By January 30, 2009 Read More →

Do I Have a Blown Head Gasket?


I was recently screwed when I bought a 2001 Dodge Intrepid 2.7 (yeah, I know all about the 2.7’s AFTER I bought it). Now, I have little money to get it fixed and my fingers crossed to at least get some insight on the problem.

Not long after I bought the car (within 30 days), my car wouldn’t heat. I purchased a thermostat and had my brother who knows what he is doing install it. When he had it taken apart he found that I had purchased the vehicle sans a thermostat and noted that there was oil on the radiator. After he replaced it, the heat worked great, however the check engine light came on.

At this time, we filled the coolant and checked the oil (which was the right color and full). I drove the car about 250 miles straight, parked it overnight and then took it on a short trip running errands. It died on me twice when shifting from drive to reverse. I got home and noticed the coolant overflow tank was near empty and the oil was very low and a deep dark brown color (almost black). Also, there was coolant near the oil cap.

I was told that it was either a blown head gasket or a crack somewhere. I have read your instructions on the additive (however I live in MN, it’s 0 degrees and I have no garage to keep it from freezing). I have not looked at the exhaust.

Does it sound more like a blown gasket or a crack?
Can I drive this vehicle without causing more damage until I can afford to get it fixed?
Thank you so very much for your advice!

Have a great day,


Hey there Kristi,

So the check engine light was NOT on before your brother replaced the thermostat? If so, I would HIGHLY suspect that he has left something unplugged, or loose or broken etc. etc. and that is why the check engine light came on. I would get him to triple check the area around the thermostat to make sure no electrical or vacuum hose connections got left loose or unplugged. You really did not mention anything to me that sounded like a blown head gasket or anything related to engine overheating or internal engine damage.

You should not rely on the coolant level in the plastic overflow tank, you have to check the level inside the radiator as the level on that plastic tank will change with engine temperature. If coolant was inside the engine oil, the oil would look like a chocolate milkshake, not black in color. I would expect to see lots of white smoke out the exhaust system as well.

The dying while selecting gears is most likely related to the problem as to why the check engine light is on. First thing comes to mind is a vacuum leak under the hood somewhere from the thermostat installation.

I would also recommend cleaning the throttle body and idle air control valve, both of which can be done at your local fast lube place or regular mechanic and this should be done as part of your regular maintenance anyway. here is more about that.

Engine Dies At Stops

To make you sleep better at night have your mechanic or fast lube place perform a cooling system pressure test on your radiator. This test is cheap (under $50) and can be done while you wait and will tell you if there are any coolant leaks, either internal or external and if there is a head gasket problem.

Blessings, Austin Davis

Posted in: Dodge

About the Author:

Austin Davis, consumer car repair advocate. "Hi there! I love to help people solve their car repair problems and I hope my site was helpful to you today. Thank you for stopping by."

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