Cars and Murphy’s Law

Well, not completely…

Last week, the Tactical Assault Compact Sedan started doing something strange and unprecedented. It has used a little oil for a long time now. The rate at which it was burning oil versus the rate that it smoked led me to believe that it was valve stem seals, which are pretty simple to replace. Since the Summer was so hot, I put it off and said that I’d get to it when the weather was better for it.

Well, last week, it started drinking oil nearly as fast as gasoline. It still never leaves a drop on the ground, but will now belch large clouds of smoke when the throttle is stomped. It didn’t take much research to discover that there was a fairly common problem that caused oil consumption in these engines. Some well-meaning engineer decided that it was much more betterer to have two catalytic converters instead of one, and the first one should be located as close to the exhaust as possible. So, Nissan built the exhaust header with a ‘pre-cat’ in it. Presumably when heated under normal usage and then cooled, as happens in reality, the material in this ‘pre-cat’ cracks and may back flow into the engine, ruining the piston rings.

There’s one way to know for certain. Having been a professional wrench-turner at one point in time, I know my way around a car engine. Using a compression gauge, you take a reading on each cylinder and record it. Then, you add about a tablespoon of oil down each spark plug hole and remeasure the compression readings. The oil will temporarily seal bad compression rings, so if you get a significant increase in pressure, you have bad rings. If you don’t, you have bad valves. Alright. Party time.

My brother contacted me and asked if I would help him replace the transmission in his wife’s car. I agreed, but after talking with him for a few asked why we were replacing the tranny. He explained that when he started it, he couldn’t put it in gear, but if he started it in gear, he could shift it from gear to gear with the clutch depressed. That doesn’t sound like synchros. I didn’t think the tranny was the issue. I told him to try bleeding the hydraulics. He suggested bringing the car over. I suggested he bring the compression gauge and perhaps we could address two problems at once.

We bled the clutch hydraulics and they started working fine. We tested compression. Readings came out 175, 170, 165, and 160-psi, respectively. With oil (transmission fluid, actually, but functionally the same for this purpose), 190, 190, 170, and 190-psi. Blown rings. Needs a major overhaul. Crap. Fortunately, I know how to do that. I was able to find a gasket, ring, and bearing kit for less than $200, and I have a biological brother and a chosen brother who are willing to donate their time.

I’m really not looking forward to this, but it could have been so much worse. I suppose we’ll have to rebuild the Tactical Assault Compact Sedan. I suppose I feel fortunate that I do have the know-how. But still, this is eating into my holster making time! Besides that, I’d rather spend my time and money on more fun stuff! Aaaarrrgggghhhh!!!!

4 thoughts on “Cars and Murphy’s Law

    • So very true! I remember one icy, rainy November when I had the engine pulled out of Jennifer’s car, replacing her clutch and I had my neighbor’s car torn apart in her driveway, rebuilding her engine. Eight hours at my day job and then at least that working on the cars in the weather for a week or so. That was not fun.

  1. oh god i would be stabbity if the Subaru needed a rebuild before i got rid of it. oh god oh god oh GOD. gah. that was my biggest fear, actually.

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