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Old 06-24-2018, 11:31 PM   #1
StrnWolf
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Default Help Figure Out if Bad Head Gasket

So I may be gifted a 1995 Saturn SL2 soon. The catch is it needs a few small repairs BUT possibly one big. It is due for CA smog in 2 months and I know it will fail because oil is getting into cylinders. I am wondering of ways for these engines specifically I can find out if the head gasket is blown.

Here's the details: Every time I remove spark plugs they are all covered in fresh liquid oil. Its 100% fact the valve cover must be replaced, in fact the cover is not even mounted properly. I am wondering and much hoping that since oil seeps into the spark plug holes, can the oil make its way into the chambers from there?

I have been the owners mechanic and I have never once seen any smoke in exhaust. I have also never found oil in the coolant and never found coolant in the oil. There is oil on every spark plug. How can I confirm that it IS or IS NOT the head gasket?

Related, if it is the head gasket, would a spark plug non-fouler adapter in every cylinder possibly improve my CA smog results. For those in a no smog state, to translate would the adapters work to improve better combustion of gas and oil in the chambers?

I am hoping for great news because other than this the car runs AMAZING!

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Old 06-25-2018, 12:09 AM   #2
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Default Re: Help Figure Out if Bad Head Gasket

Have you taken compression readings yet? Generally, oil on the top side of the plug threads can't get down into the combustion chamber. That liquid oil is probably just flowing down as you remove the plug from the oil-filled "well"; nothing to do with the head gasket condition.

Plug non-foulers? I'm not understand what that gimmick is, but I doubt it is going to do any good.

Burning a lot of oil isn't necessarily a cause to fail CA emissions, I have had oil-burners passing for years now. But, it does take a good cat. And, you will probably need a good cat anyway, even without any oil or gasket issues.

So sad, I live fairly near you and just sent a '95 off to scrap that was in good shape, and would have sold for less than what you are likely to put into this 'freebie".

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Old 06-25-2018, 07:41 AM   #3
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Default Re: Help Figure Out if Bad Head Gasket

Oil in the spark plug wells means you need a new valve cover gasket, not a head gasket. That is a big difference! That oil cannot get into the combustion chamber. I had the same thing on my $500 '98. With a new gasket I have no more leaks. The prior owner said the ignition would misfire when the spark plug well got too full of oil.

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Old 06-25-2018, 09:27 AM   #4
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Default Re: Help Figure Out if Bad Head Gasket

I'd be surprised if you actually need to replace the valve cover, unless someone smacked it too hard with a hammer. The plastic covers found on special '94's and '96-98 are pure crap but the aluminum one found on '91-'95 (normal '94's...) pretty much just suffers from bad gaskets.

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Old 06-25-2018, 09:59 AM   #5
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Default Re: Help Figure Out if Bad Head Gasket

Fel-Pro PermaDry valve cover gasket and torque to 89 in-lbs.

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Old 06-26-2018, 07:24 AM   #6
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Default Re: Help Figure Out if Bad Head Gasket

Quote:
Originally Posted by billr View Post
Have you taken compression readings yet? Generally, oil on the top side of the plug threads can't get down into the combustion chamber. That liquid oil is probably just flowing down as you remove the plug from the oil-filled "well"; nothing to do with the head gasket condition.

Plug non-foulers? I'm not understand what that gimmick is, but I doubt it is going to do any good.

Burning a lot of oil isn't necessarily a cause to fail CA emissions, I have had oil-burners passing for years now. But, it does take a good cat. And, you will probably need a good cat anyway, even without any oil or gasket issues.

So sad, I live fairly near you and just sent a '95 off to scrap that was in good shape, and would have sold for less than what you are likely to put into this 'freebie".
Hmmm, well makes sense. I've been drooling over this Saturn since I met the friend. It all started when I drove up in my Saturn, which most likely will not see 2019. No 25th birthday.

What should the compression be for the engine? When I get the car that's the first test in doing. Will also be doing a vacuum leak test. It failed smog after a tune up 2 years ago. Before that it didn't run for almost 2 years because of a bad alarm job. I got it running and its been strong for almost 2 years until recently it keeps wanting to stall.

