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Cylinder Head Replacement Cost Guide

Guide to Cylinder Head Replacement Cost
Austin Kilham
Austin KilhamUpdated September 15, 2023
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Your cylinder head acts as the roof of your combustion engine, sitting above the cylinders and housing the intake and exhaust valves, spark plugs, and overhead camshafts.The cylinder head is a critical component of the system and when it fails, it can cause your engine to stop working properly.Unfortunately, replacing your cylinder head can be an expensive endeavor, costing up to several thousand dollars. This guide to cylinder head repair cost provides information on how to know your cylinder head is failing and how much you’ll need to budget to fix it. 

How Much Does a Cylinder Head Replacement Cost?

The cost of replacing a cylinder head will depend on the make and model of your vehicle and the cost of parts and labor. You can expect the average cost to be $3,000 or more if you have the job done at an auto shop. If you are adept at fixing cars, you may save yourself some money by doing the job yourself.

What Impacts the Cost to Replace a Cylinder Head?

There are a variety of factors that affect that cost of replacing your cylinder head, including:

Parts Costs

On average, a new cylinder head will cost between $200 and $800, but some can cost almost $6,000. Cost will depend on the brand and type of engine that you have and whether you buy the part used or new. For rare and high-performance vehicles, the cost of a new cylinder head could run into the thousands of dollars. Recommended: 11 Most Expensive Car Repairs

Labor Costs

Unfortunately, replacing a cylinder head isn’t an easy fix and usually requires disassembling your engine. You can expect it to take six to 15 hours for your mechanic to complete the task, which will likely happen over the course of at least a couple of days.  

Number of Cylinder Heads

If you have an inline engine, you’ll only have one cylinder. Many vehicles have “V” engines, though, which have two cylinder heads. If both of these need to be replaced, the cost of parts and labor will increase. 

Repairing Other Impacted Parts

A damaged cylinder head may be the result of other issues inside your engine, such bad bearings or piston rods. These problems will also need to be addressed when you replace the cylinder head to prevent further damages. What’s more, a bad cylinder head could cause the engine to overheat. This can cause engine failure and result in needing to replace your engine

What’s the Difference Between a New and Remanufactured Cylinder Head?

A remanufactured cylinder head has been rebuilt with parts that are still functioning and serviceable. Every part of the cylinder head will be replaced, and the process can involve recasting, installing new parts, machining, and cleaning. Finally, the remanufactured cylinder head is tested to ensure it can withstand the stress and pressure it will be under once back inside your engine. 

Can a Cracked Cylinder Head Be Repaired?

In some cases, a cracked cylinder head can be repaired instead of replaced. This involves welding the cracks, putting the cylinder back together, and stress testing it. This option costs less than remanufactured cylinder heads and replacing the part entirely. 

How Are Cylinder Heads Replaced?

Replacing the cylinder head requires draining the coolant and oil from the engine and removing the intake and exhaust manifolds. If the engine has one or more timing belts or chains, these must be removed, as well. You may need to remove other parts, such as the battery, the alternator, the valves, and the engine cover. With these out of the way, the cylinder head itself can be replaced. 

How Long Does a Cylinder Head Replacement Take?

Depending on your vehicle, its engine type, and the repair needed, replacing a cylinder head could take up to 15 hours. Some repairs may only take a day, but others may be a multi-day process. 

Signs of a Bad Cylinder Head

How do you know if your cylinder head is failing? Watch out for these signs:

Leaking Oil

Oil leaking from the cylinder could mean that there’s a crack or a failing gasket. If you see white smoke coming from your exhaust, that could be another sign that oil could be leaking through a crack in your cylinder head. 

High Engine Temperature

If your cylinder head is cracked or warped, coolant won’t be able to run freely over the part, which could cause your engine to overheat. Overheating can cause further damage to the cylinder head or other parts of your engine. 

Poor Engine Performance

A cylinder head that’s warped or cracked won’t allow your engine to combust fuel as efficiently. You may notice an uptick in the amount of fuel you use and a decrease in performance. 

Warped or Dented Cylinder Heads

Check your cylinder head for visible signs of cranks, dents, and warping. If you see anything unusual, have your mechanic take a look. They can help you determine the cause of the damage and what needs to be done to rectify the situation. 

Can You Replace a Cylinder Head Yourself?

With the right tools and understanding of engine mechanics, you can replace the cylinder head in your car yourself. The process is complicated, however, requiring much of the engine to be taken apart. If you don’t feel up to it, it may be better to entrust the job to a professional auto mechanic. Recommended: Guide to Transmission Replacements

Can You Drive With a Damaged Cylinder Head? 

You should avoid driving with a damaged cylinder head, as it can lead to an overheating engine and damage to other parts. 

The Takeaway

Your cylinder head is a crucial component of your engine and it’s important to get it repaired or replaced when it’s damaged. The cost of replacement can be significant, running upward of $3,000 or more. If you’re looking for room in your budget to cover these costs, consider refinancing your auto loan. When you refinance your loan, you pay off your old loan with a new one. Ideally, your new loan will have a lower interest rate, and you can use your interest rate savings to help cover the cost of auto repairs. Alternatively, you may increase your car loan term, which can reduce your monthly payment. Be aware that you will make interest payments for longer, which can increase the overall cost of your loan in the long run. If you’re interested in refinancing, consider Lantern by SoFi. Lantern can help you explore terms and interest rates from top lenders to help ensure you get the best deal.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I replace just one cylinder head?
Can I prevent cylinder head damage?
What are the common causes of cylinder head failure?
How long does a cylinder head last?
Photo credit: iStock/Charday Penn

About the Author

Austin Kilham

Austin Kilham

Austin Kilham is a writer and journalist based in Los Angeles. He focuses on personal finance, retirement, business, and health care with an eye toward helping others understand complex topics.
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