It's a 1999 Dodge Ram 1500 4x4, Laramie SLT, automatic transmission, 5.9l magnum engine, and crew cab (222k mi).

It seems to have some head gasket leaks, as there is some coolant burning. I have only basic carpentry tools, nothing special and I would like to change the head gaskets. I'm looking for a step-by-step guide on how to replace them (as model specific as possible), and the tools/materials I need to do this, if in fact I can do it at home.

  • I think you can pull it off. If you have another vehicle in case you don't get this one done in time to get back to working then it's a low pressure project and you can take your time and be thoughtful about or get stuck and not feel anxiety about it. I say go for it. Someone will respond to this one for sure Jan 18, 2016 at 21:52
  • @DucatiKiller I have other trucks I can use. My main problem is I don't have a sheltered area available, or even paved. I can tarp stuff if necessary though.
    – J. Musser
    Jan 18, 2016 at 21:54
  • That poses a bit of a process issue perhaps where you need to be thoughtful about blowing debris, if it's windy you need to stand down and seal it up, but all in all I still think your good. I've worked under similar conditions in the past with an open engine to the environment, You may need some plastic sheet and tape and some rags to jam in holes to prevent contamination but all in all I think you can come up with something to maintain a level of particle control to get this done. Jan 18, 2016 at 21:57
  • You realize I did this entire job a little over a year ago ... to include new heads. Jan 18, 2016 at 21:57
  • @Paulster2 I was thinking you would have this one nailed when I read it. Jan 18, 2016 at 22:00

2 Answers 2


Auto Zone's online vehicle repair guides can be found here: http://www.autozone.com/repairinfo/repairguide/repairGuideMain.jsp

You'll have to create an account, enter your vehicle and drill down. Curiously it's not found directly under "Engine" but once there, if you look in the left pane you'll see a bullet for "Cylinder Head". A complete list of instructions and diagrams can be found if you click there and then scroll down. (It may take a few tries; not an intuitive interface).

I'm not sure if this link is account specific, but try this (once logged in); http://www.autozone.com/repairinfo/repairguide/repairGuideContent.jsp?pageId=0996b43f80394e5c

If you need more diagrams and are willing to pay for it, there is also http://alldatadiy.com .


It's not really a complicated job, but it needs a bit of care and attention. This is more of a general guide, as I don't know the details of the Ram engine...


  • Basic Socket set
  • Clicking Torque wrench
  • Workshop manual for your truck (mainly for the torque wrench settings)
  • Assorted spanners, screwdrivers etc.


Disconnect the battery.

Begin by draining the coolant - save it and dispose of it properly, don't let it leak into watercourses or onto the ground, especially if you have pets, as it's toxic to animals.

Remove the upper cooling hoses. Remove the serpentine/alternator/fan belt(s). Remove the valve cover(s) and cambelt/chain covers.

Disconnect electronic sensors, spark plug leads and fuel lines.

Lock the crankshaft in position (again, the manual should specify how for your engine), and mark the positions of it, the camshaft and the belt/chain. Remove the cambelt/chain.

Remove intake and exhaust manifolds.

Double-check that there's nothing left attached to the head(s).

Slacken the head-bolts in the order specified by the manual.

Remove the head bolts, then lift the head straight off.

Take the head(s) to a machine shop and get them checked for flatness. Clean off the old headgasket from the block. If it's a wet-liner engine, be very careful not to disturb the liners.

Refitting is then the reverse of removal. Make sure the camshaft is aligned with the marks you made before fitting the head. Use new head-bolts, and tighten them in the order specified by the manual - this will often be an odd sequence involving tightening to a certain torque, then going round again to a tighter torque, and often going round again turning an extra 1/4 turn or similar.

Check and double check the timing as you refit the belt/chain. Turn it by hand a couple of turns and make sure the marks still align. Refit the rest of the stuff. Check it all again, and refill the coolant. Start the engine, and let it warm up to temperature, checking frequently for anything amiss.

You may need to re-tighten the head bolts after a certain mileage, but again the manual should specify that.

  • Not only is coolant toxic to pets and wildlife, it has a sweet scent/taste that attracts them.
    – user16128
    Jan 13, 2020 at 2:56

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