A blown head gasket will display a variety of symptoms:
- slow loss of coolant with no external coolant leaks
- during a cold start, the engine can run rough, but will be ok until the next cold start
- engine runs warmer than usual
- engine overheats and coolant is expelled from the coolant cap
- white smoke coming from the tailpipe
The most accurate way to test for a blown head gasket on a gasoline engine is to test for the presence of carbon monoxide in the cooling system. Snap-On, Matco (part # CO 2000), and Napa sell a tool to check to carry out this test. Another link to a supplier of this tool is http://www.etoolcart.com/combustion-leak-detector-lis75500.aspx. Carbon Monoxide is only present if there is a blown head gasket or cracked cylinder head. http://www.arrowheadradiator.com/head_gasket_or_combustion_leak_test.htm I think the Napa part number 700-1006. http://www.blockchek.com/instructions.htm . Signs of a blown head gasket are coolant loss (frequently have to top up the coolant level of the engine without seeing an obvious leak), experiencing over heating or rough engine running or the presence of white sweet smelling steam from the exhaust. A badly blown head gasket may allow engine coolant and oil to mix.