Urgent Advice: Ok to drive with low compression on one cylinder? - Alfa Romeo Bulletin Board & Forums

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Old 03-26-2010, 11:28 PM
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Urgent Advice: Ok to drive with low compression on one cylinder?

Hello All,

I'm close to purchasing my first Alfa, an Alfetta GT, assuming the seller and I can reach a final agreement on the price. I had the car inspected by an Alfa mechanic, and unfortunately the engine has low compression on one cylinder -- readings are 180, 180, 180, 120... leak down is 92%, 92%, 92%, 55%.

If I go ahead and buy the car, I was hoping to drive it home... but I live about 350 miles away. Do you guys think it's ok to drive the car that far given those compression readings? I've heard driving it hard may actually help... but I wasn't sure.

Any advice would be appreciated. I may go get it this coming Sunday!
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Old 03-27-2010, 12:14 AM
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Go for it! I drove a car much worse than that for a good part of a year, including several 180 mile trips from SLO to San Jose.

One thing I would be careful for is seeing oil in the coolant, or coolant in your oil, if the low compression is b/c of the head gasket. But the mechanic should have been able to tell you if it was because of rings or valves that you have low compression or if it was because of a head gasket when he did the cylinder leak down test.

If you do see contamination, driving very far on tainted oil would be a poor choice.
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Old 03-27-2010, 12:33 AM
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You can rationalize it any way you want, but it is simply not a good idea to drive the car 350 miles... Cars don't repair themselves. When something is wrong, it doesn't get better when ignored, and it gets worse with additional use. It's simply not the other way around. Driving a car hard to get rid of deposits does work, when a car has sat around, but I would never recommend it as a substitute for a repair. I would bet the Alfa mechanic did not recommend that you drive her 350 miles, and he's actually inspected the car...

Best regards,
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Old 03-27-2010, 12:53 AM
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There is absolutely no problem in running the car that 350 miles if the low reading is caused by rings or valves. I fact if it is leakage past the valves that is causing the low reading then that long run or a good thrash may get the valves seating properly again as it is often a few bits of carbon on the back of the valve touching the sealing surface that gives a low reading and this is dislodged allowing the valve to seat again. The long drive or thrash can also get a partially stuck ring free. The leak down test would have indicated what the cause of low reading is though. What did the mechanic say?
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Old 03-27-2010, 06:58 AM
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Yep, go ahead and drive it. There are millions of cars out there with one, two or three cylinders running low compression. The owners just don't know about it. I know this is back yard mechanic talk here but I knew a guy that would put a compressor down the spark plug hole, leave it on, take off the valve spring, hook a drill up to the valve shaft, and spin it to make sure there wasn't carbon on the valve lip or seat. If your lucky you will hear the air stop leaking, if not move forward and tear the head off. I've never done this myself but it sure sounds like a simple solution to an expensive repair that is if it works.
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Old 03-27-2010, 08:22 AM
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I'm going to call the mechanic and ask him what he thinks. The last time we spoke, I wasn't going to purchase the car because I felt the price was too high based on the mechanic's findings. But the seller now seems willing to consider a lower price...

We'll see... I hope this works out, and I hope the mechanic confirms what (most of) you guys are saying above. It would be a fun first trip with car!
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Old 03-27-2010, 08:22 AM
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It would be safer and cheaper to get it shipped 350 miles than dropping a valve into the engine and destroying it. A leak down test will give you an idea of what is going on in an engine but not with 100% certainty. You could guess that you have a stuck ring because of pressure leaking into the crank case but it could be a holed piston or maybe a wrist pin that has a broken keeper that is slowly destroying a liner. (seen that one happen)
Play it safe and get a trailer or have it shipped. You will probably make it but why take a chance. If you let someone drive your car and it blew up when they were driving it would they pay for it? Same thing goes for advice. If some one says drive it and the engine goes it's no big deal for them. The "I know a guy" thing is stupid.

