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Lolly_Poppins 12-19-2019 02:36 PM

Cylinder 3 misfire & Fuel in Oil
Hi all! This is my very first post and I'm a total novice when it comes to car repair. My best friend has done most of the work under and I've done most of the easy stuff up top. I apologize in advance if I don't know the right terminology--please take it easy on me! :)

I have a 96 Saturn SL2 with a manual transmission. On Thanksgiving, my check engine light came on and started flashing. When I ran the code reader, it came up as a Cylinder 3 misfire. I took care of the easiest, cheapest stuff first--HEET in the gas tank and replaced the plugs and wires. After that, the light stopped flashing constantly to staying on steadily and only flashing when shifting into 3rd gear back to steady on when shifting into 4th and 5th.

I had one person look at it who is the one who noticed that I suddenly have a good amount of gas in my oil. He mentioned running Seafoam...somewhere.For the life of me I can't remember what he said because he was supposed to come over to do this himself. This is where I'm getting stuck. He disappeared so now I'm back to trying to figure this out myself. I am needing to do any repairs as inexpensively as possible. I have all the tools needed for the most part and my best friend is pretty awesome at the technical hands-on stuff--I'm ok with the logical stuff.

My next steps I'm thinking are compression test and possibly swapping out fuel injectors to see if the problem moves. Any advice on what I should do next are much needed and appreciated! I love my car and would need to fix if possible due to inability to purchase another. Though if its time to throw in the towel I can accept that advice as well.

I know I'm not mentioning some stuff that's probably pertinent so please ask! Thank you all so much in advance.

I'm Lindsey and my car is Lolly :)

alordofchaos 12-19-2019 02:44 PM

Re: Cylinder 3 misfire & Fuel in Oil
Follow the plug wires from the plugs to where they mount on the block. There are two coil packs - swap the coil packs and see if the misfire moves.

Swap the fuel injectors next and see if it moves.

I'd skip the seafoam for now. I suspect the thinking was "sticking fuel injector flooding the cylinder and washing down into the gas" - but the same thing can happen with a fouled plug / no spark. Fouled plugs are generally a symptom, rather than a cause, but replacing plugs can lead to temporary improvements.

Welcome to saturnfans! Have you checked out the sticky thread?

edit: was any other work done on the car recently?

BV22 12-19-2019 03:08 PM

Re: Cylinder 3 misfire & Fuel in Oil
Welcome to the forum!

When these engines burn a valve, it is almost always in cylinder 3. A compression test will tell you if this may be the issue. A burned valve results in little or no compression in the affected cylinder, leading to misfires and bad performance.

Advice above is also worth pursuing.

Lolly_Poppins 12-19-2019 06:11 PM

Re: Cylinder 3 misfire & Fuel in Oil
Thank you guys so much for replying so quickly! My friend is coming over in the morning so once we get some results from compression etc. I will post. Thanks again so much! It's so great to have a place to get some actual practical advice instead of the run around or being told "Saturns are throw-away cars" :(


Lolly_Poppins 12-20-2019 05:24 PM

Re: Cylinder 3 misfire & Fuel in Oil
Ok, so compression test shows 150psi across the board EXCEPT in cylinder 3 which has 0 compression. So that means a burnt valve then? What exactly does this mean for my girl Lolly? :(

billr 12-20-2019 06:22 PM

Re: Cylinder 3 misfire & Fuel in Oil
It means the cylinder head will have to be removed and refurbished/replaced. Minimal cost is about $100 if only one valve is replaced and you have free labor. At the top end, I'm guessing about $750 if a shop does the R&R using a quality rebuilt head and you get a warranty. Lots of possibilities in between, but that is the range.

PS: I'm a bit worried about that "gas in the oil". Generally, a bad valve won't cause that. I'm thinking something else is wrong that [I]resulted[/I] in the bad valve, and possibly a bad cat converter by now. You may fix the head only to find there are other problems and costs. This could get expensive, more than the value of the car.

Lolly_Poppins 12-20-2019 07:02 PM

Re: Cylinder 3 misfire & Fuel in Oil
Ok, we kinda figured about the head so im looking at a used one. I do happen to have free labor luckily. But to be clear, a bad cat converter would cause in the oil? BC i was already figuring that was a problem and have already planned on replacing it. Also, i do realize that driving with hese problems isn't a great plan however am i understanding correctly that most of this is mainly pollution control? If i need to drive, is it a viable option? Keeping in mind of course this would be short trips and city driving. Thanks again for all the great advice guys1

billr 12-20-2019 07:26 PM

Re: Cylinder 3 misfire & Fuel in Oil
The cat and gas in oil are not directly related, just possibly symptoms of an over-rich fueling at one cylinder that resulted in a rich reading at the O2 sensor. Then, the PCM leaned the mixture and caused the valve to burn. Meanwhile, the "bad" cylinder was still too rich (leaking injector that the PCM really had no control over) and feeding so much fuel that it got down in the oil and fouled the cat.

