How to Replace a Cylinder Head? Cylinder Head Replacement Cost

Many people searching for how to replace a cylinder head want to do it for the cost savings. And while that’s an advantage, the engine cylinder head is also relatively easy to change. This last section goes over the steps to do that in a way that’s easy to grasp. Additionally, you will learn about the cost to replace a cylinder head when done by automotive technicians.

When to Replace a Cylinder Head

Auto experts recommend cylinder head replacement at the recommended time, which is more than 5 years or over 100 000 miles. You should also consider changing the head gets damaged, or when symptoms to appear such as:

  • The cylinder head leaking oil severely. This means instances where the oil drips so much as to make a puddle on the ground. The symptom shows large cracks that cannot be fixed.
  • The cylinder head leaking coolant to the ground. Just like with oil, the coolant will be making a puddle, a string indicator of wide cracks or serious warping.
  • If you have the cylinder head warped so much that it cannot be safely machined. Warped cylinder head signs include reduced engine performance and leaks.

Replace the head also, if you happen to be in any of these situations.

  • When you have refaced the head more than once and removed too much material
  • When it’s the recommend time to do a replacement.
bolt sequence during cylinder head removal and installation
bolt sequence during cylinder head removal and installation

How to Replace a Cylinder Head:

8 Steps To Replace A Cylinder Head

After looking at when to, let’s now see how to replace a cylinder head without expert help. As mentioned earlier, this is a simple process that does not require specialized tools. However, you need to observe the correct replacement procedure, or you may end up with cylinder head components in the wrong places or invent bolt forces.

What You Will Need

  • Ratchet and socket set
  • A set of screwdrivers
  • New oil and coolant
  • Rags
  • Drain pans
  • Your new cylinder head assembly

Cylinder Head Removal

Step 1 Preparations

Step 2 Drain Oil and Coolant

  • Open the coolant drain cap to remove coolant from the radiator and cooling system
  • Open the oil drain plug to remove the oil as well. Catch the fluids in a drain pan

Step 3 Remove the Intake/Exhaust Manifold, Valve Cover, and Timing Belt

  • Using your ratchet set, remove the intake and exhaust manifold
  • Remove the valve cover
  • Remove the timing belt or chain after making its position and orientation

Step 4 Remove the Rocker Arm or Arms

  • Next, remove the rocker arm
  • Some engines have two rocker arms

Step 5 Take out the Cylinder Head Assembly

  • Take out the cylinder head bolts. Ensure their correct removal sequence
  • Refer to the manual for the correct cylinder head bolt removal sequence
  • If the bolts are too stuck, use a breaker bar. It will help increase leverage and make everything easier. Consider applying penetrating fluid/oil to the bolts as well.
  • After bolt removal, use a screw driver to detach the cylinder head then lift it off the engine block

Cylinder Head Installation

Step 6 Mount the New Head

  • Place the new cylinder head on the mounting surface.
  • Replace the bolts and tighten them
  • Be sure to use the specified cylinder head bolt tightening torque as indicated in the manual

Step 7 Re-install Parts and Replace Oil/Coolant

  • Replace all parts using the reverse of their removal
  • Replace the oil and coolant

Step 8 Replace Battery Cable

  • Reconnect the battery cable

Cylinder head replacement often goes hand in hand with gasket replacement. Be sure to change yours too, before mounting the new head. If still in good condition skip that step.

cylinder head replacement cost depends on engine type
cylinder head replacement cost depends on engine type

How much does it Cost to Replace a Cylinder Head?

You now know how to replace a cylinder head on your car engine. But what if, for any reason, you’re unable to do it? Many car owners may not have enough time to carry out the replacement, or may not be confident enough to do it. Here is a breakdown of the cost estimates.

Most of the time, the charges to change a cylinder head include the cost to check for problems and removal and installation fee. Taking that into consideration, the job may cost between $50 and $100 or higher. That’s because labor charges are different for different cars and engines. Different repair shops also charge varying amounts.

The cylinder head price is often in the range of $100-$200. Adding the amount to the labor costs, the amount to replace cylinder head assemblies then lies between $150 and $300. Note that the cost can go up to a thousand dollars, especially if your car is a high end model.

Those who know how to replace a cylinder can lower the expenses by up to $50 or more. If you opt for DIY replacement, it’s important that you’re aware of how to choose the right part for your car. There are many different types of cylinder heads out there. Different cylinder head manufacturers, too.

You will also be faced with the task to choose between an OEM and aftermarket cylinder head. Aftermarket heads are often built to offer durability and low weight, among other attributes. They’re, therefore, mostly aluminum.

The best cylinder head for your car engine is the one that fits it depending on type of engine. It’s also one that fits its application or the preferred performance. Aluminum cylinder heads, for example, are best suited for performance vehicles. They’re lightweight, and can stand up to harsh conditions.

Cast iron cylinder heads, on the other hand, are ideal for the normal passenger car, and cheaper when compared to the aluminum types. However, they’re heavy and may impact negatively on the fuel economy.


The cylinder is one of the most important parts on your engine. As such, you should change it as soon as you notice any signs of damage. The steps on how to replace a cylinder head in this chapter are meant to help you change the component yourself. That should save you mechanic costs. You will also be able to service several other parts in the process, such as the head gasket.


I'm Louis, a seasoned writer specializing in auto parts, particularly the science behind components like cylinder heads and pistons. With over a decade of experience and a background in mechanical engineering, my articles reflect a commitment to professionalism, blending technical insight with engaging content.

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