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Old 12-31-2005, 10:58 PM   #1
Rallygirl
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Sad How long can I drive on 3 cylinders...?

Hi guys... This may seem stupid to some of you smarties, but I need to know how long I can drive my 94 SL2 on just 3 cylinders...

I had a major loss of power on the highway, and after pulling over to check it out, the car idled very rough, but still ran, and was blowing a lot of white/grey smoke. (I thought cracked head or seized rings, right?) Eventually got the car home, and checked it out today. Pulled the plugs and looked in the cylinders and saw that #2 piston has a dime-sized hole in it. Obviously, this made me very sad

Anyway, I can't get any work done on it right now (hopefully in a week), so I was wondering if I can disable #2 cylinder and drive it to work and back (20 minutes each way) for a week, until I can get it fixed.

I've read lots of threads before posting this one, but I couldn't find a definitive answer on HOW to disable a cylinder (other than to disconnect the fuel injector). I know it's bad to run it like this, but I don't have a choice right now... So, I guess I would disconnect the injector. Do I also disconnect the spark plug so it doesn't fire? Or let it fire anyway? I figure I can't do anything about the valves.

Thanks for any help/advice you have. I've already learned a lot about the car just by reading what's already posted... I will definitely replace the temperature sensor!
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Old 12-31-2005, 11:00 PM   #2
L|oNeL[92`SL2`]
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Default Re: How long can I drive on 3 cylinders...?

Well I'm no expert, I'm just getting into repairing cars but I know this... It can't be good to drive on 3 cylinders.. all you're gonna do is make it worse in the long run... if you don't have the cash to fix the problem... you're definitely not gonna have the money to pay for it when you make the problem worse..... as i said wait for another post to get an expert opinion but this is just my two cents
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Old 01-01-2006, 12:26 AM   #3
Rallygirl
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Default Re: How long can I drive on 3 cylinders...?

Cash isn't the problem; it's time. And I don't have access to another vehicle right now...

I was actually thinking about buying a new Saturn; how does your Ion compare to your SL?

I was just hoping that it would be able to go another week in this condition...
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Old 01-01-2006, 12:38 AM   #4
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Default Re: How long can I drive on 3 cylinders...?

Rent a car if need be.
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Old 01-01-2006, 12:39 AM   #5
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Default Re: How long can I drive on 3 cylinders...?

How did you spot a dime sized hole? Was it in the wall, or actually through the piston head itself? In either case, it really doesn't sound good. Do you have coolant in the oil, or vice versa? Either way your engine could burn up in a trip or two, I would think & you could get stuck somewhere you probably don't want to be.
I guess I am a little skeptical that a hole that size would immediatly appear with no prior symptoms. Are you sure it is a hole & not just a dark spot due to carbon build up?
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Last edited by dansl2; 01-01-2006 at 12:44 AM.
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Old 01-01-2006, 02:34 AM   #6
Rallygirl
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Default Re: How long can I drive on 3 cylinders...?

It's a hole; I can see jagged metal. It's actually more of an oval shape, about the size of a dime, directly below the spark plug hole. Almost looks like the piston slammed into the plug, but the plug had no damage.

No oil in the coolant, no milky oil. The car burned oil, as most SLs do, from what I've read here.

Just put a long screwdriver in the cylinder; it's definitely a hole...
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Old 01-01-2006, 03:57 AM   #7
L|oNeL[92`SL2`]
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Default Re: How long can I drive on 3 cylinders...?

Well, If i were you and i just needed it to get to work and back, I'd take the chance and get as many trips out of it as i could... maybe it'll last you the week. If you're planning to get a new one, what do you got to loose. but I actually have no idea how long you can last on 3 cylinders... I've never had that problem before. So I guess you'll find out when more posts come
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Old 01-01-2006, 05:26 AM   #8
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Default Re: How long can I drive on 3 cylinders...?

I Am With The Previous Guy, I Wouldn't Risk It. I Would Rather Spend The $ Now And Rent A Car Rather Than Toast The Car In A Trip Or Two. I Have Learned The Hard Way To Be Safe Rather Than Sorry. U R Welcome.
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Old 01-01-2006, 01:03 PM   #9
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Default Re: How long can I drive on 3 cylinders...?

If you have got a hole in the piston, it probably blew shrapnel into the pan and it probably has scattered all throughout the block by now.

Maybe a valve stuck open on carbon buildup and popped it, but I don't know if I would trust that engine anymore. It could be rebuilt, but it might cost more than the car is worth. You probaly would never get all the shrapnel out of it..

A used engine may be the route to go if you want to keep the car. Shop around, and consider if the car is worth the expense...
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Old 01-01-2006, 01:25 PM   #10
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Default Re: How long can I drive on 3 cylinders...?

You'd be surprised how long it will run - the real question is what other
strain you put on the vehicle, and what additional damage it will cause.

