How to Buy a Cylinder Head

Categories: Cylinder Head Tips

While a car engine typically gets all the attention, the cylinder head plays a vital role in engine performance. Its design allows it to control airflow and withstand high pressures and temperatures. An old or ill-fitting cylinder head can cause severe damage to your engine and vehicle. Many experts recommend vehicles needing a replacement cylinder head after five years or over 100,000 miles. However, a higher-quality cylinder head lasts longer due to its build. That’s why the right cylinder head is essential for optimal vehicle performance and longevity.

If there’s something we know a lot about, it’s cylinder heads. Let us guide you through buying a cylinder head by breaking down the key factors to consider and recommending reliable places to purchase from. We’ll finish with some top purchasing tips for those in the market for a cylinder head replacement!


Understanding Cylinder Heads

Cylinder heads act as the mechanical control center of the engine, serving as the meeting point for the intake, exhaust, ignition, and fuel systems. Sitting on top of the engine and sealed with the head gasket, the cylinder head covers the top of the cylinders to create the combustion chambers and prevent water or oil from leaking into them. It features ports that allow air and fuel to flow into the cylinders while permitting exhaust gases to flow out. Additionally, it channels coolant into the engine block to cool the engine components.

Without a cylinder head, a car’s engine would be unable to function. The engine relies on the cylinder head to maintain compression, contain combustion, route fluids, and house critical valvetrain components and ignition/fuel systems.

Learn more about how a cylinder head works in the YouTube video below.

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Factors to Consider When Buying a Cylinder Head

When you’re in the market for a cylinder head, remember a few key factors to ensure you’re getting the right one for your vehicle.


  1. Compatibility

Before you make any purchases, you must ensure your cylinder head is compatible with your vehicle’s make, model, and engine specifications. Compatibility is crucial as it determines whether a cylinder head will function and fit correctly. Check the engine code and part number to ensure the cylinder head fits correctly. This check will help avoid costly mistakes and further damage to your vehicle. For more details on finding the casting number and what each number means, refer to our blog post here.


  1. New vs. Remanufactured vs. Used

After you’ve found cylinder head options compatible with your vehicle, you will want to consider whether you want a new, remanufactured, or used cylinder head. Each option has its pros and cons:

  • New heads are usually more reliable but tend to be on the pricier side.
  • Remanufactured heads are less expensive than new cylinder heads and can be equally as dependable, but only when purchased from a reputable company.
  • Used heads are the most budget-friendly, but longevity can be hit or miss.

Ultimately, selecting the right cylinder head comes down to finding the balance of what is within your budget, what is reliable, and what has a good warranty. It will take a bit of research to sort through your options, but it will save you money in the long run.


  1. Construction

Cast iron and cast aluminum are the two most common types of cylinder heads. In the day, cast iron was widely used in engines and cylinder heads for its wear and heat resistance. However, cast iron cylinder heads tend to be the heavier option on the market and are prone to rusting. While it is still used, it is more common in diesel engines due to its durability. On the other hand, cast aluminum is the more expensive option as it does a better job of dissipating heat, is half the weight, is corrosion-resistant, and is easier to work with. If cost is a significant factor, this step will be easier to decide since there is a big price difference between the materials used to make cylinder heads.


Where to Buy Cylinder Heads

Once you’re ready to purchase a cylinder head, it’s time to decide where to buy it from. There are many different options to pick from, each with its advantages and disadvantages. Consider what’s most important for your situation before purchasing. Let us help make the decision-making process a little bit easier by summarizing the different options:


  • Dealerships

Car dealerships are a popular option for purchasing cylinder heads since they are one of the few places that offer OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) parts. These parts are made by the same manufacturer using the same materials and specifications. As a result, OEM parts have the design to be the perfect fit for your vehicle while delivering top-quality performance. Most OEM parts often come with a manufacturer-backed warranty if anything goes wrong.

However, this high quality will come with a higher price tag. Car dealerships will be the more expensive option for cylinder heads and will not be able to provide many options for vehicle makes and models. This limited selection will make it a less convenient option for most people making their cylinder head searches.


