If you are using conventional oil, then stick with every 3,000 miles. Good luck.

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