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Old 12-22-2010, 05:43 PM   #1
jeepinwi
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Default timing chain, bent valves, head gasket? Help me diagnose

I just bought an 03 Cavalier with the 2.2 ecotec engine(VIN code F), 102k miles. Should be the same as the L cars. Engine has a ticking noise from under the valve cover and runs rough. Sound appears to be coming from timing chain/cylinder 1 area. Compression was 140, 160, 180 and 180 for cylinders 1-4 respectively. Adding oil to the cylinders made no difference, so I know the rings are not causing compression loss. I replaced the timing chain tensioner with a new one, but noise persists and compression does not change. I noticed metal flakes in the oil when I changed it. Also, the tensioner for the balance shaft chain does not appear to have any spring to it(may be causing ticking noise) It does not appear there is any coolant mixed with the oil, but head gasket may be leaking compression. Now questions...

Would a worn timing chain cause compression to vary like it is?

Does the balance shaft tensioner build pressure when the engine is running, or should it always have pressure like the timing chain tensioner?

Is there any way to verify bent valves without pulling the head?

I'm looking for some opinions before I pull the head off and have to buy new bolts and head gasket.
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Old 12-22-2010, 05:59 PM   #2
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Default Re: timing chain, bent valves, head gasket? Help me diagnose

Would a worn timing chain cause compression to vary like it is?
Doubtful, the timing chain only turns the camshaft. Doesn't affect the compression. UNLESS the valve timing is so far off that the valves are open at TDC- then some compressed air/fuel will leak out?

Does the balance shaft tensioner build pressure when the engine is running, or should it always have pressure like the timing chain tensioner?
D/K, but I believe that the tensioner on some cars uses oil pressure to tension the chain. My Kawasaki was mechanical, I dunno about your Sat.

Is there any way to verify bent valves without pulling the head?
YES. Mechanic can turn the engine to TDC for a piston, then put an air source into the spark plug hole, apply air pressure, it should hold steady. They did this to my old Camaro 350 and found bent valves.
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Old 12-22-2010, 06:39 PM   #3
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Default Re: timing chain, bent valves, head gasket? Help me diagnose

Some more info...I bought the car with the seller telling me the timing chain was making the ticking noise. I checked the camshaft timing, and none of the timing chain marks would line up with the camshafts or crank. Timing did appear to be spot on though. I disassembled everything and put it back together with all timing marks lined up and timing was absolutely correct. Ticking noise didn't change from before. I'm pretty sure the seller knows more about this engine than he's telling me.
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Old 12-22-2010, 08:40 PM   #4
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Default Re: timing chain, bent valves, head gasket? Help me diagnose

If you run compressed air into the sparkplug hole and listen at the exhaust pipe and the airintake to see if you hear air escaping, that will tell if you have good valvue or not. It does have to be at top dead center on each cylinder. The compression would be the same on all cylinders if the cams were out of time. You may have a calasped lifter if you don't hear any noise on the air test. A bad lifter will change the compression test.

Last edited by Firebug; 12-22-2010 at 08:45 PM.
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Old 11-09-2015, 08:32 PM   #5
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Default Re: timing chain, bent valves, head gasket? Help me diagnose

Those fine metal flecks you found in the oil could have entered the lifters compromising one or more of them. The flecks may have come from wear of the balance sprockets and or timing sprockets (crank, cams) or from a upper guide that has worn down through the thin plastic guide so the chain is pulling it from the metal under the guide. Mine did that and is where I think these flecks came from.

You should pull the front cover and inspect the balance shaft tensioner by removing it and don't re-use it. The hole behind it that feeds it oil probably has what looks like black mud with more flecks of metal in it. My old tensioner was full of the same, found when I disassembled it. These flecks are so fine you can rub it between your fingers and cannot feel them. I find it almost impossible for them to have passed through the oil filter to get where they are. I sprayed carb cleaner down the oil passage from the top of the block (under the head) almost directly above the balance shaft tensioner oil hole. Plenty of junk shot out of the oil hole.

I'd pull the head for a valve job and replace the lifters, check the cam bearing surfaces. Clean out the oil pan. New balance shaft chain and guide kit as well as a new timing chain and guide set. While its apart, soak the top of the pistons in Berryman B12. This will loosen carbon on the crowns and some will seep past the rings and loosen gum from them as well.

I'm in the process of trying to save a 2.2 L61 in a Saturn Vue right now. I'm going to use a cheap conventional oil for the first run after its back together. Not sure how long I'll run that before draining it and replacing it using Castrol Edge with Titanium. I'm crossing my fingers we don't have to change the engine out for another.
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Old 11-10-2015, 08:26 AM   #6
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Default Re: timing chain, bent valves, head gasket? Help me diagnose

UPDATE ON METAL FLAKES IN MY OIL. I tested the fine metal flakes I found in my 2.2 L61's Balance Shaft Chain Tensioner. They cannot be picked up with a neodymium magnet so they must be aluminum. I tested several samples and not a single one of them transferred any flakes onto the magnet. I inspected the magnet afterward using a 10x lupe like a Jeweler uses.
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