My El Camino is dead. We’re working to resurrect him but his heart (engine) has been ripped out and we’re looking at it.
Mike Wheatley at Wheatley’s Garage is doing the work. Mike sold me the car a few years ago and I can’t think of anyone I trust more to do the work than Mike. He says the back two cylinders have really low compression and we’re not sure why yet. I might not know the specifics of what went wrong but I think I know when it happened.
I was going to Richmond to a conference with my friend Curt and halfway up I lost one sparkplug. We were running on 7 and it was rough. We exited the freeway and checked plug wires but they were all OK. They were new in fact so I was pretty sure that was not the problem. Now what?
As we drove on a bit I watched oil pressure and engine temperature (old cars have gauges instead of idiot lights) and everything was normal so I had to decide: drive on or turn back? Either way was about 200 miles, I really wanted to go to the conference and the car was running, right? We drove on.
In Richmond I found a garage close to the hotel and dropped off the car. We were going to be there about 2 days so we had time. The shop called and asked “how old are these spark plugs, anyway?” I didn’t know and he assured me that was the problem so we changed them. Sure enough, that fixed it. It ran beautifully when we picked it up and headed home that afternoon.
I also had them change the oil while they had it and felt pretty good until the second fuel stop. The oil pressure dropped to almost zero as I exited the freeway and I got into the gas station and checked the oil. There was nothing on the dip stick. It was 3 quarts low and I was puzzled. Where did it go? I refilled it and went home but it was a puzzle.
The puzzle continued as I found it was burning about a quart every 100 miles and there were no puddles under it. No major leaks, no blue smoke but the oil went somewhere. Now we know it was likely bypassing the rings in the back two cylinders and burning at a rate low enough not to smoke but it is not good. After a while the plugs fouled again and Mike came and picked it up and here we are with it’s heart ripped out and making more decisions.
Lesson learned but the cost of tuition this time is likely in the range of $2500 and I am looking at some upgrades that may push it up to $4000 when it’s all done. I’ll have a new engine (or a better rebuilt one) and a better transmission at the end so all it not bad but I wanted to share the story so someone else might learn from it. It was probably the un-burned gasoline in the dead cylinders that washed out the oil in the rings and had I stopped and changed the plugs I might have saved the engine. Won’t ever know for sure but that is the theory.
Lesson learned was to fix the problem and don’t assume everything is OK just because the gauges say it is.
Thanks for listening,
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