If you have noticeable fuel in the oil, that isn't going to be the best lube for the engine internals. You could turn a bad-head situation into a bad-engine one; double (or more) the cost and effort of the head job. Also, I expect the fuel economy is pretty poor. It has to be your call. I would do it soon, in my fairly warm and dry garage. If you have to do work outside in the snow, I can understand trying to wait a few more months!

SlayZombi 12-20-2019 08:56 PM

Re: Cylinder 3 misfire & Fuel in Oil
Curious now as to why it's typically cylinder 3 that burns a valve....

billr 12-20-2019 10:22 PM

Re: Cylinder 3 misfire & Fuel in Oil
My understanding is that the EGR inlet port is there, so hot gas is often flowing by the exhaust valve(s) and they get hotter there than all the other cylinders.

fdryer 12-22-2019 03:27 PM

Re: Cylinder 3 misfire & Fuel in Oil
If you continue to run with one dead cylinder, the unburned fuel goes straight into the catalytic converter. Under normal conditions, the catcon reacts to exhaust byproducts and converts them to harmless gases and water vapor. The high heat helps with cooking. Unburned fuel like your dead cylinder feeds the unburned fuel to the fire in the catcon and will burn it out in short order. Some see a red hot catcon in daylight. The flashing check engine light is telling you the catcon is operating well above its temperature range from added fuel it's not supposed to have. Some here learned the hard way and burned out their catcon and had to replace it due to emissions requirements. If your state requires emissions, beware. No emissions requirements, replace it with a straight pipe.

When a catcon disintegrates from wear and tear or accelerated from feeding fuel into it, most catcons fall apart internally and block exhaust flow. Catcons are made of high temperature porous ceramic substrate in brick form. The large surface area of porous ceramic imbedded with platinum allows free exhaust flow while conversion occurs. Once these bricks disintegrate, they can partially or completely block of exhaust flow, the equivalent of engine constipation to severely restrict exhaust flow.

Lolly_Poppins 12-27-2019 12:50 AM

Re: Cylinder 3 misfire & Fuel in Oil
Thank you all again for the fantastic information. I do live in a state where emissions are required and I am not driving her. I can't do anything until the 2nd and then i'll be on a major time crunch to get parts....I assume just the head and catcon....and get everything installed in time to get emissions and tags before my (hopefully!) extension will run out. SO that will be at MOST, 8 least 5 days. I'm on the search for the least expensive used parts that i can possibly find as I've already got my mechanics. If anyone knows any place in denver or colorado in general for a good deal i'm all ears :)

billr 12-27-2019 01:41 PM

Re: Cylinder 3 misfire & Fuel in Oil
Since you are on a tight money [I]and[/I] time budget, the mechanic you use is going to be crucial to success here. "Success" meaning getting it ready to pass the smog check in time.

What is the plan, is the head going to be pulled for evaluation before deciding what corrective action is needed? Is the mechanic open-to and capable of changing out the bad valve, or will the head be sent out for rebuild? Or, will it be replaced with a rebuilt or (gasp!) used head?

Do you have a contingency plan if the head is removed and there appears to be some damage to the block assembly? [I][B]That is not likely[/B][/I], but could be a real "gotcha". A warped deck surface or cracked piston or big gouges in a cylinder wall could turn this into a longer and more expensive project than anticipated.

Depending on what you plan for the head, I would not buy a bunch of parts ahead of time. Denver is a major city, most parts should be available "next day" or even in stock locally. The exception being the head, if an already-rebuilt one is going to be used.

The cat, especially, I would wait on. Time to change that out is minimal. Get the engine repaired and see if a new cat is even going to be necessary.

