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Chrysler Repair/Head gasket on PT Cruiser


QUESTION: I have a 2004 PT Cruiser that, I've been told has a "blown" head gasket. I am on social security and can't afford to take it somewhere for repair. Can someone I know do it himself? What should be done first?

ANSWER: Hi Cheryl,
Which size (L) engine do you have. The 2.0L is the least complicated to do but the person should have the instructions and tools to do the job. There are a lot of "steps" to be done.
When you say a "blown" head gasket do you mean that the compression pressure test of one of the cylinders has been shown to be quite low OR do you mean that you have a leak between the oil system or cooling system and the cylinder (which is a "leaking" head gasket) which gives evidence by having foamy oil or the emission of white smoke from the tail pipe when starting from cold?
The former does require removing and replacing the gasket. The latter might be repaired by either adding cooling system stop-leak (such the "Bar's Leak" brand) and or by slightly loosening and then re-torqueing the cylinder head bolts. Those would be worth trying before replacing the gasket and would be very inexpensive alternative to replacement of the gasket. If it just has a leak then I would definitely try those two things first.
Let me know what the symptom was and what led the person who told you it was 'blown' to say that.
Please read the "PS" below and respond to it.

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QUESTION: Quick response! Last time I drove it, it all of sudden-within 10 minutes- got as hot as it could get and when I stopped the car, a lot of white smoke came out. It smoked for a while and there was sort of a hissing sound. My brother(worked all cars all his life)checked it out, water(?) shot up out of the radiator.

ANSWER: Hi Cheryl,
It sounds as though you had been loosing coolant and ran too low which caused the overheating to occur. The question then is where did it leak from? It may be leak OF the head gasket which is letting coolant get into one of the cylinders (and with a refilled cooling system what you would notice is that when you start the engine from cold you would see clouds of white smoke coming from the exhaust pipe at the rear) or another possibility is that the leak of the head gasket is between the cooling system and the oil system and in that case the oil on the dipstick would be foamy instead of clear. In either case there would be a chance that addition of a cooling system stop leak would close off that head gasket leak for some period of time and avoid having to take apart the engine to replace the gasket for now. Another reason for such an internal leak of the engine head gasket area could be that the bolts on the cylinder head are not sufficiently tightened to seal the gasket area between the cylinder head and the cylinder block. Again, an amateur could loosen the bolts slightly and then follow the tightening procedure/pattern to re-torque the bolts to the proper level and in that way reseal the leak.
Ask you brother if he believes either of those should be tried or not before going to the much greater expense of replacing the gasket. If he wants to do a compression check on the cylinders now that would reveal if the leak is so bad as to not allow compression of the cylinder(s) to meet spec for operation of the power output of the engine to be in the normal range.
It is good you have a knowledgeable person to ask advice of. I can provide him the pages he needs to do the re torqueing of the cylinder head and also for replacing the gasket entirely.
I would need to know which engine you have and also what is your email address to send them to directly. If you tell me that don't use the @ symbol but instead use "at" or the address will be automatically erased.
Thanks for the rating and the nomination. If you would do both again I would be most appreciative.

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QUESTION: Where would I find the engine size?

Hi Cheryl,
Usually the top cover of the engine states which size it is. But if not, then look at the 8th position of the vehicle ID number. If an F is there it is a 1.6L, if a 9 is there it is a 2.0L and if an 8 is there it is a 2.4L engine, and if a G is there it is a 2.4L turbo. The vehicle ID number is the one that is shown on a plate just below the windshield on the driver side and is visible from outside the car.
Thanks for the rating and the nomination. Feel free to do both again is you would like to.

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Roland Finston


Free fast answer to your repair question about a Chrysler/Dodge/Plymouth car, minivan, SUV, or truck. Problems with electronically controlled engines and transmissions as well as body wiring problems are my specialty. This free troubleshoot advice forum helps you diagnose faults, minimize repair costs or do-it-yourself.

I answer questions seven days a week and respond to you in about 30 minutes. "Maxed Out" means I am answering another question, briefly unavailable, or asleep overnight, so try again later.

I have do-it-yourself experience (50+ years) and a library of 100 1982-2011 Chrysler factory shop manuals and 20 multi-manual Chrysler Corp. CD's.

I was voted "Top Expert" 2010-2015, here at AllExperts, and have answered 20,000+ questions.


Five decades as a 'do-it-yourselfer' on domestic and imported cars.

Yahoo Autos Group called The Chrysler Lebaron Club (co-moderator)

Advanced degrees in Physics/bruised knuckles

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"Top expert" of 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 here at Allexperts. Quickest "average response time" at Allexperts (currently no. 1).

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