My personal best for running 3/4ths of a 4 cylinder engine is 22,000mi.
Turning the carb up certainly helped keep it running!

My record for running 3 cylinders with a chipped exhaust valve (Bosch
plug exploded) is 600 mi without an issue. Made a neat whistling sound
as you went down the road.
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Old 01-01-2006, 02:50 PM   #11
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Default Re: How long can I drive on 3 cylinders...?

I wouldn't do it myself, if money isn't an issue then go for a rental car, it's probably better to do that than having to deal with getting your car towed and being late for work.

As for the ion... I like it a lot, same gas mileage as an SL2 but with more power, and the center dashboard is cool as well as more practical.
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Old 01-01-2006, 07:07 PM   #12
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Default Re: How long can I drive on 3 cylinders...?

Well I've been running with a similar problem for right about 15 or 20k miles now. Very rough idle in drive and reverse at a stop, took it in and had compression test done and #4 cylinder was 70 psi and the rest were 180 psi. I wasn't going to pay in excess of $2500 for the dealer to rip the head off to see what it actually was and then even more to fix it and put it back together. Haven't had the time or the money to take the head off and see what really happened. My susupicions are burnt or missing rings or a possible bent valve. Car still runs and still gets 30 mpg on highway and about 20-22 mpg in the city. Beats my dakota which is only 15-17 mpg at the moment but I do have 300# of sand in the bed.
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Old 01-01-2006, 08:25 PM   #13
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Default Re: How long can I drive on 3 cylinders...?

I wouldnt run it til its fixed. Period. All the metal that disappeared from the top of your piston had to go somewhere and the filter doesn't have all of it. A rebuild is necessary and if you plan on keeping the car and it will get much more expensive if you decide to run it in that condition. A rental will be much cheaper to get for a week than to repair the damage that will occur. Actually, for the cost of a rebuild, you may be better off putting that money towards another car.
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Old 01-01-2006, 09:34 PM   #14
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Default Re: How long can I drive on 3 cylinders...?

If you're driving it now... you're on borrowed time. It's just asking for trouble when pushing it along in a state like it is...

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Old 01-01-2006, 09:39 PM   #15
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Default Re: How long can I drive on 3 cylinders...?

Try the classifieds on our board for a used motor if you can't find one local down there in pick up heaven. E-bay is another source. Also there has been several threads on internet saturn only junk yards. Let us know if you want a few links.
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Old 01-01-2006, 10:34 PM   #16
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Default Re: How long can I drive on 3 cylinders...?

didnt Hyundia have a three cylinder car? I think they were worth about 3,000 mies.........
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Old 01-01-2006, 10:44 PM   #17
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Default Re: How long can I drive on 3 cylinders...?

Quote:
Originally Posted by haughty
didnt Hyundia have a three cylinder car? I think they were worth about 3,000 mies.........
Yeah and I used to have a 97 geo metro that had 3 cylinders too.
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Old 01-02-2006, 10:44 PM   #18
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Default Re: How long can I drive on 3 cylinders...?

To answer your question, you should disable the injector on that cylinder if you do decide to drive it. You've heard the risks, but it may need to be driven. You could have a crankcase fire if you put unburned gas vapors into the crankcase for an extended period (and that isn't pretty).
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Old 01-02-2006, 11:20 PM   #19
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Default Re: How long can I drive on 3 cylinders...?

You can see down the spark plug hole well enough to determine the extent of damage? I never can seem to peer down that narrow passage that well.

It seems that a lot is being assumed based on looking down this 'peep hole'. I'm not that confident when I'm in this type of situation.

I'd not drive it. Then when able pull the head so you can assess things more thoroughly. If it looks like the piston isn't as bad as you think and it was a stuck/bent valve then determine if you want to fix the problem in the cylinder head. If the head/valves appears repairable, I'd pull the oil pan and take a look for where the bits of metal may have ended up. I'd take a peak at the main bearings while the pan is off. If at this point it still doesn't look like a catastrophe I'd then get the cylinder head fixed up. I'd clean out the oil pan, change the oil filter, button everything up and take my chances. This assumes that you can repair any issues found in the cylinder head....or, the car is worth the expense of having a machine shop do it for you.

One final thought...when you peered down the spark plug hole do you think you were viewing the dimpled/recessed 'moon-shaped' regions on the surface that correspond to the where the valves come down...a bent/stuck valve could make the edges of this look jagged but in reality you didn't "blow a chunk" of the piston surface. Just an idea.

Keep us posted!

Paul.
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Old 01-03-2006, 01:39 AM   #20
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Default Re: How long can I drive on 3 cylinders...?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rallygirl
Hi guys... This may seem stupid to some of you smarties, but I need to know how long I can drive my 94 SL2 on just 3 cylinders...
about as long as you can stand barefoot on a thumbtack...


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