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I am no longer living in ignorance, I just confirmed something I have suspected for years. I aquired a compression tester, not an expensive one, but it seems to work. I followed the instructions in this post, and tested my engine

Here are the results of the test....

Cylinder 1: 67 psi
Cylinder 2: 130 psi
Cylinder 3: 70 psi
Cylinder 4: 87 psi

During each test the dial moved up a bit with each stroke of the piston, I stopped the test when it seemed to stop moving, about two seconds, I think. Only cylinders one and three had pressures that were close too each other, and I was thinking even cylinder two had a pretty low results. I tried putting a cap full of oil in each cylinder, then retesting.

Here are the results of the second test...

Cylinder 1: 160 psi
Cylinder 2: 220 psi
Cylinder 3: 225 psi (this test took about twice as many strokes as the others for the needle to stop moving)
Cylinder 4: 190 psi

I s'pose this means my rings are going bad. Maybe every thing else is as well. The way I see it, I have two options...

Option 1: Do nothing. I have suspected my compression was a tad low for a long time. In the past when I've parked (in 1st) on a steepish slope, the car would roll back ever so slowly. Obviously, this is with the parking brake off. In recent times I've began to suspect that this might also be the cause of my hard starting, and poor gas milage. When starting, I'll need to crank it for a while before it starts. It's not a super long time, but it's long enough for any bystanders to begin to stare. However, it will always start. When the engine is still nice and hot it starts right up. My gas milage has ranged between 20 and 25 mpg, depending on the amount of highway driving that happens on the particular tank of gas. I'm not sure how long I can go on the way it is, it seems like the way it has been going I aught to be able to ignore it for quite a while, if I want. It's probably had this issues since I bought it. I bought it five or six years ago, and started driving it fairly frequently a year and a half ago. Folks always comment that the engine sounds great. It had 83,000 miles on it when I bought it, and it has now just passed 90,000 miles. It's my only car, so when I drive, I drive the Alfa. However, when I commute back and forth to school I take public transportation, so the Alfa is not driven every day. I will graduate next spring, so if I can wait until I have a job to fix it, that might be better. However, I'd love to take an additional two years and grab a masters degree.

Option 2: Fix it. I've got time now. I'm about to finish the spring term, I'm taking summer classes but it'll be less time intensive than usual, so I have time to work on the Alfa. I don't know a ton about engines, but I can't think of a better way to learn. What it comes down to here (the way I see it, and I could be wrong) is how much money it would cost, and what kind of special tools I would need. I can see these engine projects avalanching into an expensive project. As long as the pistons and the sleeves are ok, and if I don't need to buy a lot of specialty tools, I think I can handle paying for it. If fixing it increases my fuel economy, I have further justification in spending the money. Once fixed, I wouldn't have anything to worry about for quite some time (engine wise), which is great because I'm hoping to hold onto this car for ever. On the down side of fixing it now is the fact that it is now summer, the best time to be driving an Alfa Spider. I wouldn't be ready to fix anything immediately, a lot of research is still in order.

I guess what I'm looking for is thoughts, opinions and advice. Can an engine be rebuilt without replacing the pistons and sleeves? Am I likely to need a lot of machining? Or should I try and live with is for several more years?
 

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Engines.

There are a lot of other engines out there. Watch CL for Alfa engines for sale. These will tide you over until you are done with school and a lot less money.

Hang in there!
 

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Discussion Starter #3
It seems to me that any engine I find can easily have the same issues, and if they're not in a car, it would be difficult to test them. I think it would be easier to live with my engine as is, but I'm not sure if it is likely to give me any grief in the near future.

Thanks
 

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A couple of things to make sure you do for a compression test. Make sure the engine is warm first. Dont remove the spark plugs at first. Just crack them off, reconnect the plug leads and start the engine for a few seconds. Sometimes a bit of carbon build up on the bottom of the plug can fall onto an open valve below giving a false compression reading. Restarting the engine briefly will get rid of anything off the valve face.I have seen perfectly good engines condemned because of this mistake.
Also a compression test is only a guide line. The only test to accuratly asses an engine is a leak down test done with compressed air and a percentage gauge.
To me it sounds like it might be worth while spending a couple of hundred dollars with an Alfa specialist getting a check over and a tune up. Thats cheaper than an engine rebuild.
Does it blow smoke or misfire at all? lots of smoke on accelleration is the main sign of worn rings.
I think you may be sending a lot of time worrying about a problem you dont have.
Good luck.
 

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In buying a used engine, the only really safe way to do so is to be able to run and test it before you buy. Ideally it'll still be in a mobile car, so you can motor around, monitor smoke out the tailpipe, in addition to checking oil pressure, compression, water temp, head gasket issues, and any untoward noises. I've bought engines this way from a number of cars and have been pretty happy.
If you know/trust the seller, an engine you can't operate can be OK. But a BB, CL, or ebay engine can be a real crapshoot.
APE sometimes has decent engines in operable cars that can be tested (I've bought two). If you're not in NorCal though, shipping can be pricey.
Andrew
 
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