You can test for a blown head gasket, on your 1997, 1998, or 1999 V8 Dodge Dakota or Durango, with 4 easy tests.
Two of the four tests involve no tools at all and are easily done without having to take your Dodge to the shop.
I'll explain them all in this tutorial in a step-by-step way.
Contents of this tutorial at a quick glance:
- Symptoms Of A Blown Head Gasket.
- Dodge Dakota (Durango) Multi-Layer Steel Head Gasket Problems.
- TEST 1: Engine Oil the Color of ‘Coffee With Too Much Creamer’.
- TEST 2: Coolant Shooting Out From Open Radiator.
- TEST 3: Engine Compression Test.
- TEST 4: Using A Chemical Block Tester (Combustion Leak Tester).
- More V8 Dodge Dakota And Durango Tutorials.
You can find this tutorial in Spanish here: Cómo Probar Los Empaques De La Cabeza (1997-1999 Dodge Dakota Y Durango) (at: autotecnico-online.com).
Symptoms Of A Blown Head Gasket
A blown head gasket is usually the result of severe engine overheating.
When one of the head gaskets burns, you'll usually see at least one of the following symptoms:
- Your Dodge Dakota (Durango) is overheating for no apparent reason. All engine cooling system components (like fan clutch, water pump, etc.) are working fine.
- White smoke is coming out of the tail-pipe and it smells like anti-freeze being cooked.
- Your Dodge won't start. You've checked that the ignition system and the fuel system are not behind the no-start condition.
- The engine oil is thick and a tan to an off-white color.
As I mentioned at the beginning, testing the head gaskets (since the V8 engine has 2 of them) isn't difficult, so let's get going with our first test.
Dodge Dakota (Durango) Multi-Layer Steel Head Gasket Problems
Your Dodge Dakota (Durango) may come equipped with multi-layer steel (MLS) head gaskets.
In a nutshell, these MLS gaskets are just thin embossed pieces of stainless steel that are riveted together to form the head gasket.
And boy, they are infamous for failing on their own and:
- Leaking oil.
- Causing overheating issues.
Yup, no matter how you maintain your Dodge's engine or keep it from ever overheating, this type of head gasket will fail all on its very own.
If your Dakota or Durango's engine is running but overheating, and you suspect a head gasket failure, then the only way to confirm a blown head gasket is by doing a combustion leak test (with a block tester).
TEST 1: Engine Oil The Color Of ‘Coffee With Too Much Creamer’
The most common end result of a blown head gasket is the engine oil mixing with coolant.
This results in the oil looking like ‘coffee with too much creamer’.
This is the very first test that most technicians do when testing for a blown head gasket and it's were you and I will start.
These are the test steps:
Open your Dodge's hood and pull out the engine oil dipstick.
What you're looking for is to make sure that the engine oil IS NOT mixed with coolant. If the engine oil is mixed with coolant, it'll be the color of ‘coffee with too much cream’.
What color is the engine oil?
1.) Is it a creamy tan/ off-white color or...
2.) The engine oil will be its usual normal color.
Alright, let's analyze your test result:
CASE 1: The color of the oil is a light tan, like coffee with too much creamer. This test result confirms that your V8 Dodge Dakota (Durango) has a head gasket that is blown.
CASE 2: The color of the engine oil is normal. This is the correct and expected test result.
The next step is to go to: TEST 2: Coolant Shooting Out From Open Radiator.