How Important Is It To Have Your Cylinder Head Resurfaced When Replacing Your Head Gasket

Posted in Internal Engine Parts

I have a 1996 j-body sedan with a 2.2 engine. I have an external leak in my head gasket (leaking coolant), that apparently is not affecting compression and there is no coolant/oil mix. I narrowed down my choices to 2 main options for fixing it:

1. Have it fixed locally for about $1000 including gasket kit, resurfacing, labour and tax.

2. Have it fixed by a friend who is a Toyota tech for about $500 (parts/labour/tax). But I would need to drive the car for about 300 hwy kms, and would likely not be able to have the cylinder head resurfaced.

Any thoughts? Would also appreciate suggestions of other associated repairs/maintenance that I should consider (timing chain and tensioner were done 40,000km ago, coolant changed 10,000 km ago).

Thanks for the answers so far.. a few more points to clarify:

Car has never overheated, and is still running perfectly (just leaking coolant). The car also has 260,000 km, and the 2.2 engine is prone to head gasket problems.

As for cost: $228 (Canadian, tax incl) is parts cost for either option. I don’t have necessary tools, so if my friend does it, extra cost would be for the cost he’s saving me vs having it done at the mechanic.

There are 11 Answers for "How Important Is It To Have Your Cylinder Head Resurfaced When Replacing Your Head Gasket"

    1. Wil T says:

      If the enging did not overheat, then it would not likely have warped the head, so you should be able get away with passing sandpaper on the mating surface of the head.
      Save the $$

    2. tom jonz says:

      Both people want to take you to the cleaners. you don’t need to surface the cylinder just to replace the head gasket, as long as there isn’t a crack you won’t have a problem. If you have any tools do it yourselfe. Check your coolant to see if it’s still at the required temp. for your area. I would get a third quote on the job if you can’t do it yourselfe!

    3. andrew m says:

      Getting the cylinder head resurfaced is probably the best way to go. It will ensure that the gasket is seated correctly and compressed evenly. An even compression on the seal will help assure that it won’t leak.

      Another factor to take into consideration is that it might be a rough patch in the cylinder head surface that is causing the leak. In that case, you would HAVE to have it resurfaced, or else it will never seal.

      One final thing to consider, is that if you take it to a shop, their work is usually guarunteed and warranteed. If something goes wrong and is the fault of the shop, they have to pay for it. If something goes wrong with your friend, you are SOL.

      I would suggest taking it to a shop.

    4. frank m says:

      that sounds too expensive either way.
      There is a reason for the gasket to leak so I would certainly get the the head resurfaced.

    5. Lab says:

      Cylinder heads have a set tolerance for warpage. If it us under, your OK. If not, the gasket will leak again. I would have it resurfaced.

    6. READER 1 says:

      Resurfacing the head will insure that you have a good matching surface to the block. This is to guarantee that the problem does not repeat it self. Sometimes the pressure will cause a slight grove in the head. This grove may not be noticeable. In the long run it is better to resurface the head.

    7. done wrenching says:

      If it’s leaking towards the front right corner of engine (while looking at eng from front of car) then just get it replaced. That is a very common leak area on the 2.2 chev

    8. marinespill says:

      No way to tell till the heads come off. They’ll just lay a straight edge on it and see if it’s warped too much. The #2 friend hopefully won’t put it back on if it’s warped. If it is, he’ll be able to get it planed for a whole lot less than $500.

    9. B H says:

      Have the head checked for cracks and warpage. The 2.2 will crack near the front head bolt on the drivers side. Get new bolts too, the old ones may break.

    10. marc s says:

      take it to a mechanic localy that 2.2 engine has an aluminum cylinder head its very important to check the deck of the head and resurface if it needs it BUT U MUST CHECK IT. ALUMINUM IS PRONE TO WARP DESPITE BEING OVERHEATED OR NOT most mechanics especially backyard self taught no schooling mechanics dont know how to take an aluminum head off to help prevent warping spend the 1k ull get a warranty too. 1k is cheap compared to what i charge but i also check valves and spring pressure to because ur already there.

    11. Shawn L says:

      you should always have it resurfaced