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Discussion Starter #1
2000 ZX3 died in an intersection. 98K miles. All symptoms appreared to point to a broken timing belt. Engine would turn over but not start. Getting spark, etc. Mileage seemed right for the timing belt's demise, so I kicked myself, but then -

Timing belt is fine; fuel delivery is fine, spark is fine, oil pressure is fine, COMPRESSION is NOT. If you squirt oil in each cylinder to perform a compression test, compression is normal and car will start and run - for about 2.5 minutes. Then it dies, no compression, cylinder walls are dry...

NO symptoms (relating to this problem) up to the failure. Sudden and complete - that's how I would describe it. Can't be bad bearings sapping oil pressure; too sudden and pressure is fine. Fuel delivery/timing/etc. are all obviously fine 'cause it runs great until it loses compression.

Head gasket??? No water in oil or vice versa... and that wouldn't be solved by squirting oil in - or would it?

Going CRAZY here (kind of normal for a Focus owner with 98K miles).[;)]
 

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When you say "it runs fine" did you try to put it in drive and actually drive it or did you let it idle and rev it up ? This seems really odd that everything checks out fine and still does this. Are all of the cylinders reading 0psi compression or only one of them ? Is it possible that somehow the valves are staying slightly open letting all of the compression go out but still be able to run and idle ?

lets us know whats exactly happening so we all can solve this so it doesnt give people in the future more headache.

Brandon.[thumb]
 

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Wow, that IS a strange one. If nothing external is going on then the problem must be internal. If the rings are stuck in their grooves, they would not have the tension they need to seal against the walls. Or, they have lost all their tension due to being overheated. The engine was running at normal temps, yes?

I had a 100,000 mile Chevy 400 small block that would NOT start unless you physically put gas into the cylinders. Once it started, it would run OK until you shut it off. The combustion pressure in the chamber is supposed to push on the back of the ring to help keep it out against the cylinder wall. Your symptoms could be dirty and stuck rings.

If that is the case, you might be able to free them up with some Rislone in each cylinder to soak overnight. Put enough in to cover the piston a couple of inches deep. Remember to crank the engine WITHOUT plugs in to clear the cylinders before trying to start it. A big towel over the holes will keep the stuff from splashing everywhere.

This might dissolve the carbon gunk sticking the rings if that is the problem. If the rings have lost all tension due to an overheat, well, a rebuild is the only remedy.
 

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You're not telling us what engine is in the car. Does it have hydraulic lifters? If it does, excessively high oil pressure could pump them up to the point where the valves hang open. You'd be looking for a stuck lube oil pressure relief valve.

I don't think putting oil in the cylinders actually has anything to do with the car starting, because once it's running there's plenty of oil flying around in there to keep the cyl walls lubed and provide sealing (esp w/ that mileage). My hunch is that all it did was buy time while you were messing around with it for the lifters to bleed down.

Of course, if you have the zetec engine, all of the above is nonsense.

You could run a leakdown test, then you'd know exactly where the compression is going regardless of which engine you have.
 

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if the oil pressure was high enough to pump up the lifters like that, the oil filter would blow apart (don't ask me how I know.. it was ugly lol) it most likely is stuck or worn rings.. what brand oil do you use? It is also possible that the timing belt sliped a tooth and not broke. You might want to check that
 

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Its not the oil you squirt in.. At least not 2-3 minutes later.. That oil only hangs around a few seconds. Just long enough to start it
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
Thanks for your ideas so far... here are a few answers (and then I'm going to go at it again for more information):

- It's the Z-Tec engine.
- Timing belt must not've slipped because it ran fine when it started after wet compression
- Prior to doing the wet compression test it sat overnight, wouldn't start, then did start after the wet check. I also thought it ran way too long for just the effects of the wet check
- After dying, would not start again. Wet check, started again!?!?!

Is it possible there's a small breach in the head gasket between two cylinders somehow sealing up with oil for a few moments??

I'll get more precise with the details after today's check.

