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Warranty Direct reveals head gasket failure rates

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Used cars made by MG*, Rover and Daewoo are most likely to suffer expensive head gasket failure according to new data from Warranty Direct.   

While most vehicles are more prone to common electrical mishaps or suspension issues, head gasket failure – every used car buyer’s nightmare – can strike nearly six per cent of some three to 12 year-old vehicles.

Costing an alarming £770 on average to repair, head gasket breakdowns tend to hit after a car is at least three years old.

Vehicles made by Proton, Saab and Fiat are the next most likely to suffer from the glitch feared most by used car buyers.  

The head gasket sits between the engine block and cylinder head, effectively sealing the engine to prevent the engine oil and coolant mixing. When it fails, a car will often lose power, overheat or emit white smoke from exhaust.  

The head gasket hall of shame


Chance of head gasket failure in one year






















Warranty Direct managing director, David Gerrans, said: “Anybody familiar with buying used will know about head gaskets and how costly they can be to repair, I can speak from bitter experience.

“Some cars are almost immune to failures of this sort, while others are quite likely to blow. Bear in mind, too, that all the cars we cover are maintained according to manufacturer guidelines, so the problem could be even more prevalent on cars with patchy history and many former keepers.

“Even though some of the poorest performing brands are now under new ownership or no longer exist in their former guise, there are thousands of these vehicles on the used market.” 

At the other end of the scale, the Warranty Direct data shows that less than one in 500 vehicles made by Lexus will suffer a head gasket problem, and less than one in 1,000 Aston Martins are susceptible. 

*The analysis included MG and Rover vehicles sold between 2002 and 2012; a period in which the brands experienced a change of ownership and underwent significant changes as a result. Since 2011, MG, under the ownership of SAIC, started introducing all-new vehicles.

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  • Darren - 29/09/2014 11:06

    Feel quite proud now. My 53 Nissan X Trail dCi has its original head gasket and has covered 182,000 miles (touches wood)

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