All modern cars require a cylinder head to run. Like most engine components, if your cylinder head breaks, it can negatively affect car performance. So, if your cylinder head breaks, you should get it replaced as quickly as possible.
Overall, you can expect to pay about $2,000 to buy and install a new cylinder head. The typical price range is between $1,000 to $3,000.
Luxury brands may cost up to over $5,000 to repair a broken cylinder head. Actual costs depend on the type of engine you have, the age of your car, and your mechanic’s location.
Several factors affect the costs of cylinder head replacement. So we put together this comprehensive guide on the costs of replacing a cylinder head for various popular models of cars.
We will also talk about associated repair costs and used vs new cylinder heads.
- What Is a Cylinder Head?
- Cylinder Head Replacement Costs
- Cylinder Head Parts Costs
- Factors that Affect Cylinder Head Replacement Costs
- Signs of a Broken Cylinder Head
- Frequently Asked Questions
What Is a Cylinder Head?
The cylinder head is an integral part of your car’s internal combustion engine that is located right above the engine’s cylinders. The cylinder head is sealed with a head gasket and forms the combustion chamber where gas reacts to produce power.
The cylinder head also provides space for air and exhaust to escape. Virtually all modern in-line engines have a single cylinder head while V-engines typically have two cylinders. As such, the cylinder is an extremely important part of your car’s engine.
Sometimes, spark plugs and poppet valves are attached to the cylinder head. If the cylinder head cracks or pops, then you need to get it replaced, or else your engine will not work properly.
Cylinder Head Replacement Costs
The average car owner can expect to pay about $1,800 to replace a cylinder head with a brand new one. The typical price range for cylinder head replacement is between $1,000 to $3,000. Luxury brands can cost upwards of $5,000+ to fully replace a cylinder head.
Below is a table showing the average cost of replacing a cylinder head for various popular car brands.
|BMW 3 Series||$6,000|
Generally speaking, the models that are more expensive to repair are either luxury brands or cars that have V engines with more than one cylinder head.
All other things being equal, cylinder heads are one of the more expensive parts of your car to repair. The reason why is that replacing a cylinder head involves deconstructing the engine, replacing the parts, and putting it back together.
OEM vs Aftermarket Parts
As is the case with any car repairs, you can choose between original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts or aftermarket parts. OEM parts are made under the supervision of the original manufacturer while aftermarket parts are made by third-party companies that may or may not be associated with the original manufacturer.
Generally speaking, OEM parts are higher-quality, but they are also more expensive and harder to find. Aftermarket parts are cheap and widely compatible, but they are less durable.
Also, OEM part installation is often covered by car warranties while installing aftermarket parts can void your warranty.
Used vs New Cylinder Head
If you are strapped for cash, you do not have to buy a brand new cylinder head. You can buy a used one from a used car part vendor or a salvage yard. Used cylinder heads can cost up to 70% less than their new counterparts and can perform just as well.
So if you can find a quality used cylinder head, it may be worth buying. If you want to buy a used part, make sure you buy from a reputable vendor. Some vendors will offer warranties on refurbished used parts.
However, installing a used cylinder head can void any warranty on your car. One problem with used heads is that cracks and fractures may not be immediately visible.
So if you buy a used head, you should have a pro check it out to make sure there are no issues.
Cylinder Head Parts Costs
Most of the time, your mechanic will replace your entire cylinder head if there is a problem. Sometimes though, you may only need to replace a part of your cylinder head and not the entire thing.
The intake valves are the parts of the cylinder head that allow air into the combustion chamber to get the right air/fuel mixture. Sometimes, these valves can crack but leave the rest of the cylinder head intact.
The typical cost for a set of replacement intake valves is between $20 on the low end up to $200 on the high end. As you might expect, OEM intake valves are usually higher-quality than aftermarket parts but they are also more expensive.
Below is a table showing the average cost of various popular cylinder head valve replacements.
|NewYall Engine Intake Valve 12-Pack||$90|
|Flyyes 24-Piece Intake Valve Kit||$70|
|Polaris OEM 3022391 Intake Valve||$45|
|Labwork 16-Piece 6mm Intake Valve Kit||$30|
|Kibblewhite Stainless Steel Intake Valve Kit for Honda||$180|
|DNJ IV940 Intake Valve for Toyota||$10|
|XXSR Intake Exhaust Valve Kit for Ford F-150||$60|
|Diamond Power Intake Valve Replacement Set for Toyota||$25|
|Motoku 16-Piece Intake Valve Kit||$30|
The fuel injectors work to pump fuel into the head where it can be ignited. Fuel injectors spray fuel at a precise angle and volume to get the optimal air/fuel ratio.
Most of the time, when you replace your cylinder head, you also have to replace your fuel injectors as your originals may not fit the new head. You can expect to pay anywhere between $30 on the low end to $120 on the high end for a new set of fuel injectors.
Generally, there is a fuel injector for each engine cylinder. So for example, if you have a six-cylinder engine, you would need six fuel injectors to replace them all.
