Do I Need a New BMW 2002 Head Gasket?

Recently when I started my 1970 BMW 2002 it would blow out large amounts of white smoke that actually was steam until the engine warmed up. I was told by a dealer that it could be a blown head gasket and that if I was willing to leave the car overnight they would run a test at a cost of $20 to determine if in fact the head gasket was defective. If it was, replacement would be $125. The dealer further said that the car was drivable as long as I watched the water level.

After two weeks the smoke/steam stopped. Is it still necessary to replace the head gasket?

Author: Susie Yien

I hope the following will provide some insight as to what may be going on with your 2002.

First of all, determine if the "smoke" is actually smoke or steam. To do so is simple. Take a Kleenex tissue and hold it at the end of the tail pipe. It will nearly disintegrate if the "smoke" is really steam. On the other hand, if it is not water vapor, it will remain intact

If you find it is smoke, there is a possibility that this is burning brake fluid caused by a faulty brake master cylinder. Unlike oil, brake fluid will burn with a white color and not the blue that characterizes oil burning.

When a head gasket is replaced on a car eight years old, it is essential that the head be dismantled and resurfaced to ensure a flat mating surface. This could not possibly be done properly for a figure as low as $125.

I would suggest retorquing the cylinder head to 55 ft. Ibs., which in some cases will reseat a blown head gasket. Still there is the possibility of a cracked cylinder head on an exhaust valve seat. This can be temporarily cured by the addition of "Porter-Seal," an aluminum-based radiator additive which will not clog the heater. Another brand name which will work is "Aluma-Seal." Both look like powdered aluminum.

Under no circumstances would I suggest the head gasket be replaced without doing a compression test Also, I would suggest a test to detect the presence of carbon monoxide in the radiator, which, if positive, would indicate the probability of a cracked head. Tech Ed.