Lolly_Poppins 12-29-2019 01:00 AM

Re: Cylinder 3 misfire & Fuel in Oil
Sooo, haha, I hadn't even thought about any of that. That's why I'm here though. :) My mechanic is my best girlfriend and her brother. She has been my go-to for the last year. She is mechanically inclined where I am not, and we've been watching videos and asking questions and going from the. Definitely to an extent trial and error but so far it's been working. I've been relaying the information you good people have been giving me over to her. I have the tools and I go on a scavenger hunt of sorts every time we do repairs to find the most inexpensive but still reasonably decent part. She's the mechanic; I'm the tool *****. LOL Well only to an extent.
What I would love, (which feels like I'm asking for way too much) would be a plan. I think this is way more than I should ask for and if nobody answers, I would totally understand....but if you don't ask, you'll never know right? I don't need totally detailed or minute, but if anyone would be willing to kind of map out how to go about this from here, I would be eternally grateful. Which I already am! :) But I hadn't even considered that the cat. converter might not need replaced. Though there is a hole in the exhaust....don't remember the name of the section (?) but its towards the front of the car maybe 3-4 ft from the bumper. Just realized I hadn't mentioned that.... :(Remember, NOVICE!:dizzy:But again least expensive route, 1st goal to get that check engine light off and pass emissions, 2nd goal, of course, to keep Lolly going a little while longer. :) Sorry for the book here. I so appreciate all the time even just reading this guys. You have no idea. Oh and I am going to be using a used head. I know its a chance but my budget is non-existent. Junk yards are charging about $70 from what I've seen. So thoughts on that and whatever i need with it would also be much appreciated. Thank you!

billr 12-29-2019 02:37 PM

Re: Cylinder 3 misfire & Fuel in Oil
Is the car completely "out of service" now, can you start disassembly right away? Things will go a lot easier and better if this isn't a 'rush job". Even if this has to be done outdoors, having some of the engine innards exposed shouldn't be much of a problem, just keep things covered so they can't catch any rain/snow/hail. Don't forget the stuff that can blow, just protecting from a vertical exposure may not be enough... I'm assuming exposed parts would be left with their "natural" oily finish, not thoroughly degreased and [I]then[/I] left outside.

Photos will be very helpful for us to advise what you are seeing or problems you are running into.

Considering your time frame and tight budget, I advise doing the with the engine still in the car, but some things are hard to get to that way (timing cover!), so others may advise removing the engine. Listen to the opinions, there is +/- both ways.

That hole in the exhaust you described (pictures!!!) is probably in what is called the "down pipe", possibly the "flex pipe". It will definitely have to get repaired before this will pass smog test; maybe even before the engine will run completely normal. Replacing that pipe usually means replacing the cat, no matter how you go about it. I think some folks have found those pipe/cat assemblies new for about $180, but it might be quite a search. Worse yet, the replacement units are not always (often?) a proper fit, so there will be some fussing to get things aligned unless you go to a muffler shop for welding. Or can your friends do welding? In my area, cats are removed at JY right away for recycling, so no use even discussing sourcing the down/flex pipe from a JY, you would still have to have a new cat and have it welded in.

I would start the disassembly by hitting all nuts/screws on the exhaust system with a penetrating oil, like "PB Blaster". WD-40 is useless for this purpose, don't even bother with that! That penetrant needs to soak in for hours/days, so "recoat" it a few times as you move on to begin the real disassembly.

Which is... removing the timing cover. There are a lot of fairly easy things to remove there, but getting to some of the screws that actually fasten the cover can be quite "entertaining". Be prepared for some frustration. (This is assuming the engine is still in the car). Here are a few tips:

1) Don't completely remove accessories like the alternator, power-steering pump, or A/C compressor. Leave those attached to their wires/hoses and just flop them off to the side.

2) There is one screw in the upper-center of the timing cover that is kind of hidden (buried down in a "well", as I recall). Don't try to pry that cover off until you are sure all screws are out... Don't forget the screws coming up from the oil pan, either. No, the pan does not have to come off or even be loosened at the other screws holding it to the engine

3) The big screw holding the crank pulley in place can also be a challenge. It is easy to get to (I assume you have removed the RF wheel and plastic splash-shield behind the wheel), but is quite tight. Holding the crank while trying to turn that screw is the problem. I prefer the "rope in a hole" method (will describe later, if you want), but you will get many other suggestions. Just keep in mind that you need to [I]re-install[/I] that screw. Some ideas, like using an impact wrench or "bumping" the starter, are useless for the re-install, you might as well adopt a way that will do [I]both[/I] the remove and re-install.

Is that enough for now? I, too, feel like I am writing a "book", and with only a few fingers. It takes a while.

Oh, if you are shopping for a JY head already (I would wait to see what the old on is like), there are a few "gotchas" there. I will detail later today.

