How to Clean Your Cylinder Heads

It’s important to clean cylinder heads on a regular basis so you can check them more easily for cracks and holes that could affect their performance. If a head is covered in a layer of grease or oil, it will make it that much more difficult to see any cracks that might appear. This could then result in the engine overheating and costing you a lot of money to repair or replace.

  • Your cylinder heads need to be removed before cleaning. This process is complex, and should only be attempted by those with a good level of technical knowledge and experience.
  • Choose the appropriate cleaning agent for the type of metal you’re dealing with – the cylinder head can be made from aluminium, cast iron or a different metal. Each metal is affected by different detergents, chemicals and temperatures in different ways (for instance, iron is prone to rusting so this should be considered when choosing a cleaning method).
  • Scrape head gasket material off the cylinder head, being careful not to scratch the surface, in order to ensure a perfect seal when you reinstall it. If the cylinder head surface is damaged you may wish to have it skimmed to restore a perfect finish.
  • Clean the cylinder head with a clean rag dipped in the appropriate cleaner solution – you should be able to find various options online or in your local car parts retailer. Pour the cleaner carefully into the parts of the head you cannot reach with the rag.
  • Submerge the head in a plastic tub or bowl filled with warm-to-hot water and leave for a few minutes.
  • Use a spray cleaner to get to internal areas if you haven’t been able to already.
  • Leave to dry completely, using compressed air if you have it.
  • You can now inspect the head for any cracks that you might have been unable to see previously, and take action to seal them if any are present.
  • Reinstall the cylinder head using your vehicle manual as a guide.

Once you have cleaned your cylinder head and ensured it is not cracked, you must still check it regularly, especially if the car begins running hot or coolant levels start decreasing too quickly. Ensuring the head is clean will help you diagnose a problem with it that much faster, and could save a lot of money in the long run.

Learn more about cylinder head maintenance on our expert guide to this critical component of your engine.

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