If the cylinder head(s) on your engine crack, you’re looking at an inoperable engine. In fact, it may be the case that you might want to replace the short block on your engine rather than having the cylinders repaired.
On the other hand, replacing your cylinder head could cost you a few hundred dollars and nothing more.
That’s because the average cost of cylinder head replacement is $800-$3,000. Here, the parts will cost anywhere from $140 to $3,500+. The rest is labor, because replacing a cylinder head means disassembling the top of the engine.
The table below shows a quick price comparison of cylinder head replacement cost estimates from reputable suppliers:
|Supplier||Cylinder Head Cost||Labor|
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How Much Does Cylinder Head Replacement Cost?*
The cost of a cylinder head replacement depends on the make and model of your vehicle, your mechanic’s rates, and the type of part you put in.
A performance part will always cost more than a generic one. In addition, some engines require significantly more disassembly than others.
The following chart includes rough estimates for replacing a cylinder head in various makes and models of vehicles.
|Vehicle||Cylinder Head Cost||Labor Cost|
|Jeep Grand Cherokee||$223.99-$1514.31||$385-$1428|
*Note: Prices are estimates and were correct at the time of writing (July 2022). Cost estimates may have changed since, our figures should be used as a starting point for your own research.
Cylinder Head Replacement Cost Factors
In most cases, the largest cost factor in replacing the cylinder head in your engine is the make and model of the vehicle. That will impact the number of cylinder heads, the cost of base parts, and the labor to replace the part.
However, the cost of labor, the brand of the part, and even the condition of the part will also matter a great deal.
Number of Cylinder Heads
Most inline engines have a single cylinder head shared by all cylinders.
However, any “V” engine will have two cylinder heads, or one per bank of cylinders. This means that you might have to replace more than one cylinder head.
However, it’s unlikely that both sides would be damaged at once, unless your issue is major engine overheating or broken pistons.
If you do have to replace both cylinder heads, the parts will cost twice as much. However, labor won’t, because once the engine is disassembled, replacing the second is much easier.
In addition, it’s more complicated to replace a cylinder head on a 2-head engine than a single-head one. That’s because the cylinder head can get in the way of removing the other, so it takes more time.
Time to Disassemble Engine
Replacing a cylinder head may require removing an engine from the car. However, the amount of labor depends on your engine.
In an OHV engine, you’ll have to detach the rocker arms from the cylinder head. In an OHC engine, you might have to remove the camshaft entirely, because it often runs through the cylinder head.
Depending on your engine, you might also have to fully remove the manifold(s). In other engines, you can partially unbolt them and move them out of the way.
So, the time to disassemble the engine to remove an engine cylinder head can vary quite a bit. That’s entirely dependent on how the manufacturer put your vehicle together.
Cost of the Part
A cylinder head will always cost somewhere between $150 and $6,000, with the lowest price being for a secondhand or remanufactured part and the highest being for a performance or rare part.
In most cases, a new cylinder head will average between $200 and $800.
Eventual costs will depend on what you choose for your engine, what your mechanic is able to purchase, etc.
Cost of Labor
Labor costs can make up a considerable portion of the cost of replacing a cylinder head. Here, you can usually expect the work to take 6-15 hours, depending on the vehicle.
In the simplest vehicles, your mechanic may be able to do the work in less time. However, it’s unlikely.
So, you’re most often looking at a multi-day project, where you’ll pay an hourly rate for labor, lot fees, and the shop fee.
Depending on where you’re at, you can expect to pay $15-$200+ for labor, 5-20% in shop fees, and $5-$25 per day for leaving your vehicle at the mechanic’s.
Cylinder heads are under a lot of pressure, simply because they create a chamber for fuel combustion. Fatigue can cause the cylinder head to warp, bend, or crack.
But, often, cylinder head damage is the result of overheating or other issues in your car. This might be bad bearings, bad piston rods, etc. Or, it might just be a fluke.
In addition, taking out the cylinder head means removing the manifold.
It’s a great time to assess the intake manifold gasket and the head gasket to see if either need replacing. In fact, you should always replace the head gasket when replacing the cylinder head.
Finally, you’ll need new engine oil and coolant. If you have an Overhead Cam system (OHC) you might also need new camshaft seals.
5 Symptoms of a Bad Cylinder Head
If your cylinder head is having issues, those problems will be difficult to tell apart from problems in any other part of the exhaust or combustion.
So, you’ll have to inspect the full system, including the cylinder head if you see any of the following symptoms:
1. Leaking Oil
Oil always sits on top of the cylinder head. However, if oil is leaking out around the gasket or from underneath, it usually means there’s a problem.
In addition, if you’re seeing white smoke from your exhaust, it may mean that oil is leaking through a cracked cylinder head.
