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How to Choose the Right Gaskets

how to choose head gaskets

(Image/Hotrod.com)

It doesn’t matter whether you log miles at the track or in the grocery store parking lot, your vehicle needs gaskets. You do, however, get a lot of choices when it comes to materials, and that can get confusing. Your confusion ends here, because below is a comprehensive list that explains the different materials so you can get exactly what you need—nothing more, nothing less.

Carbon Gaskets
Carbon gaskets offer superior sealing even on the worst flange surfaces. They can withstand long-term exposure to high temperatures, so they’re perfect for your nitrous, turbo, or blower application.

Composite Gaskets
Composite gaskets resist coolant, gasoline, alcohol, and oil, and can be easily trimmed for exact fit on modified parts. In most cases, composite won’t crush, split, shrink, or squeeze. On some applications, a composite material is applied to the core of the gasket to increase torque retention and to withstand high-vacuum conditions.

Copper Gaskets
Copper gaskets are mainly used on high performance street/strip engines because of their durability. The copper distributes heat evenly throughout the gasket to minimize warping, and they’ll conform to rough or damaged surfaces to maintain a good seal. Some copper gaskets have embossed edges for an even tighter seal and ultimate resistance to blowouts.

Cork Gaskets
Cork gaskets create a positive seal that eliminates the need for retorquing, and the cork particles make the gasket easily compressible for a tight seal without leak paths. They can withstand high-vacuum and high-temperature conditions while maintaining compression. Choose extra-thick cork valve cover gaskets for increased valvetrain-to-cover clearance.

Dead-Soft Aluminum Gaskets
Dead-soft aluminum gaskets are very pliable and provide an excellent seal even on rough, warped, or irregular flange surfaces. The multiple-layer, solid aluminum construction is highly resistant to blowout and burnout, and they can be reused.

Fiber Gaskets
Fiber gaskets have excellent tensile strength and superior blowout resistance. They’re corrosion resistant so you can use them with racing gas and alcohol fuel, and they don’t need retorquing.

Graphite Gaskets
Gaskets with a graphite core dissipate heat, preventing gasket burnout. They have excellent compressibility, can withstand high temperatures, and won’t creep, cold-flow, or become brittle. Graphite coatings allow for gasket movement without damage.

Rubber Gaskets
Rubber gaskets are easy to install because of their flexibility, and they have superior heat resistance. Some rubber gaskets have a one-piece rigid design for more durability and eliminated leak paths. In many applications, a rubber coating is applied to the gasket core to seal minor imperfections and to provide a tight, leak-proof seal that’ll resist blowout in high-pressure applications.

Steel/Multi-Layered Steel (MLS) Gaskets
Steel/Multi-Layered Steel (MLS) gaskets are designed to handle higher compression ratios, special cam timing, and higher operating temperatures, so they’re ideal if your engine is supercharged, turbocharged, or hooked up to nitrous oxide. The rigid steel design practically eliminates gasket distortion under grueling engine conditions. Some gaskets include a steel core for enhanced durability and blowout resistance.

Wire Ring Reinforcement
Many cylinder head gaskets have a steel or copper wire ring reinforcement seal embedded in the gasket for the tightest seal around the combustion chamber. The wire rings are pre-flattened to minimize brinelling (indenting) and head bending on aluminum cylinder heads. The ring provides three times the sealing power over standard gaskets.

Gasket Coatings
Some gaskets are coated in rubber, elastomer, latex, Kevlar® composite material, or a fiber facing material in order to seal minor surface imperfections, provide a tight seal, increase torque retention, and eliminate the need for retorquing. Gaskets may also include a graphite coating to allow for gasket movement without damage. Other coatings include anti-stick, silicone, nitrile, or brand-specific coatings—like Fel-Pro’s Blue and Printoseal® coatings—for a tighter seal and easy gasket removal.

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10 Comments

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  2. Pingback: 8 Tips for Properly Installing Copper Head Gaskets - OnAllCylinders

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  4. Thank you for the comparisons. Precise and easy to understand.

  5. Catherine F Hickmanc. says:

    That was very helpful..found What I wanted to know.

  6. Informative post…Thanks for sharing

  7. Can you use cork for a head gasket on a Briggs and Stratton Engine.

  8. Thanks for a great valuable piece of advice.

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