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Old 06-26-2018, 07:26 AM   #7
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Default Re: Help Figure Out if Bad Head Gasket

Quote:
Originally Posted by fetchitfido View Post
I'd be surprised if you actually need to replace the valve cover, unless someone smacked it too hard with a hammer. The plastic covers found on special '94's and '96-98 are pure crap but the aluminum one found on '91-'95 (normal '94's...) pretty much just suffers from bad gaskets.
Well the poor car was serviced by some idiot who apparently lost two bolts for the valve cover. So it leaks from the beginning. For sure needs a new gasket and new bolts. The cover should be fine

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Old 06-26-2018, 07:31 AM   #8
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Default Re: Help Figure Out if Bad Head Gasket

Quote:
Originally Posted by Waiex191 View Post
Oil in the spark plug wells means you need a new valve cover gasket, not a head gasket. That is a big difference! That oil cannot get into the combustion chamber. I had the same thing on my $500 '98. With a new gasket I have no more leaks. The prior owner said the ignition would misfire when the spark plug well got too full of oil.
First, I know the difference. But of that's possible for misfire with the valve cover gasket, that gives me great hope!

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Old 06-26-2018, 08:40 AM   #9
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Default Re: Help Figure Out if Bad Head Gasket

The oil eats into the plug and/or plug boot shorting that plug to ground and creating a misfire. Usually recommended to replace plug wires when the valve cover gasket's been leaking that bad.

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Old 07-11-2018, 10:19 PM   #10
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Default Re: Help Figure Out if Bad Head Gasket

Well I now have possession of the Saturn. What luck the battery held NO charge! SO drove a few miles on the alternator alone. Bought a new battery and it starts every time in half a second. It is actually running a lot better than before. It intermittently struggles to run you can feel it missing but even idle it has not gone below 500RPM. Before the new battery, at idle it would bounce between 150 to 400 RPM but not it doesn't.

Got a new valve cover gasket so once I pick up some new bolts ill be installing. Then I will remove and clean the plugs and wires and at same time do a compression test. Then I will drive for a couple weeks and then check the plugs and see if they have oil.

Meanwhile the transmission runs amazing!

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Old 07-12-2018, 02:16 PM   #11
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Default Re: Help Figure Out if Bad Head Gasket

Nice, congrats!

CA, so rust is no issue

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Old 07-12-2018, 08:51 PM   #12
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Default Re: Help Figure Out if Bad Head Gasket

What would be the acceptable range for cylinders when I check the compression?

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Old 07-12-2018, 09:15 PM   #13
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Default Re: Help Figure Out if Bad Head Gasket

180 psi is the official minimum, but most will be in the 200-220 range, even after 200K miles. Pay attention, too, to the difference between cylinders. Something like 210-210-180-210 would be above the "minimum", but still indicate the one cylinder at 180 probably has something seriously wrong and is going to soon get worse.

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Old 07-13-2018, 02:30 AM   #14
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Default Re: Help Figure Out if Bad Head Gasket

Quote:
Originally Posted by billr View Post
180 psi is the official minimum, but most will be in the 200-220 range, even after 200K miles. Pay attention, too, to the difference between cylinders. Something like 210-210-180-210 would be above the "minimum", but still indicate the one cylinder at 180 probably has something seriously wrong and is going to soon get worse.
Thanks! Will post results when I get them soon! Am SUPER anxious!

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Old 07-13-2018, 05:43 PM   #15
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Default Re: Help Figure Out if Bad Head Gasket

Okay so apparently the shop that diagnosed this car was a jerk! 2 spark plug wires were not even connected to plugs they just rested on them, 3 wires were not fully connected to coils, and NONE of the spark plugs were screwed in all the way! In fact they were not even hand tight!!!

Anyways I got 1 reading for compression. Cylinder 4 had at least 195 PSI. At 195PSI the rental gauge hose popped off the fitting. The gauge goes up to 240 PSI. So don't know how it did that. But being it could be too low 195 is great! Going to rent another gauge and let's hope they refund my money for this.

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Old 07-13-2018, 07:33 PM   #16
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Default Re: Help Figure Out if Bad Head Gasket

I have the results! And I won't be held resposible for broken gauge!

Cylinder 1 and 3 are 205 PSI while 2 and 4 are 210 PSI. So is this Saturn worth keeping?

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Old 07-13-2018, 08:23 PM   #17
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Default Re: Help Figure Out if Bad Head Gasket

Sounds good to me!

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Old 07-15-2018, 09:57 AM   #18
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Default Re: Help Figure Out if Bad Head Gasket

It's a Saturn S-Series, of course it is worth keeping. These cars are the best damned car GM ever built and the ONLY cars I have ever seen above 500,000 miles.

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