An intake manifold gasket is a flexible, fitted part of a car engine that helps prevent air from leaking out during fuel combustion and helps regulate chamber temperature. Most cars use a type of engine known as “fuel combustion,” which basically means that they get their main energy from a series of mini-explosions powered by gasoline. These explosions need oxygen, though, and in most cases that oxygen is drawn in from the outside environment with the intake manifold. The gasket fits between that intake pipe and the cylinder heads in the engine, and its main purpose is to reduce the chance of air leaking out, which can hurt the car’s efficiency. People who have weak or faulty gaskets may notice their engines sputtering out or stalling more frequently. Replacing this part is usually pretty easy, but does require some mechanical expertise.
This automotive part is a critical yet comparatively delicate piece of equipment. Its main job is to keep heat generated through the engine block from creeping back into the air intake manifold. Fuel ignites best with cooler air, which is denser and generally contains more oxygen. The thickness of the gasket is usually driven by the strength and power of the engine. Heavy duty models are ordinarily used in turbocharged engines, but the piece has been modified to work well for heat management in almost all scenarios.
In most cases the gasket is also really important when it comes to keeping air in. Leaks decrease the amount of available oxygen, which can impact overall car performance ans well as engine strength.
Where It’s Found
Car engines are somewhat complex from a sheer parts standpoint, though comparatively speaking the gasket is fairly simple. In most vehicles it is a series of small caps or shields that sit just on top of the main cylinder openings. Most have a ring-like look to them, and are often made of either metal or hard plastic. They can usually be unscrewed fairly easily to allow access to the interior chambers, as well as to diagnose problems or look for cracks.
How it Works
The intake manifold operates as a sort of plenum, drawing and funneling air and fuel from the carburetor to the cylinders or, in fuel injected engines, just air to the injection ports. A measured amount of air is sucked from the manifold into the vacuum and from there it’s injected, along with fuel, into the cylinders to be ignited. The air drawn into the cylinders will suddenly hit the shut door of the intake valve and will rush back upon itself causing a wave of high pressure in the manifold runners. The intake manifold gasket is there to keep everything contained. It must be able to withstand this constant change in air pressure and temperature.
Even though this part is small, its operation is often critical to proper car functioning. A leaking intake manifold gasket typically contributes to poor fuel economy, higher emissions, and poor engine performance, and can also cause stalls and sputtering. The typical automobile engine runs on a stringently controlled air-fuel ratio. The intake manifold gasket, in conjunction with such mechanisms as the intake valve and the fuel injector computer, maintains that ultimate ratio. Should any of these components begin to fail, the vehicle’s gas mileage decreases, its gaseous emissions increase, and eventually the engine stops running altogether.
The proper distribution of air into the cylinders is obviously very important to the efficient operation of the engine. All gasket material has to be pliable and must be installed using a special gasket cement or sealant to ensure that it remains firmly and correctly in place.
People who know a lot about cars and who have some expertise in engine construction are often able to diagnose and fix gasket problems on their own, and the actual work itself isn’t usually very difficult. Knowing the right techniques and placement is where things get trickier. Most experts recommend that car owners get a professional opinion from a trained mechanic before they start fixing things themselves unless they’re really sure they know the ins and outs of what they’re doing. Gasket problems are usually pretty quick for professionals to fix and aren’t usually expensive.