It could be quite bad. My experience with N15 GA 15/16 DE
1997 Nissan with "blown head gasket" was that the head was
also cracked / unrepairable after overheating.
It takes some time to remove exhaust manifolds, intake
throttle body & hoses etc, timing chain etc to get the head
off. Then it costs to have the head crack tested, if it's
okay then more time to clean everything up and reassemble.
Then there's the other stuff that you should probably do
while the head is off, so while you're spending the money to
do the job, you might as well make sure it's done properly.
The full head gasket set is quite expensive. You could
save a fair bit by neglecting to do the stuff that might
best be done while the engine is disassembled.
Labour wise, I guess its almost easier to switch motors.
This was an easier option for me as a used motor with about
50k miles cost about the same as a full OEM gasket set and
new water pump. (The minimum I would have done if the head
had been okay).
If it's an auto, you can lift and drop a replacement motor
without taking the transmission out, though the labour saved
in doing this isn't all that much as you still need to take
out the RH axle and remove splash plates etc under the motor
to get access.
I'd suggest that if the motor has done a higher mileage, see
what the prices are like for a used motor / motor swap. If
it's done a low mileage, then it might be worth replacing
the head gasket alone, but be prepared for the possibility
of spending quite a lot more than the cost to simply replace
the gasket on the assumption that it's all going to go smoothly.
thanks for the replies. i was told this was blowing white smoke out the tail
pipe and was leaking between 2 cylinders. it is a high mileage car. you're
right ,my brother had a different engine put in a camry and it worked out
fine for him. i will pass on this info
For the one I did, it was a relatively easy job, but a few
things to watch for. I guess it took me 8 - 10 hours total,
but I'm a home handyman, not a mechanic. Total cost for me
was about = US$300 for the motor, plus fluids and filters.
If you were going to do it yourselves, then the factory
workshop manual can be found on the net, but post again
here, as there's a few gotchas you should think about before
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