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Old 02-26-2011, 10:47 AM   #1
crackertroy
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Default low cylinder compression, using oil: safe to drive anyway?

I have a 1998 Saturn SL2 (5 speed manual) and the motor has been using about 1 quart of oil every week. I have a 45 minute commute to work one way everyday.

A mechanic told me it has low compression and needs a new/rebuilt engine. Is it okay to drive the car until the motor completely stops working? or will this cause the motor to be damaged beyond repair?

Thanks.

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Old 02-26-2011, 11:47 AM   #2
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Default Re: low cylinder compression, using oil: safe to drive anyway?

Keep the oil level as close to full as you can manage and keep driving it. Try to hold the RPM at 3000 or less will help on oil consumption. Check the cam cover for oil leaks. Clean the area between the cover and head with beak cleaner then run the car at idle until the fan cycles on and off then check the previously cleaned seam for signs of oil by wiping small areas with toilet paper. The TP will show oil stains very well.

Changing to one of these PCV valves may help also. AC/Delco CV4000C, Fram FV410, BWD PCV484, AutoZone PCV 1009 this PCV just has a small hole in the end, no part inside that rattles and it is designed to cut down on oil consumption.
See this thread for more info on these PCV valves.
http://www.saturnfans.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=162451

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Old 02-27-2011, 12:52 PM   #3
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Default Re: low cylinder compression, using oil: safe to drive anyway?

Quote:
Originally Posted by crackertroy View Post
the motor has been using about 1 quart of oil every week. I have a 45 minute commute to work one way everyday.
what does that translate to in miles?
Quote:
A mechanic told me it has low compression and needs a new/rebuilt engine.
Did this mechanic actually do a compression test, or did he/she tell you this based on how much oil is being used? The amount of oil being used and the compression are not necessarily related. You could have perfect compression and still be using oil.

Does the engine seem weak, is it hard to start? Is it blowing clouds of blue smoke out the back?

Quote:
Is it okay to drive the car until the motor completely stops working? or will this cause the motor to be damaged beyond repair?
as OldNuc said, keep the engine oil full and keep driving it. If you are burning (and not leaking) oil at 1 qt a week, you probably want to fill it mid week with a half quart, rather than waiting to put in a full quart each weekend.

Most of the S-series engines burn some oil. There is a member, Luke, whose car has 620k miles and he is currently burning a qt every 400 miles. The amount of oil being used does not affect the longevity as long as the oil level is kept up

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Old 02-27-2011, 07:06 PM   #4
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Default Re: low cylinder compression, using oil: safe to drive anyway?

Quote:
Originally Posted by alordofchaos View Post
what does that translate to in miles?
Did this mechanic actually do a compression test, or did he/she tell you this based on how much oil is being used? The amount of oil being used and the compression are not necessarily related. You could have perfect compression and still be using oil.

Does the engine seem weak, is it hard to start? Is it blowing clouds of blue smoke out the back?

as OldNuc said, keep the engine oil full and keep driving it. If you are burning (and not leaking) oil at 1 qt a week, you probably want to fill it mid week with a half quart, rather than waiting to put in a full quart each weekend.

Most of the S-series engines burn some oil. There is a member, Luke, whose car has 620k miles and he is currently burning a qt every 400 miles. The amount of oil being used does not affect the longevity as long as the oil level is kept up
Thanks! The mechanic actually did a compression check, I work at a high school and the shop teacher did it.

I suppose I drive 50 miles per day, five times a week so 250 miles per week. There is no smoke and it has started to delay on the start a little but I was just going to drive it until it quit and replace it or rebuild it.

And with gas prices going sky high, my other auto is a 1990 Silverado 350 V8 that gets like 10 miles to the gallon so I need the Saturn for my commute!

Do you still think it safe to drive and keep adding the oil?

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Old 02-27-2011, 07:33 PM   #5
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Default Re: low cylinder compression, using oil: safe to drive anyway?

Do you happen to have compression numbers and quarts/mile numbers?

Yes it is safe to drive but there may be a very easy fix also.

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Old 02-28-2011, 06:31 PM   #6
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Default Re: low cylinder compression, using oil: safe to drive anyway?

The compression was 45psi in the 3rd cylinder and it has not been blowing any smoke, just using the oil. The engine is still strong and I'm thinking of driving it until I have to replace it or fixing it if you think it can be easily done. The car is in great shape otherwise.

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Old 02-28-2011, 06:52 PM   #7
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Default Re: low cylinder compression, using oil: safe to drive anyway?

You have a burnt exhaust valve in #3. You either replace the valve, replace the head, or replace the head and rebuild the rest of the engine. Or you replace the engine with a good junk yard engine. You are down on power but do not know it because of no frame of reference. It will continue to run reasonably well until it dies. with the cost of cars and gas being what they are I would fix it now.

More info on burnt valves.
http://www.saturnfans.com/forums/sho...=1#post1717077

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Old 02-28-2011, 07:14 PM   #8
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Default Re: low cylinder compression, using oil: safe to drive anyway?

Thanks OldNuc, I really appreciate you responding to my threads, not what I wanted to hear but what I needed to hear.

