Cylinder Head Gasket Replacement Guide

Welcome to our detailed, step-by-step guide designed to help you safely and efficiently remove an engine cylinder head with timing chains. Whether you're a seasoned mechanic or a DIY car enthusiast, this guide will provide you with the necessary instructions and tips to get the job done right. Now, don't worry if your engine doe not have overhead camshafts this guide still applies, only the job is much easier. There will be steps before removing the cylinder head which will vary for each application, but this guide will help see how the job is done in general.

Preparation and Safety

Before you begin, it's crucial to prepare your workspace and ensure you have all the necessary tools. Work in a well-ventilated area and wear appropriate safety gear such as gloves and eye protection.

  • Gather all necessary tools including wrenches, sockets, and a torque wrench.
  • Ensure your car is parked on a level surface and the engine is cool before starting.
  • Purchase a cylinder head gasket set.

Step 1: Drain Engine Coolant and Remove Radiator

Start by draining the engine coolant to prevent any spills when removing the cylinder head. Then, proceed to remove the radiator for easier access to the engine timing cover. (Non-overhead camshaft engines can skip this step.)

Step 2: Disconnect Battery and Remove Engine Components

Disconnect the battery to avoid any electrical hazards. Remove any components obstructing access to the cylinder head, such as the air intake, exhaust manifold, and any wiring or hoses.

Step 3: Set Engine to Top Dead Center (TDC)

It's essential to set the engine to Top Dead Center (TDC) on the number one cylinder. This aligns the timing marks and ensures that the timing chain can be removed safely without damaging the intake or exhaust valves.

Step 4: Remove Timing Chain or Belt

Carefully remove the timing chain or belt. Keep track of any sprockets, guides, or tensioners to ensure correct reassembly. This can be done with the aid of timing marks which are on the timing chain or sprockets. (Non-overhead camshaft engines can skip this step.)

Step 5: Unbolt and Remove Cylinder Head

Unbolt the cylinder head in the correct sequence to avoid warping. Carefully lift the cylinder head off the engine block, taking care not to damage any underlying components. Also, remove the head gasket and check for damage. Also, the cylinder head should be resurfaced at a automotive machine shop to ensure its flatness.

Step 6: Clean Gasket Surfaces

It is very important to clean all gasket surfaces including the engine block deck, intake and exhaust manifolds completely before reassembly. Do not allow any grit or dirt to enter the cylinder of he engine or the intake manifold, this can cause damage to the engine. Once this is completed install the new the head gasket.

Step 7: Install Cylinder Head

On modern engine the head bolts are called torque to yield which need to be replaced each time they are used. If not the cylinder head with not retain the proper tightness and will cause the head gasket to fail prematurely. You will need a torque wrench capable of measuring degrees along with the torque specifications for your engine.

Step 8: Install Camshafts

Once the cylinder head has been installed it is time to insert the camshafts. Apply engine oil onto the bearing surfaces of the cylinder head to ensure proper lubrication for the camshaft upon start up. These camshaft journal caps will have a torque setting as well, make sure the camshafts can rotate once completed.

Step 9: Install Timing Chains

Install the timing chains while aligning the timing chain and sprocket marks. If the timing chains, tensioner and guides look worn it is advisable to replace the timing set at this interval.

Step 10: Final Assembly

Once the main comments are reinstalled it is time to reassemble the valve cover(s) and timing chain cover with the new gaskets which the cylinder head gasket kit has provided. Also, install the intake manifold along with the remainder of the air intake system. Also, reinstall the serpentine belt and all other peripheral components to complete the repair.

Tips for After Reassembly

Once the job is complete looks over your work to make sure all parts are mounted correctly. When refilling the engine with coolant be mindful of any leaks that may arise. If when reconnected the battery if you experience a large electrical spark it means the wiring is not reinstalled correctly and must be fixed before continuing. Change the engine oil and filter, once the engine has stared continue to fill with the radiator coolant until warm, also top up the coolant reservoir as well. As the engine is running you may hear a slight tapping noise which go away soon after start up as the valve train readjusts itself which is normal.


Removing an engine cylinder head with timing chains can be a challenging task. However, with the right tools, preparation, and careful attention to detail, it can be accomplished successfully. Always refer to your vehicle's service manual for specific instructions related to your car model or ask one of our experts we are happy to help.


Guide knowledge base was created by the 2CarPros Team, overseen by Ken Lavacot: Automobile repair shop owner and ASE certified master automobile technician of over 30 years.

If you have question or need help please ask one of our experts we are happy to help.

Article published