One last thought: Have you repeated the compression test, to be [I]sure[/I] there wasn't an error there? Have you added a table-spoon of oil to the top of the #3 to do a "wet" compression test there. I don't expect there will be any change in compression, but it is easy to do and may give some clue about what you are going to find when the head is pulled. Do you have the tools to do a leak-down type of test? Applying compressed air to the bad cylinder and hearing a lot of hissing at the exhaust tail pipe is a pretty sure indication an exhaust valve is leaking/burned.

Lolly_Poppins 12-30-2019 02:59 AM

Re: Cylinder 3 misfire & Fuel in Oil
Ok, so I definitely can start working on it now. Again, something i hadn't even considered. We will be working outdoor completely in the open but will definitely keep everything covered/held down. Such great suggestions! Also I won't be cleaning much unless there's like dirt or anything so no worries theres.

The engine--don't have a way to remove so will be just dealing with it.

Hole in pipe--I'm adding all the pictures I took when I patched the hole mid-August. There is an oil leak as you can see--haven't gotten around to figuring that one out. I primarily patched the hole to quiet the car some. There's a lot of vibration and noise which seems to be from possibly the engine mount though Ive replaced the one on top but can't see where the other one is. Mainly have been strapping stuff down as it looks like the previous owners did as well. I know, I know lol. Trying to tackle the major stuff with my very limited skills.

Have not repeated the compression test. Will do that and the wet test as well and will post results. Any other tips for the wet? As for the leak down test--I do not have that particular test tool but I do have an air compressor and of course the socket wrench. It doesn't look like this is a tool that i can rent though I did find one pretty cheap on Amazon. Guess I can always return it since seems like a pretty seldom used thing. Unless there's another way of doing this without having to purchase?

Btw, PB Blaster is my favorite :) I haven't used WD40 since I discovered it. I actually mostly have used it when restoring my dad's and grandpa's antique hand tools. It's amazing stuff :)

Are there any other tools that I might need to obtain that i might not have? Obviously I have the usual ones. Luckily I inherited a lot of my dads tools when he passed away. I'm still figuring out what a few are! :)

Also I'm including all the pictures I took when I patched the hole. I have no idea if they're helpful or not since honestly I don't' know what some of it is but can't hurt I guess. I will take more once I start pulling things apart.

Thanks again!!!

PS. Having problems attaching pictures. Will keep trying..

billr 12-30-2019 01:00 PM

Re: Cylinder 3 misfire & Fuel in Oil
Before I go into a long saga about the "head hunt", are you planning on pulling one yourself in a JY, or getting a used one from "off the shelf" by an online seller or such? Do you already have an aluminum valve cover, or is it still the OEM plastic one?

If you are going to be pulling a head in a JY, that leak-down hose/adapter might be [I]quite[/I] handy there, too. I will explain, depending on your answers to the above. Don't get too fussy about the compression re-tests, we are just looking to see if that one cylinder remains at "zero" or close to it. But if it is still low, then re-check one of the other cylinders too, to be sure the gauge is still working OK!

Lolly_Poppins 12-31-2019 03:04 AM

Re: Cylinder 3 misfire & Fuel in Oil
So in regard to the compression test, I wanted to mention real quick that it was really obvious that #3 was different from the other just from how it sounded when turning the ignition on. So I think it is what we're thinking but will definitely test again. :)
Still couldn't get any pictures to upload but will be trying again and will answer your other questions :)

trottida 12-31-2019 09:23 AM

Re: Cylinder 3 misfire & Fuel in Oil
How are you trying to load photos?

Are you selecting the paperclip to open the Manage attachments window > selecting Choose File > locating and selecting the file in the file directory > repeat if multiple files > selecting the upload button?

fdryer 12-31-2019 04:32 PM

Re: Cylinder 3 misfire & Fuel in Oil
Most here aren't aware that uploading snapshots may be problematic for only one reason - the majority of digital cameras and cellphone snapshots create large file sizes too large to upload as attachments here. Examine each snapshot file size. Attachments here are limited to 150 [I]kilobytes[/I] file size. Most images are in several megabytes so they're not accepted as attachments. The solution is to use imaging software like Windows Paint or similar image handlers to resize the file for acceptance here. If it's a jpeg file, you can resize to less around a megabyte and be accepted. Experiment then if an upload is successful, press the preview tab to see a screen to display your snapshot(s) then click on it to see how everyone will see your snapshots. If you get this far, edit as much as necessary then press the submit tab.

Size matters between between successful uploads or not.

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