Diesel Diagnosis: Experiencing Cylinder Head Problems On A Caterpillar C15 ACERT

The Caterpillar C15 ACERT diesel engine is no doubt one of the most popular heavy-duty machinery engines. Unfortunately, it has been documented as being a little problematic, to say the least, especially when it comes to their cylinder heads. 

We have created this post to help you understand why cylinder head problems happen and what can be done to prevent them. Knowledge is power and knowing what causes certain problems will help you prevent them from occurring in the first place.

Want to know more about Caterpillar C15 ACERT Cylinder Head Problem? Check out our informative video below: 

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Common Symptoms Of Cylinder Head Issues On a Caterpillar C15 ACERT Engine

Cylinder head issues are the same on the C15 engine as they are on many other common diesel engines. Spotting a cylinder head problem early on will prevent further, often more expensive issues later down the road. Telltale Caterpillar C15 ACERT cylinder head issues include, but are not limited to:

Loss Of Coolant

Coolant loss can be caused by a variety of reasons, including a cracked cylinder head. Whatever the initial cause of your coolant loss is, it should be remedied as quickly as possible to help prevent any further damage to the block and other key components. 

Compression In The Coolant

Compression in the coolant is a sign that your C15 Cylinder head is damaged. Alternatively, it could be caused by a defective head gasket. An experienced shop such as Highway & Heavy Parts can easily help diagnose the problem. 

Fluid In The Exhaust

A cracked or damaged head could allow fluids to enter the exhaust system. This can be noticed through the excessive amount of white smoke that is associated with burning coolant. In most cases, the smoke is accompanied by a sweet smell.  

Compression Leak Or “chirp” Under Load 

The easiest way to tell if a compression leak on your C15 ACERT diesel engine is to perform a compression test. It will determine if there is a head gasket or even worse, a cylinder head issue. When an engine is idle, all may seem fine. Put a load on it, and even the smallest compression leaks will become apparent.

White Smoke From Exhaust

White smoke is never a good sign. Oftentimes, it is caused by coolant making its way into the exhaust system. This can be attributed to a failing head gasket or even a defective cylinder head.


One of the most noticeable signs of a damaged or failing cylinder head on your Caterpillar C15 ACERT diesel engine is overheating. If you notice a spike in engine temperature, get the problem checked out as soon as possible.

Keep in mind that the symptoms noted above are just the most common, but are not the only signs of cylinder head issues. In worst-case scenarios, it could be a combination of issues that can disguise themselves as other problems. The best thing to do is get a professional shop like Highway & Heavy Parts to investigate the problem and come to a conclusion. It could be something as simple as a gasket issue or as serious as a warped/cracked head. 

To help clear up any confusion, HHP has a post on what causes diesel engine noise while it is under load. The issues noted in that post also apply to the Caterpillar C15 ACERT diesel engine, so it is worth reading up on.

Shop Caterpillar C15 Cylinder Heads!What Can Be Done About Caterpillar C15 ACERT Cylinder Head Problems?

The cylinder head damage (if any) will determine the next action which should be taken. Some cylinder heads can be salvaged via resurfacing or welding, while others will need replacing. Every engine wears down at different rates and therefore the potential for damage will vary from one application to the next. 

Does your Caterpillar C15 ACERT diesel engine have any of the mentioned cylinder head failure engine signs? We can help get you back up and running right away. From a simple gasket to complete cylinder heads that are engineered to withstand increased pressure and temperatures, HHP has you covered!


Final Words

Check out our complete inventory of C15 ACERT diesel engine parts we have in stock. We take pride in being one of the best suppliers of cylinder heads for your Caterpillar engine. Out knowledgeable, ASE-certified staff is ready to help answer any questions you might have. Give us a call today at 844-304-7688 or request a quote online today!

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