Below is a table with average costs for several popular fuel injector products.
|Catinbow 8-Piece Fuel Injector Set||$70|
|Qualinist 4-Piece Fuel Injector set||$90|
|Bosch 0280158091 OEM Fuel Injector for Ford $32 (each)||$90|
|HHCSOP 8-Piece Fuel Injectors for Chevy||$90|
|Shinehome 4-Piece Fuel Injector Set for Toyota||$40|
|Cloud Program 4-Piece Fuel Injector Set||$60|
|JDMON 6-Piece Fuel Injector Set||$75|
|Motoku 6-Piece Fuel Injector Set for BMW||$75|
All in all, fuel injectors are fairly cheap. Most people will end up paying around $60 for a decent set of four to six injectors. Like the other parts we have covered, OEM parts can cost up to %50 more than generic aftermarket parts.
Factors that Affect Cylinder Head Replacement Costs
- Type of engine. Inline engines have only one cylinder head while V engines usually have two. Usually, you don’t want to replace only one head gasket. If your engine has two gaskets, you should replace both of them, even if one is not broken.
- Age of your car. Like most car repairs, the age of your car will affect repair costs. Older cars are usually cheaper to repair, but a broken head gasket can easily lead to other problems in an older car and increase your repair costs.
- Car make/model. One major factor that determines costs is the make and model of your car. Certain models might have specialty parts or other advanced systems that make repairs more expensive. For example, it will most likely be more expensive to repair a BMW than a Honda.
- Extent of damage. Sometimes, a gasket might pop and that is the extent of the damage. However, broken cylinder heads can damage your cylinders, pistons, cooling system, and other engine parts. If you need additional repairs, then it will cost more.
- Materials. Most modern cylinder heads are made from either rubber, copper, or steel. Older models may be made from cork. Your engine specs and performance determine the kind of material you should use. Gasket materials do not significantly affect price, but copper is usually the most expensive material.
Signs of a Broken Cylinder Head
Here are some of the most common signs of a broken cylinder head.
White Exhaust Smoke
Cracked cylinder heads can leak coolant fluid in the combustion engine where it burns. Burning coolant fluid produces a thick white smoke from the exhaust. Many say that burning coolant fluid has a distinctly sweet smell like candy or maple syrup.
Another common sign of a broken cylinder head is an overheating engine. Cracked cylinder heads allow coolant into the combustion chamber, which can cause your engine to overheat. Cracked cylinder heads also can restrict airflow, which can cause overheating.
The cylinder head compresses the air so the spark plug can ignite the air/gas mixture. A cracked cylinder head reduces pressure so your engine might start misfiring and sputtering while running.
Just like how a cracked head can allow coolant into the combustion engine, it can also allow combustion gasses into the coolant system. If hot gas gets into your coolant system, it can boil and bubble, damaging your coolant lines.
One final common sign of a broken cylinder head is low coolant. Broken gaskets leak coolant fluid into your engine and on the ground under your car. Your check engine light will notify you of low coolant.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does a cylinder head do?
The cylinder head forms the combustion chamber for your engine and allows air and exhaust in and out. Cylinder heads also may contain spark plugs and poppet valves.
How much does it cost to replace a cylinder head?
Most car owners can expect to pay about $1,500 to buy and install a new cylinder head. The typical price range for parts and labor is $500 to $2,000. Luxury car brands might cost more than $2,000 to repair due to specialty parts.
How often do I need to replace my car’s cylinder head?
If maintained properly, your cylinder head can last the entire lifetime of your car. Most cylinder heads will last for well over 200,000 miles, assuming there are no other car problems. So, if you take your car in for routine maintenance, you may never have to change the head gasket.
How many cylinder heads does my engine have?
Generally speaking, inline (straight) engines have one cylinder head while V engines have at least two, one on each bank. Larger engines for industrial vehicles may have a cylinder head for each engine cylinder.
Can I buy a used cylinder head?
Yes, you can buy and install a used cylinder head. Lightly used and refurbished cylinder heads can be a cost-effective solution if you cannot afford a completely new installation. Used cylinder heads can cost up to 70% less than their new counterparts.
Can I drive with a broken cylinder head?
You can, but it is not a good idea. Driving on a broken cylinder head can damage your engine, coolant lines, and exhaust system. Your car may not start if you have a broken cylinder head.
How long does it take to replace a cylinder head?
Depending on the extent of the damage, it can take anywhere between a few hours to a couple of days to replace a head gasket. Most repair jobs take about 6 to 7 hours.
Cylinder heads are an extremely important part of your car’s engine, and largely determine its performance and fuel efficiency. Cracked cylinder heads can lead to further issues down the line, so getting them fixed should be your first priority.
The earlier you catch any head problems, the less you will have to pay for any repairs. As always, make sure that you check quotes from multiple mechanics so you can get the best price on parts and installation. You may be interested in our guide on Cylinder Head Resurfacing Cost