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Old 02-28-2011, 07:44 PM   #9
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Default Re: low cylinder compression, using oil: safe to drive anyway?

Yes, not the best news but it will continue to run and if you keep the RPM below 3500 it will last. You can save up for a proper rebuild and have a good car that is paid for and gets good mileage.If you happen to live in the right part of the country you may find a good used engine at a J/Y for cheap. Try looking here. http://car-part.com/

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Old 03-12-2011, 12:07 AM   #10
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Default Re: low cylinder compression, using oil: safe to drive anyway?

Can't you get refurbished heads on ebay for like $200?

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Old 03-12-2011, 12:27 AM   #11
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Default Re: low cylinder compression, using oil: safe to drive anyway?

Many are junk, at a high price. J & C sells good ones fro 270 for DOHC.

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Old 03-12-2011, 01:27 AM   #12
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Default Re: low cylinder compression, using oil: safe to drive anyway?

Quote:
Originally Posted by crackertroy View Post
The compression was 45psi in the 3rd cylinder and it has not been blowing any smoke, just using the oil. The engine is still strong and I'm thinking of driving it until I have to replace it or fixing it if you think it can be easily done. The car is in great shape otherwise.
That cylinder can not possibly be firing if that is the hot compression. You are running on 3 cylinders and that can be damaging to the engine due to vibration from the power imbalance. I would not trust it.

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Old 03-12-2011, 09:44 AM   #13
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Default Re: low cylinder compression, using oil: safe to drive anyway?

They will fire fine at something over 1700 RPM but are low on power and no misfire codes. This is why people do not notice the problem until the idle gets very rough.

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Old 03-12-2011, 11:44 AM   #14
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Default Re: low cylinder compression, using oil: safe to drive anyway?

The good news is that it's fairly trivial to remove/replace the head on our cars. I'd just get the head rebuilt by a reputable local shop (or order a rebuilt one from a known-good source) and move on with life. It won't be THAT expensive and you'll be back to 35+mpg and normal power. MUCH cheaper than replacing the engine. A decent mechanic can do that job in a couple of hours.

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Old 03-12-2011, 12:52 PM   #15
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Default Re: low cylinder compression, using oil: safe to drive anyway?

It is not a difficult job if you have done it before. There are many potential mistakes for the first timer and a shop will charge you dearly to do the job. A head overhaul including the usual parts is 200 to 250 for a DOHC. Then there is the timing set issue, head gasket and head bolts. This can get expensive in a hurry.

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Old 03-12-2011, 04:53 PM   #16
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Default Re: low cylinder compression, using oil: safe to drive anyway?

If you have a REALLY good service manual and some experience a head job is doable. The big pitfall is getting the valve timing right going back together. Take the head to a good machine shop and pay the man. Don't try to lap the valves yourself. Look for a "top end" gasket set as that will save a ton of money over buying separately.

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Old 03-12-2011, 06:20 PM   #17
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Default Re: low cylinder compression, using oil: safe to drive anyway?

Quote:
Originally Posted by OldNuc View Post
It is not a difficult job if you have done it before. There are many potential mistakes for the first timer and a shop will charge you dearly to do the job. A head overhaul including the usual parts is 200 to 250 for a DOHC. Then there is the timing set issue, head gasket and head bolts. This can get expensive in a hurry.
Definitely not for the 1st timer, but as far as these jobs go, it's a pretty straightforward job on the 1.9L.

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Old 03-12-2011, 07:08 PM   #18
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Default Re: low cylinder compression, using oil: safe to drive anyway?

Yes, compared to some other DOHC engines I can think of this one is easy.

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Old 03-16-2011, 10:10 AM   #19
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Default Re: low cylinder compression, using oil: safe to drive anyway?

Thanx guys for the posts! I too am burning alot of oil! Car is running great after the typical thermostat(which one of the hold down prongs was broke off!) temp sensor, all hoses, tune up,egr cleaning,pcv valve,crank position sensor, pulled the coil pack cleaned all connections used diaelectric grease(was getting a cam position fault), throttle body pull off and clean sinse i got my '99 SL2 4speed automatic 96,00 miles 3 months ago! Im getting 25 in the city!!!
It does blow a cloud if i take it past 3500-4000 rpms, so I try not doing it! Its my sons car when he gets his license in a month! im concernered he wont check the oil enough! You gatta stay on top of it!!!!
My question is two part, How do you determine if its the wiper ring or the head?? Im gonna do a compression test on all cylinders this weekend if I have time! What is the proper compression for these DOHC motors?? Trick is if the wiper ring is bad or gummed up it doesnt affect compression ?!
Once again thanx for all the help i got so far with this car! Im a Ford man so I need some GM help here!

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Old 03-16-2011, 11:31 AM   #20
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Default Re: low cylinder compression, using oil: safe to drive anyway?

The minimum compression is 190 and the service limit is 180. To do this crank the engine until the test gauge quits increasing. Remove all plugs, block throttle open, remove the PCM B fuse from the engine compartment fuse box.

You can not really tell if the valve seals are leaking. Clogged oil rings do not impact compression either.

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