THANKS AGAIN!
 

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vanace said:
if the oil pressure was high enough to pump up the lifters like that, the oil filter would blow apart (don't ask me how I know.. it was ugly lol) it most likely is stuck or worn rings.. what brand oil do you use? It is also possible that the timing belt sliped a tooth and not broke. You might want to check that
No Vance... I've seen it happen. And with our oil filters being as small as they are, there wouldn't be all that much force generated in there to split it open (Length x Diameter x Pressure inside = the force trying to split it open). Alright, it's a Zetec anyway.

I don't go with the rings idea simply because it happened suddenly, and if the rings were that bad, he'd have MONGO crankcase pressure to boot.

When it dies and you try to restart, does it SEEM to have any compression? Does it sound the same as always when you crank it over.

This thing can be solved in half an hour with a leakdown test.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
It does not sound the same. It actually sounds "out of time [sequence]" as if it were my original thought - a timing belt.

Bleed down test? I'm ready... educate me. I'll do it.

(so I guess this means my head gasket thought is out of the question... almost seems like an easy answer)

Thanks guys.
 

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Well I thought you'd never ask!

In essence all you do when you do a leakdown test is to apply compressed air to the cylinder via the sparkplug hole. Then just listen.

Hissing out of an adjacent sparkplug hole- blown head gasket.
Bubbling in the coolant- also blown head gasket.
Hissing out of the TB- leaky intake valves.
Hissing out of the exhaust- leaky exhaust valves.
Hissing out of the dipstick tube- bad rings, blown piston, etc.

It's a real easy way to assess the condition of your engine. A compression test only tells you something's wrong. A leakdown test tells you WHAT'S wrong.

There are a few details:

Take all the plugs out first.

When you test a cylinder, that cylinder must be at TDC on the compression stroke (i.e. obviously both valves must be closed).

When you apply air pressure to the cylinder, be careful- If you don't have the thing at exactly TDC, the pressure you are applying will turn the engine over with considerable force- but only 1/2 rev.

You have the problem of getting the air in there- You can probably buy leak-down tester at an auto parts store (it shouldn't be that much...), or use the end from a compression tester, or take an old sparkplug, bust out all the ceramic, and weld a steel nipple to it for your air connection.

There are specs as to how long the pressure should remain and how fast it should drop, etc., but I've never concerned myself with that and I don't know what the numbers are.

Good luck. Let's see what you find.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
This only becomes more bizarre:

Leak down test indicates rings on all cylinders are bad... but cylinder walls are completely dry. 0 compression on any of the four. (please continue reading...)

Now once again I do a wet compression check. All four cylinders come back 110-120. Car starts, lube flows, car runs maybe 30 seconds then dies. Runs fine before stalling.

It's as if something is shutting oil flow off (maybe?). Oil pressure light does not come on while it's running. Remember engine ran fine up until the failuer; it was not burning oil, stumbling, losing power, etc. It simply stalled one day at an intersection (a very busy metro Atlanta one at that) and has exhibited these symptoms since.

I'm ready to salvage it, but my wife LOVES the car. HELP!!!

(and thanks in advance)
 

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"Leak down test indicates rings on all cyls are bad"...OK. You have two options that I can see. Pull the motor and replace the rings. Ouch....

Or, the rings are just stuck in their grooves and might be saved by a solvent on top of the piston given some time to work. Rislone comes to mind as a good one. Put a few ounces in each cyl and the rest in the crankcase oil. Let sit at least overnight. Clear the cylinders by cranking a bit and try to fire it up. You have nothing to lose at this point. Give it a try.
 

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When this thing DOES run, what happens if you take the oil fill cap off? Is there a lot of blowby? As time ticks by and the engine gets closer to the moment of shut-down, does the blow-by get worse? Can you see in the hole if the cams are oiling? If they are, it'll be throwing drops of oil out of the filler hole. There is something whacky here. I just can't see any way for every ring to suddenly wear out or stick in it's groove at the same time. There is something else going on here...

