Monthly Archives: February 2009

Next Steps Auto Compression Check Tests

Begin by cleaning the area and areas around the spark plugs before you remove them ( compressed air should be used), if available, other wise a small brush , or even a bicycle pump will work.  The whole idea is to to prevent dirt from getting into the cylinders as the compression check is being done

Remove all of the spark plugs from the engine.  Be sure to keep or arrange them in order so that you can read the tips sequentially.

Block the throttle wide open.

Detach the coil wire from the center of the distributor cap and as well take care to ground it on the engine block ( in the case of pre electronic ignition vehicles).   Next use a jumper wire with alligator clips on each end to ensure a good electrical ground.  On EFI  equipped vehicles, the fuel pump circuit should also be disabled by removing the fuse.  It always pays to be conservative and thorough.

Install the compression gauge in the number one spark plug hole

Lastly crank the engine over at least five ( 5)  compressions strokes and watch the gauge.  The compression of the engine should build up quickly on a health engine.  Low compression on the first stroke, of the engine ,followed by gradually increasing pressure on successive strokes , indicates worn piston rings.  A  low compression reading on the first stroke , which does not build up during successive strokes indicates a leaking or leaking valves or a blown head gasket.  ( a cracked gasket might also be the cause).  Deposits on the undersides of the valve heads can also cause low compression as well.  Record carefully in writing the highest compression gauge reading obtained.

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Compression Check

A compression check will tell you what mechanical condition the  upper end of your engine is in ( pistons, rings , valves ,  head gaskets ) of your engine is in.  Specifically , it can more than tell you if the compression is down , due to leakage caused by worn and very worn piston rings , defective valves and seats , or a worn head gasket.

note:  the engine must be at normal operating temperatures and the battery must be fully charged for this series of tests and checks.   Also , if the vehicle is of old enough vintage to still have a carburetor, the choke valve must be open all the way open to get a good accurate compression reading.

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Vacuum Gauge Diagnostic Checks

A vacuum gauge provides valuable information about what is going on in your engine at a low cost.  You can check for worn rings or cylinder walls, leaking head or intake manifold gaskets , incorrect carburetor adjustments ( in vintage autos or vehicles) , restricted exhaust stuck or burnt valves, weak valve springs, improper ignition  or valve timing and general ignition problems.

Unfortunately , vacuum tube readings are easy to misinterpret, so that they should be used in conjunction with other tests to confirm the diagnosis.

Both the absolute readings and the rate of needle movement are important for accurate interpretations and interpretations.  Most gauges measure vacuum in inches of mercury (in-Hg).  As vacuum increases ( or atmospheric pressure decreases), the reading will increase.  Also , for every 1,000 foot increase in elevation and elevations above sea level, the gauge readings will increase about one inch of mercury.

Connect the vacuum gauge directly to intake manifold vacuum, not to ported ( carburetor).  Be sure that no hoses are disconnected during the test or false readings will result.

Before you begin the test , allow the engine to “warm up” completely. Block the wheels and set the parking brake.  With the transmission in neutral  ( or park, on automatic transmissions) , start the engine and allow it to run at normal idle speed.  Warning:  carefully inspect the fan blades for cracks or damage before starting the engine.  Keep your hands and the vacuum tester of the fan clear of the fan and do not stand in front of the vehicle of in line with the fan when the engine is running.

Read the vacuum gauge , a “healthy”  engine should produce about 15 to 20 inches of vacuum with a fairly steady needle.  Note:  engines with high performance  camshafts will have a lower and somewhat erratic reading at idle.  As well “emission controlled” vehicles from the mid 1970′s tend to have slightly lower vacuum readings due to modified valve timing and retarded ignition timing.

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Automotive Vacuum Gauge Readings

1) Low Steady Reading:

This usual indicates a leaking gasket between the intake manifold and in vintage vehicles a carburetor or throttle body , a leaking vacuum hose, late ignition timing or incorrect camshaft timing.  Check ignition timing with a timing light and eliminate other causes, utilizing of course the tests available , before removing the timing chain cover to check the timing marks.

2) Low Fluctuating Reading:

If the needle fluctuates about three to eight inches below normal , suspect an intake manifold gasket leak at an intake port or fault injector ( on port injected models only)

3) Regular Drops:

If the needle drops about two to six ( 2 to 6) inches at a steady rate or rates . the valves then are probably leaking. Perform a compression or leakdown test to confirm this.

4) Irregular Drops:

An irregular down-flick of the needle can be caused by a sticking valve or an ignition misfire.  Perform a compression or leakdown test and read the spark plugs

5) Rapid Vibration:

A rapid four in-Hg vibration at idle combined with exhaust smoke indicates worn valve guides.  Perform a leakdown test to confirm this.  If the rapid vibration occurs with an increase in engine speed, check for a leaking manifold gasket or head gasket, weak valve springs , burned valves or igntion misfire.

6)  Slight Fluctuation:

A slight fluctuation , say one inch up or down, may mean ingition problems.  Check  all the usual tune up items and , if necessary run the engine on an ignition analyzer

7) Large Fluctuation:

If this occurs , perform a compression or leakdown test to look for a weak or dead cylinder or a blown head gasket

8)  Slow Hunting:

If the needle moves slowly through a wide range, in a vintage vehicle , check for a clogged PCV system , incorrect idle fuel mixture, carburetor/ throttle body or intake manifold gasket leaks.

9)  Slow Return After Revving:

Quickly snap the throttle open until the engine reaches about 2500 rpm and then let it shut.  Normally the reading should drop to near zero, rise above a normal idle  and then return to the previous idle reading.   If the vacuum returns slowly and does not peak when the throttle is snapped shut, the rings may be worn.   If there is a long delay look for an impaired or clogged exhaust system.

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The Pendulum Swings US Canadian Auto Prices

Its amazing the difference a year makes

Only last year at this time the Canadian dollar was trading close to par to the US American currency.  Canadian car shoppers quickly found a bargain only to be warned of the perils – almost the illegality of not immorality of bringing a car back to Canada from the US.   The auto industry swung into high gear , rules were created , obstacles were created at the Canadian US border to impeded the flow.  It was immoral to import a Nafta Canadian made car back into Canada repatriating it so to speak.

After all “they are only importing a car into Canada “.   From where a factory in Quebec which was the origin.

Yet now the tables have turned.  The Canadian dollar has fallen greatly in relation to its American counterpart.  Will these same dealers complain ?    Will the manufacturers send out threatening letters to its Canadian dealers not to sell to Americans ahead of any fore warnings from their US counterparts ?  After all times are tough and the Canadian dealers need all the cash flow they can get.

So is life.  It all depends on your perspective and what side of the fence you are on – well at least currently.

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