Testing your 2.0L Honda CR-V for a blown head gasket is not hard. As a matter of fact, it's something that you can do yourself without having to take it to a repair shop.
In this tutorial, I will explain the four different tests that you can do to find out your Honda CR-V has a bonafide blown head gasket.
Contents of this tutorial at a glance:
- Symptoms Of A Blown Head Gasket.
- Honda CR-V 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).
- Related Test Articles.
You can find this tutorial in Spanish here: Cómo Probar El Empaque De La Cabeza (1997-2001 2.0L Honda CR-V) (at: autotecnico-online.com).
Symptoms Of A Blown Head Gasket
For the most part, a blown head gasket will cause one of two major symptoms. Either the engine will start and run but overheat. Or the engine will not start at all.
The following is a basic list of symptoms you're likely to see with a blown head gasket on your 2.0L Honda CR-V:
- Your Honda CR-V is overheating for no apparent reason. All engine cooling system components (like fan motor, water pump, etc.) are working fine.
- White smoke is coming out of the tail-pipe and it smells like anti-freeze being cooked.
- Your Honda 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.
Honda CR-V Multi-Layer Steel Head Gasket Problems
Your 2.0L Honda CR-V uses a head gasket that's called a multi-layered steel head gasket.
These multi-layer steel head gaskets have a very high failure rate compared to the old graphite covered head gaskets.
No matter how well you keep your Honda CR-V maintained or no matter how careful you are to never let the engine overheat, its multi-layered steel head gasket will fail all on its own.
When it does fail, and in the initial stage, your Honda CR-V's engine is gonna' run but overheat or leak oil (although without overheating).
Now, if your Honda CR-V is running and overheating and TEST 1 and TEST 2 (of this tutorial) don't confirm a blown head gasket, you must do a block test with a chemical block tester.
A block tester test is the only way to confirm a blown multi-layer steel head gasket, in its intial stages. You can find the block test here: TEST 4: Using A Chemical Block Tester (Combustion Leak Tester).
If the multi-layer steel head gasket is just leaking oil (a very very common problem), then this is the writing on the wall that you need to replace it before the engine starts to overheat (and possibly cause expensive engine damage).
TEST 1: Engine Oil The Color Of 'Coffee With Too Much Creamer'
The very first thing I do when I suspect that the engine has a blown head gasket is to check the condition of the engine oil sticking to the engine dipstick.
Specifically, what I'm looking for is to see if the engine oil is mixed with coolant.
If the engine is mixed with coolant, then it's going to be the color of 'coffee with too much creamer'.
If the engine oil is its normal color, then my next step is to check to see if the engine coolant is being shot out of the radiator (with its cap removed).
Let's get started:
Open your Honda'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.
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 2.0L Honda CR-V's head gasket is blown.
CASE 2: The color of the engine oil is normal. This is the correct and expected test result. Your next step is to go to: TEST 2: Coolant Shooting Out From Open Radiator.