Consumer Reports: These Vehicles Blow Head Gaskets

There are still cars out there today with chronic head gasket issues. In spite of better materials, better gasket sealants, and tighter manufacturer tolerances it is ongoing. A blown head gasket can lead to catastrophic engine failures from excessive heat or water getting into the cylinder head. Leaking water can contaminate crankcase oil rather quickly. Then, it’s new engine time. So that’s why it’s important to know which vehicles Consumer Reports found most likely to blow head gaskets.

Analyzing data from Consumer Report’s Annual Autos Survey it found the vehicles that chronically blow head gaskets. Blown head gaskets are not cheap to repair. And that is if only a head gasket needs to be replaced. If other damage has also occurred you could be looking at the cost of a new engine.

Owners say these head gasket repairs were between $2000 and $4000

red car with steam coming out of engine
White exhaust could mean a blown head gasket | Getty

Surprisingly, Consumer Reports found that 2006-2007 BMW 3 Series has a head gasket issue at between 90,000 and 138,000 miles. Subaru has chronic problems with its flat-four-cylinder Boxer engine. The 2006-2008 Impreza, 2001-2009 Outback, and 2001-2009 Forester had head gasket issues between 90,000 and 163,000 miles. Owners say replacement costs run between $2,000 and $4,000. At a certain point fixing the issue could cost more than what the car is worth. 

Another Subaru, the Baja, is on the list that includes the Mini Cooper/Clubman from 2008-2010 and between 57,000 and 124,000 miles; the Chevy Cruze between 62,000 and 97,000 miles, and the BMW X5 between 59,000 and 67,000 miles. Both the Infiniti M and second-gen Mazda MX-5 Miata have head gasket issues. Consumer Reports didn’t have enough data for those two cars to accurately determine at what mileage the incidents occur.

You can spot certain telltale blown head gasket signs

stream of white smoke coming from car in residential area
If you see white smoke it could be a blown head gasket | Getty

If your car is on this list it doesn’t mean the head gasket will blow. A lot of variables are involved. But you can spot certain telltale signs that it is imminent. If you see white smoke coming from your exhaust that’s partially steam. Water is getting into a cylinder or cylinders and mixing with the air-fuel mixture. 

Rough idle is another sign again because water is mixing with the cylinder charge which is now degraded. Using more water than normal and overheating during normal driving are also signs because the water is slowly being burned away. If you check your oil and find a white substance on the dipstick you’re probably in trouble.

When that happens it is engine-rebuild time

Man with bill for engine work
Replacing a head gasket can get expensive | Getty

What the Different Types of Smoke Coming From Your Car Exhaust Mean

Water has mixed in with the oil. Sometimes it’s from condensation, but depending on further investigation it could mean water has gotten into the main bearings. When that happens there is not enough lubrication and they can get burned or spun. After that, it is engine-rebuild time. So it pays to know at what mileage your car is prone to head gasket problems and start keeping an eye on things. 

That also goes for used car shoppers. If the vehicle you want is from the list above you will absolutely want repair receipts.