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What is a Cylinder Head and where is it Located?

The cylinder head, sometimes called the engine head, is a precisely engineered block of metal on the top of your car or truck’s engine. It houses many of the engine’s moving parts, including the intake and exhaust valves, valve springs and lifters, and the spark plugs. In engines with overhead cams (OHC), the cam shafts are mounted to the cylinder head. The cylinder head also contains inlets that allow coolant from the radiator and oil to flow through the engine. 

The cylinder head also contains the engine’s combustion chambers. The intake manifold feeds air into the head through the intake ports, past the intake valves and into the combustion chamber. Once the air and fuel have been combusted, exhaust gasses exit the combustion chamber past the exhaust valves, through the exhaust ports, to the exhaust manifold. 

Inline or straight engines have one cylinder head, while V-shaped engines and boxer engines have two, one for each bank of cylinders. Cylinder heads are usually made of cast iron or aluminum. For an even more in-depth explanation of cylinder heads, including even more details on ow they work, the different types, and more, check out our cylinder heads guide.

How do I Know if my Cylinder Head Needs to be Replaced?

The most prevalent problem with automotive cylinder heads is that they can crack or warp. Since combustion occurs inside them, they are exposed to high heat. Of course, they have coolant flowing through them, but coolant leaks and other cooling problems may cause the engine to overheat. Overheating makes the metal of the engine expand. Sometimes the cylinder head and the engine block are made of different metals (usually aluminum and iron, respectively). The different metals expand at different rates, which put strain on that metal. That can lead to cracks or warping in the cylinder head. 

A cracked or warped cylinder head will often leak coolant, which exacerbates your problem. Frequent overheating or lost coolant might indicate a cracked cylinder head. Cylinder head cracks can also hinder your engine’s performance. You may experience engine misfires. If left untreated, a cracked cylinder head can lead to further engine damage. Some cracks might be visible to the naked eye. A pressure test can also be used to identify cracks in the cylinder head. 

Can I Replace a Cylinder Head Myself?

Although an experienced do-it-yourselfer could replace a cylinder head, this might be a job you’d prefer to leave to the professionals. We would not advise that you attempt replacing your cylinder head without having a lot of prior mechanical experience. Improper installation could lead to serious damage to the engine and necessitate even bigger repairs. 

Replacing a cylinder head assembly is a lengthy process with many steps. Your vehicle’s oil and coolant need to be drained, since they flow through the cylinder head. The intake and exhaust manifolds need to be separated from the cylinder head. The valve covers and timing chains need to be removed, as do any accessories, like the power steering pump, that get between you and the cylinder head. 

With all that done you can remove the cylinder head. Be very careful not to scrape or scratch the engine block as you remove the cylinder head. Doing so will make any leak problems you had before even worse. To avoid warping the metal, there is a specific pattern you are meant to remove and install the cylinder head bolts in. This can be found in a service manual. When you are installing the new cylinder head, you will want to consult the service manual for the appropriate torque to tighten the bolts to. You can then reverse all the previous steps to put everything back together. 

Need a Cylinder Head Replacement?

Your car or truck’s cylinder head is a part that has a direct effect on engine performance. That is why it needs to be properly maintained and kept away from harm in order to avoid any problems with the vehicle’s engine. If you have to the realization that your cylinder head needs to be replaced, whether it’s because it has been damaged or you are trying to improve your car or truck’s performance, then 1A Auto is your source for new, aftermarket cylinder heads. We carry replacement cylinder heads for a number of makes and models, and at great prices. A cylinder head replacement from 1A Auto is just what you need to get your vehicle running great again!

We also make shopping for a replacement cylinder head assembly for your car easy - we're here to help you select the right parts for your vehicle! Call our customer service toll free at 888-844-3393 if you have any questions about our aftermarket engine cylinder heads, warranty, compatibility or to purchase, or you can buy online.

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