2. Leaking Coolant
If you’re dropping or losing coolant, the cylinder head isn’t the first place you check. But, it can be the cause.
A cracked cylinder head might cause coolant to leak, which will result in overheating, darker exhaust smoke, and a misfiring engine.
3. High Engine Temps or Overheating
If your engine is running hot or keeps overheating, that alone will put extra stress on the cylinder head. However, it can also be a sign that the head is already cracked or warped.
During normal function, coolant runs over the head to remove heat. When it’s cracked or warped, this process is inefficient, and coolant may leak out.
As a result, your engine will overheat, causing even more damage to the head.
4. Reduced Engine Performance
If your cylinder heads are warped or cracked, your engine won’t be combusting fuel as efficiently as it could. This means you will see a drop in performance and will likely use more fuel to achieve that.
This issue can stem from any part of the combustion or exhaust, so it’s important to inspect everything.
5. Visibly Dented or Warped Cylinder Heads
If your cylinders are visibly warped or damaged, it’s time for new ones.
However, it’s also important to assess why the damage happened so that you don’t immediately damage new cylinders.
How to Replace a Cylinder Head: 10 Steps
Replacing the cylinder head is a time-consuming job. However, except for setting the timing, it’s a relatively straightforward job. This means you can normally do the work yourself to save a considerable part of the cost of the work.
Here, it’s important to note that the process will vary significantly based on whether you have an OHV or an OHC engine.
- Overhead Valve – The camshaft sits below the cylinders and uses a system of pushrods and rocker arms to control the valves on the cylinder head. You’ll have to disconnect those to remove the cylinder head.
- Overhead Camshaft – The camshaft is above the cylinders and may run through the cylinder head. You’ll have to detach the camshaft to remove the cylinder head.
Things You’ll Need:
- Replacement cylinder head
- Ratchet and wrench set
- Optional: Camshaft puller
- Cylinder head gasket
- Manifold gaskets
- Screwdriver set
- White paint
- Torque wrench
- Drain pans
- Replacement engine oil
- Replacement coolant
- Brake cleaner
- Shop towels
- Repair manual
Replacing the Cylinder Head
- Drain the oil and the coolant. In most cases, you’ll want to replace these with new ones. However, if you’ve recently replaced either, you can set them aside and reuse them.
- Consider taking time to wipe down the top of the engine. If you have a large buildup of debris or mud, use a wire brush to get rid of it.
- Disconnect the manifolds by unbolting the intake manifold from the cylinder head. Then, rotate it away from the cylinder head. If there’s still not enough clearance, unbolt the other side and remove any clips or electronics in the way, then pull the manifold out of the engine. Repeat this for both manifolds. However, if you have an exhaust manifold on the side of the engine, you may not have to remove it, only unbolt it from the cylinder head.
- Remove any other parts or accessories as needed. For example, in many vehicles, you’ll have to remove the battery, the alternator, the engine cover, the valves, and any electronics on top of the cylinder head. Make sure your key is out of the ignition before you remove the battery.
- Disassemble the valve assembly and make space to access the cylinder head.
- Then, either remove the rocker arms by removing the valve cover and unbolting the rocker arms one at a time. Either label the rocker arms with tape or place them in plastic bags with the number on them. You’ll have to put them back in order. Store each rocker arm with its corresponding pushrod. Or, if your camshaft runs through the cylinder head, stop and remove the timing cover. Then mark the timing on the engine. Use white paint or chalk. Take a photo of the timing on the cam sprocket. Then, use a ratchet to loosen the tension and remove the timing belt. Remove the camshaft from the cylinder head.
- Remove the head bolts. Either label these with tape or put them into labeled plastic bags. They must go back in in the proper sequence, as set in your repair manual. You’ll also want to double-check that you have reusable head bolts. If not, you’ll need new ones.
- Remove the cylinder head by lifting it up straight. If it’s stuck, use a mallet to tap it free.
- Place the new cylinder head back onto the guide bolts and slide it into place.
- Reassemble the engine in the opposite order, adding new gaskets as you go. Use brake cleaner to gently wipe down surfaces and take extra care not to allow contaminants or debris into the engine.
You should always double-check everything before turning the engine on. You’ll also want to refill the coolant and the oil and break those in.
Then, start the engine and allow it to idle to ensure everything is working as intended. If you hear loud noises, sputtering, have too much smoke, etc., it’s a good sign not everything is properly installed.
If your cylinder heads go out, it may be time for a new short block. On the other hand, if your engine has less than 300,000 miles on it, it may be reasonable to replace the cylinder heads. On average, cylinder head replacement costs top $1,000 and may exceed $4,000. However, you could also do the work yourself, provided you have at least a day to do the work.
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