Thinking... please wait.

If this were due to a lack of lubrication, that would mean there is no oil being thrown off by the bearings, which would mean that the bearings weren't being lubricated, which would mean this thing should be knocking like hell. Yet, I'm thinking of a Lawn Boy mower that each of my kids took turns running on straight gas. First, it would seize up and die. When it cooled a little, it would roll over but no compression whatsoever. Put the right gas/oil mix in the tank, squirt some oil in the plug hole, it would start, run, and redress it's cylinder wall so it had compression again and seemed good-as-new!

A little 2-cycle engine being lubricated by a 50-to-one gas/oil mix is a far cry from your zetec. In a 4-cycle engine I'd expect dry-running rings to sieze up on the cylinder wall and that's that. Unless your walls are getting just a little lube, a drop here and there, to keep them from siezing. Then it might act like the lawn-boy. Maybe a logical next step would be to get an actual reading on your oil pressure.

Question for somebody- does the zetec have a filter bypass valve, or are they depending on one that's built into the filter? I'm thinking what if the filter collapsed internally? Would it be bypassed? What would suddenly lower this oil pressure to a mear trickle?
 

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what kind of oil have you been using tony? Just curious. Do you do a lot of short drives? Drives that don't let the engine get good and hot? That happened to my grandpa's car years ago and he had to have it rebuilt becuase the rings stoped seating from being gummed up in the piston ring grooves
 

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Yeah, but Vance, we can't ignore Tony's assertion that this happens to all 4 cylinders all at once. That almost rules out sticking rings. He says the cylinder walls are dry- I don't know how Tony knows that, but if squirting oil in there restores the cimpression, even just momentarily, that would fit with the idea of dry cylinder walls. I just keep thinking of that damned Lawn Boy and how it acted when run w/o oil in the gas (no cyl lubrication). It was just like Tony's thing here.

Tony- if this were my car I think I'd spin on a new oil filter and try that. It's a little bit of a long shot but it's very cheap and easy and it is a possibility. I think I might be on the right track with my previous post.
 

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actually no, it sticks all the rings in every bore. the engine I am familiar with was a V-6, and all the rings on all the pistons were stuck. He used penzoil oil exclusivly. Dry cylinder walls is not an option. The crank throws plenty of oil up there. That is why they have oil control rings on the pistons. They are acually scrapers to get excess oil off the walls. I take his comments of dry cylinder walls as a relitive term. Putting oil in the spark plug holes is a lot wetter than normal oil lubrication of the cylinders, and that is the legitament test for ring seal. I still stick with the sticking ring cause of the problem. Rislone in the cylinders to soak is a good idea, but I doubt it will help much. but worth a try. Another option if you can keep the engine running at about 2000 rpm is to TRICKLE water into the intake. The heat shock and steam created loosens carbon deposits and maybe will help the problem. You don't have anything to loose at this point.
 

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I'm basing my theory on the idea that the oil pressure is freightfully low, but just enough to present oil to the bearings, w/only a few drops being thrown off now and then. That's why I asked if his cams were oiling (i.e. is there enough pressure to push oil up there).

Initialy, the way the problem started is the thing was running OK and then it just stopped, period. That's what gets me. Why would all the rings stick then and there? And he should have a ton of blow-by if that is the case.
 

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This has been a good thread - some intelligent thoughts and not much in useless info, especially Blurvfocus. In any case, don't know the engine, but many engines use the crankshaft whipping through the oil in the pan to splash oil the cylinder walls. Any possibility that the oil is too low (if this lube system is used here) to splash, but high enough for oil pump pickup?????
 

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These are pressure lubricated, but there is a splash element to it in that the oil pushing out of the rapidly spinning rod bearings spray all over the place and that's what's supposed to be lubing the cylinder walls. I can't figure out why the cylinder walls are dry but the bearings aren't knocking.

It's strange all right, I'm anxious to find out the outcome.
 
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