JMO

Paul
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Old 03-27-2010, 10:21 AM
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Ok, spoke to the mechanic who inspected the car, and he told me it's definitely a ring problem. He also said I could said I could safely drive the car the 350 miles... the problem will be getting it smogged.

Decisions, decisions... first thing I need to do is finalize the price.

I appreciate all the honest feedback, by the way.
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Old 03-27-2010, 10:53 AM
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Originally Posted by UomoTigre View Post
Ok, spoke to the mechanic who inspected the car, and he told me it's definitely a ring problem. He also said I could said I could safely drive the car the 350 miles... the problem will be getting it smogged.

Decisions, decisions... first thing I need to do is finalize the price.

I appreciate all the honest feedback, by the way.
Smogging can be a big issue - if you want to drive the car right away, legally and registered in your name, you can plan on spending some money to get it to pass. If the car has been unused and is currently "non-opped" it would be cheaper in the long run to hold off and buy a currently registered, running and regularly used example (or do like I did and finally settle on a '75 model year!).
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Old 03-27-2010, 11:28 AM
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Smogging can be a big issue - if you want to drive the car right away, legally and registered in your name, you can plan on spending some money to get it to pass. If the car has been unused and is currently "non-opped" it would be cheaper in the long run to hold off and buy a currently registered, running and regularly used example (or do like I did and finally settle on a '75 model year!).
Yes, I'm definitely going to have to do some major work on it right away... it's something I've basically come to terms with.

The truth is I absolute love this car... so the decisions I'm making aren't very rational. I'm not getting a great deal on it, but I know I'll be happy regardless. You guys can all laugh at me, it's ok.

By the way, I love your brown Alfetta GT. Beautiful color and those wheels look great.
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Old 03-27-2010, 06:56 PM
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By the way, I love your brown Alfetta GT. Beautiful color and those wheels look great.
Thanks - It's actually Grant's car now - but yes, it was strangely enough, the best Alfetta I ever owned, but for some reason, I like the sedans better. I totally understand your illogical love for the car - you are not alone.
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Old 03-27-2010, 07:48 PM
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Uomo,

Do you have AAA? That's another factor on whether you should take the risk or not. Good luck on getting the car, and make sure you have a dry place to store it! These Alfettas rust quicker than most cars, but I think that could be true for any foreign car from the 70's.
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Old 03-27-2010, 07:59 PM
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I'm with Jeff.Sedans are the best ones out there.(IMO)

Grant, Alfettas rust quicker than most cars?? It should have read Alfettas rust quicker than any car


AAA is a great idea. With AAA gold you get free towing for the first 100 miles.

Paul
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Old 03-27-2010, 11:24 PM
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The 78 and 79 Alfettas didn't rust worth complaining about, at least here in the NW. We owned both a 75 sedan and a 78. The 75 rusted before our eyes, but the 78 had 180k miles on it when we sold it, and it basically had no rust problems at all. We were very pleased about that.

Story I heard in England was that Fiat got some crummy steel from USSR in exchange for building a Lada plant there. Fiat used that steel in their mid 70's cars of all stripes, including Fiats, Alfas, Lancias, Ferraris, etc. That steel rusted no matter what the protection. Friend in England saw Lancias being recalled and destroyed because of the terminal rust. They changed the steel to something better in 78 on, thus no problems worth talking about with those years cars.
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Old 03-28-2010, 01:06 AM
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Del, thanks for the tip. You feel pretty certain that is accurate? As in maybe, we should look for later model years for a long term investment?
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1987 Milano Platinum - check for many new items. [B][COLOR="Red"][URL="http://alfabb.com/bb/forums/showthread.php?t=42980"]PARTING OUT[/URL][/COLOR][/B]

1989 Verde - Harsh shocks and SS rears, 27mm torsion bars, stainless lines, pads, 16X7.5 rims, 4.10 rebuilt platinum tranny, poly bushes, and RSR 28mm front and 25.4mm adjustable sways!

1984 GTV-6 - 80K miles
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