Bad valve diagnosis

4 posts in this topic

Hey all,

Please check my troubleshooting; I believe I have a bad valve. Have I missed any steps?


  • Heavy misfire under load <3Krpm. All gears, esp. from a start
  • Rough idle


  • Check TPS for correct resistance from Closed to WOT - passed
  • Check MAF for correct resistance - passed
  • Replaced aged O2 sensors (they were quite old) - no change in performance
  • Checked compression; At normal operating temperature, 145psi 110psi 150psi 141psi (from left-to-right) By my calculation, that's a 27% deficit on cylinder number 2.
  • Warmed up engine, removed oil filler cap, and then dipstick, while running - no smoke or any sort of pulsing from crankcase can be observed
  • Removed valve cover, examined cam lobes - at first thought I had a worn lobe, but they all check out OK.

Have I missed any troubleshooting steps, before I start removing the head for a valve job?


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I invested in a leak-down tester to pinpoint the low compression, and discovered worn piston rings on what appears to be multiple cylinders. Pretty cool test, and very easy to do on these engines. Unfortunately for me, this means I have to pretty much rebuild this engine. Maybe later when I have the time.

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Have you ever had one of those Homer Simpson D'OH! moments? I did yesterday.

Here's a pro-tip: If you change your timing belt, set your timing afterward!!! I didn't have my timing light with me on this road trip, and I guess I thought since everything went back the same way, and I didn't touch the distrib. or remove cams, that the timing wouldn't change. Not the case. My timing was 10 degrees late (retarded) and that was greatly exacerbating a weak spark.

And yes, I mention weak spark because the other D'OH! was, even though I was seeing a white spark at the plug, I never checked the coil windings in the distributor. I have proper resistance on the primary, but the second coil is broken, registering infinite resistance in the test. So, on top of bad timing, I have a broken coil. I will be putting a distributor in tonight - a $300 part and 5 minutes of labor.

Anyhow, the car is running much better & I won't be rebuilding the engine anytime soon.

Moral of the story - with a heavy miss under load, always check your timing! 

At least now I have a *very* thorough understanding of the health of my EGR valve, fuel pressure & vacuum-driven fuel regulator valve, valve seals & healthy cam lobes, cylinder walls & normal piston ring wear, lack of air leaks, charcoal canister function, O2, TPS & MAF sensors, and all ignition components. And I have a s***-load of diagnostic tools :)

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For those of you following my saga (yes I know there are MILLIONS of subscribers) --- I replaced the distrib. today. I gotta say, any hesitation is totally gone. The car runs freaking GREAT. Well, great for 230,000 miles - still has some funny idle up/down action at stops, but nothing I am worried about. Puh-LENTY of pulling power up hills in low gear, or anything else.


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