The Average Cost to Replace a Cylinder Head Is $2,176-$3,705, Depending On Whether You Go to the Mechanic or DIY.
This price range is based on national averages for all vehicles and does not factor in taxes, fees, or your car’s particular make and model. Related repairs or maintenance, such as a failed cylinder or faulty intake manifold gasket, may also be required. For a more accurate estimate based on your make, model, and location, use the RepairPal Fair Price Estimator.
Cost at the Mechanic: $3,366-$3,705
- Parts: $2,176-$2,204
- Labor: $1,190-$1,501
It typically takes between five and six hours to complete a cylinder head replacement. This is a highly complex job that involves disassembling a significant portion of your engine. Despite the high price, it’s definitely worth leaving this one to the professionals.
Cost to DIY: $2,176-$2,204
- Difficulty Level: Advanced
- Parts Needed:
A DIY cylinder head replacement can be less expensive than taking your car to the mechanic if you have the required parts and extensive automotive repair knowledge and experience. However, a cylinder head replacement is an extremely difficult and time-consuming task since it requires dismantling a significant portion of the engine.
What Is a Cylinder Head?
The cylinder head is the top part of your engine and forms the top part of your cylinders. It contains the intake and exhaust valves, as well as the spark plugs. In some vehicles, the cylinder head also holds one or more camshafts. Either way, the head contains some very sophisticated running gear that is operated by chains, belts, or pushrods attached to the lower half of the engine. A failure in any of these components can cause your engine to run poorly, or not at all.
If you have an inline-four or six-cylinder engine, it has one head, while V6 and V8 engines have two heads.
What Does a Cylinder Head Replacement Include?
The entire process of a cylinder head replacement takes five or six hours. A cylinder head replacement involves draining the coolant and oil, removing the engine intake and exhaust manifolds, removing the timing chain or belt (if the engine has one or more), and removing the cylinder head.
This is an extremely complex job that requires the mechanic to basically remove half of the engine. The cylinder head or heads are on top of the engine. If you have a vehicle with two cylinder heads, the mechanic may need to replace both of them simultaneously, depending on what the problem is.
What Happens If You Don’t Get a Cylinder Head Replacement?
Failing to replace a broken cylinder head can cause further engine damage if the engine still runs at all. This could lead to even more expensive repairs, including needing a new engine. If your cylinder head is broken, your car might not be drivable at all.
The most common cause of a cylinder head cracking is an overheating engine, which can be caused by air in the cooling system, a failed water pump, or a failed thermostat. In this situation, your cooling system will also need to be repaired during a cylinder head replacement service.
Another common cause of a failed cylinder head is a broken timing belt or chain, particularly in interference engines. In an interference engine, the valves protrude into the space occupied by the piston at the top of its range of motion. Normally this isn’t an issue, since the valves are closed at this point in the piston’s movement. When the timing belt or chain breaks, however, valves may be stuck open and “interfere” with the piston. This is a fancy way of saying they will smash into each other, causing extensive internal engine damage. This is why it’s important to replace the timing belt or chain regularly according to the manufacturer-recommended maintenance schedule. (In non-interference engines, the pistons and valves never occupy the same space, so even if the timing belt or chain breaks there will be no further damage to the engine.)
How Often Should Your Cylinder Head be Replaced?
Cylinder heads are designed to last the lifetime of the vehicle. However, if your vehicle has a faulty cylinder head, it should be replaced as soon as possible. There are maintenance tasks that you can do to keep the cylinder head in good condition, including regular oil changes, and fixing any cooling system problems as soon as they occur.
[Banner ad: Never Miss Important Maintenance with the FIXD Sensor and Free App. FIXD Tracks Routine Maintenance and Wear Items for You – for Free!]
Common Symptoms You Need to Get a Cylinder Head Replacement
These symptoms mean it’s time to have this service performed:
Related Maintenance Services
The following services are commonly performed with a cylinder head replacement:
- Cylinder replacement
- Intake manifold gasket replacement
- Head gasket replacement
- Water pump replacement
- Thermostat replacement
Never Miss Important Maintenance Again with FIXD
Get the FIXD Sensor and free app today for a custom maintenance schedule based on your make, model, and mileage. FIXD sends automated maintenance alerts right to your phone so you never forget oil changes, tire rotations, brake pad replacements, and more. It even tracks tire, wiper, and battery life to keep your car running smoothly. Get FIXD today and take the stress out of car care. It’s that simple.
At FIXD, our mission is to make car ownership as simple, easy, and affordable as possible. Our research team utilizes the latest automotive data and insights to create tools and resources that help drivers get peace of mind and save money over the life of their car.