How to Install a Diesel Engine Cylinder Head


It's no small undertaking to replace your cylinder head, and it only makes sense that you want it done correctly. Ensure yours is properly installed with these guidelines and common mistakes to avoid. Keep in mind that these are only general guidelines, and you should refer to your manufacturer's instructions for more specific information on your engine type. To learn more about indicators you should replace your cylinder head, read our blog post, Signs You Need to Replace Your Cylinder Head. You can also check out our video. If you're looking for a new cylinder head for your engine, be sure to check out our selection.

Cylinder Head Install Guidelines

  1. Clean the Block and Components: First, be sure the engine block has been completely cleaned. Any dirt or debris can damage components during operation. Any additional component should be cleaned prior to install as well to keep debris from circulating through your engine and creating larger problems.
  2. Install Dowel Pins: Tap the dowel pins into place on the engine block. Be sure to check for burring on the pins, which could lead to later problems.
  3. Install the Head Gasket: Check the manufacturer's instructions to correctly orient the head gasket on the engine block. Improperly positioned gaskets won't seal correctly and can create combustion issues. Make sure the bolt holes are completely clean as well. Position the gasket on the engine block, most likely without any sealant or adhesive. (This depends on the gasket material, but most do not need it.)
  4. Position the Cylinder Head: Lower the cylinder head evenly into position on the alignment dowels to avoid damaging the head.
  5. Install Head Bolts: Ensure that the bolts are clean, the proper length, and free of wear. Be sure to follow the recommended torque guidelines.
  6. Install Remaining Components: Following instructions for your engine type, reinstall the remaining components to the head as needed for your specific model. For instance, push rods, rocker arm assembly, camshaft, etc.


Common Install Mistakes

Installing your cylinder head and related components incorrectly could result in further damage to your engine. Here are some common mistakes you should avoid:

Installing Worn Fasteners

Be sure to evaluate your fasteners when you're deciding whether or not to reuse them. Wear or pitting on the bolts can lead to failure, so look for any sign of that. Even inspect new fasteners, as installing them bent or warped can create just as many problems. You want your fasteners to be straight, as free of wear as possible, and the proper length to ensure that everything fits together as it should. Make sure that your bolts have not stretched beyond their limit, and don't ever reuse bolts that are one time use only.

Using Sealant on the Gasket

Most gaskets nowadays don't require the use of sealant. Depending on the type, sealer could cause the gasket to deteriorate and fail. For more information on gasket installation, read our blog, Gasket Installation Mistakes to Avoid.

Head Gasket Seals

Ensure that the head gasket seals properly. A leak in the head gasket can allow oil into the cylinders, leading to high oil consumption in your engine. Paying attention to orientation marks and manufacturer instructions can help with this. Make sure your liner protrusion has been checked and is in spec before installing the head. Incorrect liner protrusion may lead to premature head gasket failure and possibly another cylinder head replacement.


If you need any help determining the right cylinder head for your engine, request a quote online to get more information. Or, you can give us a call at 844-304-7688 to speak with one of our technicians.

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