  • Auto Parts Stores

Auto parts stores carry popular make and model cylinder heads available immediately that day. Unlike online retailers, you don’t need shipping, making it a great option for people who need a replacement cylinder head on the same day. Workers are experts in the field and can provide expert guidance on selecting the right fitted cylinder head for your vehicle. Most auto parts stores will also have good return policies, so your purchase has solid protection.

While auto parts stores can be convenient for some, they can also be a headache for others with less common vehicles. These stores are known for having limited options available and tend to be more expensive than other avenues. Not to mention, they don’t offer OEM parts, only stock aftermarket parts. Another company makes aftermarket parts used for various vehicles.


  • Online Retailers (like Clearwater Cylinder Head)

Shopping for a cylinder head through online retailers is the perfect balance of finding a wide selection of OEM, aftermarket, and specialty parts. It’s a convenient option for those who want to see a side-by-side description and price breakdown of each part to determine the best fit for them. Their pricing tends to be competitive and fair, making it a good fit for any budget on the search for a cylinder head.

We understand that some common complaints with online retailers are shipping delays, return policies, and finding a reputable business. Clearwater Cylinder Head is an online retailer selling new and rebuilt cylinder heads nationwide for over 25 years. We are confident in our heads and our quality craftsmanship, so we are pleased to offer a warranty and returns policy.


  • Specialty Shops

Specialty shops are an excellent option for those with unique vehicle needs and want a customized cylinder head. These shops can offer expert advice on designing the perfect cylinder head for your vehicle. They tend to focus on making high-performance products since their clientele tends to be searching for the best of the best.

With being the best quality product, specialty shops will be expensive and offer limited options in stock. It takes time to make each custom cylinder head to order, so it will take longer to receive your cylinder head. That said, specialty shops are not your option for those rushing to get their cylinder head.


  • Salvage Yards

Since the parts are being reused and repurposed, salvage yards are an affordable environmental option. Many people with older or less common vehicles will find success looking for cylinder heads there.

However, it’s no surprise to find that there are risks with choosing a cylinder head from a salvage yard. From the part running the risk of being damaged or worn out, it can be a waste of money if it doesn’t function properly since yards will have little to no warranty policy. Additionally, compatibility issues make it even more difficult to find the right fit for your engine’s needs.


Tips for Making the Right Purchase

Purchasing a cylinder head is certainly an investment. Fortunately, we have five tips to help make purchasing easier for you without breaking the bank!


  1. Do Specific Research. Aside from looking up the best cylinder heads to purchase, you should do research specific to your vehicle. Otherwise, purchasing a cylinder head for the wrong model and make will be a waste of money and can cause more damage.
  2. Look for Warranties and Return Policies. Since cylinder heads can range from a hundred dollars to $4,000 or more, shopping from businesses that offer and respect their warranty and return policies is essential. Make sure to choose a place that explicitly lists their requirements and that you know them before purchasing.
  3. Consult with a Trusted Mechanic or Expert. In the same way, you would consult with an expert for any big purchase, it is always beneficial to ask for advice from someone who is an expert in car parts or cylinder heads. They will be able to determine if you are selecting the right cylinder head for your vehicle and if you are getting the best possible deal.
  4. Read Customer Reviews. Previous orders and customers’ testimonials will reveal if the business is worth purchasing from. It will give a good idea of the industry’s integrity, the quality of its products, and how it handles mistakes and returns.
  5. Get Proper Installation. Your extensive research would go to waste if you didn’t get the cylinder head adequately installed and tuned up after purchasing. Ensure you follow the correct maintenance and tuning post-purchase to keep your cylinder head in good condition.


Final Thoughts | About Clearwater Cylinder Head

We hope we have provided you with some invaluable information to get you started on your hunt for the right cylinder head. Remember, it is important to take time to do your research (like you are right now) and get expert opinions before making a decision. We know we’ve provided you with the tools to pick a good cylinder head to improve your vehicle’s performance.

If you are looking to replace your cylinder heads, we encourage you to call Clearwater Cylinder Head at 1-800-572-1963 so we can help you with the head selection and ordering process. You can see some of our Google reviews at and some of our eBay reviews at  We look forward to serving you and helping you find the perfect cylinder head for your vehicle!


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