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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hi guys,
You’ve always had good advice for me in the past so I definitely need some now. I put a new muffler and intermediate pipe on my 1999 93 yesterday, so when my wife called to say itwas sputtering and a little loud I assumed maybe a clamp had come loose. I wish...

Met her at the supermarket parking lot. She’d driven it maybe a mile after what she said was a “sputter” in downshifting. She didn’t think it would make it home and shut it off. A good woman! The car started but ran rough.. White smoke from exhaust. I thought it might be the turbo. shut it off and found little to no oil on the stick. Also oil in the coolant tank. Though it ran, I had it towed home.

I guess maybe a head gasket, piston.. both etc.? Those items, while not above my willingness to tackle are a bit beyond my previous mechanical and diagnostic experience.

Can you guys give me the diagnostic approach that you’d use to identify what’s going on if it were your car? Where should I start?

trying to take a deep breath right now...

Thanks!
 

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Is the coolant level reasonably normal, just with oil in it? How much oil are we talking?

Usually the coolant migrates into the oil. Granted that oil is under higher pressure when the engine is running (at least close to the pump), but when the engine is off, the coolant is still under pressure and the oiling system isn't.

A compression test would be interesting.

I'm not sure we have enough clues to even develop some scenarios, though.
 

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...and, are you positive it's oil in the coolant? More common is combustion contamination (that can give the coolant a rainbow effect similar to oil).

See if your FLAPS has a combustion gas detector in their loan-a-tool program. You'll have to buy the test fluid, but it will tell you whether combustion is leaking past the gasket and into the cooling system, or not.

It is possible for oil and coolant to cross contaminate, but it is FAR more likely for combustion gasses to cross with the coolant. There are two places where oil goes to/from the bottom end to the top end...and sixteen for coolant. All sixteen are very close to the combustion chambers.
 

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I'd rent as many testers as you can... compression tester, cooling system pressure tester, exhaust gas tester. I'd also want to see how much oil is no oil, and when the last time you looked at it was.... it was a year ago and there is still 3qts in there, then maybe you just have a little more consumption than you think. If it was yesterday and it's bone dry then there is a real problem. Major loss of oil is typically not a head gasket problem - that's more or less unheard of. White smoke is typically coolant being burned off. Since nothing is textbook here, start with rental testers. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
The gunk in the coolant jar was enough to wipe off as a stick to my finger mess and on the paper towel. It's a little dark out now but the coolant tank visually looked pretty dark to me from the outside too. Could compression gasses form a wipeable soot like this inside the coolant tank? Perhaps like I saw in my exhaust pipes yesterday? ( maybe I just answered my own question...) The overall coolant level was not really out of line.

After letting it sit a while the oil level was measured as barely covering only the very ball end of the stick, so at least there was some in there. With the advent of our summer 'vert, this car has gone into more of a 6 month on 6 months off duty cycle. That to say, some levels may not be getting checked as diligently. Since you mentioned it,
I did notice yesterday a more active oil leak around the front right of the valve cover, which I somewhat overlooked at the time because I was doing the exhaust work. So this may account for the oil loss.

I do have compression testing/ leakdown equip, and a combustion gas tester too-( if I can find the dang thing... I've only found the fluid so far) I've tested the coolant tank for combustion gas as recently as this past summer and have never had anything show up. Will the existing junk in the coolant tank now show up as being a combustion gas if it is, or will have to start the vehicle again to test that. I'm feeling a little shy about running any more than i have to. And what if it is oil, would that trigger a combustion gas result?
 

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I don't see any reason you can't run it as long as you fill the oil up and keep an eye on it when you run it. Fill the coolant when cold to exactly the line so you can track that too. You'll need to heat it up to do a reasonable compression test. I'd fill the oil, start it, let it get to where the thermostat is open (coolant flowing in upper hose) and then do the compression test. That's probably about 10 minutes... I'm a belt and suspenders guy, so I'd stop half way through and see if the oil level is dropping abd judge from there. Do wet and dry compression tests. Watch the smoke color once it's hot too. Look in the cylinders and see if any pistons are significantly cleaner than the others.

Oil in the coolant is usually a white fluffy kind of thing, not just soot in the tank. I'd think that soot was a head gasket combustion gas leak into the cooling system. White smoke would be the opposite - coolant being drawn into a cylinder (and the clean piston usually resulting).

My money is on your head gasket, but do some testing and listen to the other guys here. They know more than me .
 

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Be careful with a coolant system pressure tester...I've seen them force-fill a cylinder and cause more damage. Definitely use your leak-down tester first...if it bubbles through the coolant reservoir, you know you have an issue.

Every combustion gas tester I've used requires the engine to be running so the gases percolate through the test fluid. I'm not sure if oil in the coolant would be detected, or not.

I think the leak-down test is going to be the best first move.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
found the combustion gas tester. I didn't want to run it long but did start for a minute and the coolant burped a bit. the fluid started changing color. i think it supposed to go yellow but it turned green and I stopped. what I also noticed while It was running was what I thought was a valve cover leak was instead oil bubbling out around this manifold gasket area
271515
and that horizontal seam to the right of it. Also I'm seeing as I look at this picture, it looks like a manifold bolt is missing.
 

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That could be water bubbling out of an exhaust manifold leak.

The coolant tank burped air? That would be suggestive of a leak - head gasket or external or otherwise - that is drawing air into the cooling system as it cools off.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
[/QUOTE] That's not an occupied hole. It's supposed to look like that, oddly enough.
[/QUOTE]

never would have guessed that, thanks!
 

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Discussion Starter #14 (Edited)
That could be water bubbling out of an exhaust manifold leak.

The coolant tank burped air? That would be suggestive of a leak - head gasket or external or otherwise - that is drawing air into the cooling system as it cools off.
That makes sense. I had the coolant cover off when I started it, and then the tank gave a bit of a surge. I had previously removed it briefly while hot when I first saw the car, so maybe it had sucked some air back in.

The oil or maybe it’s soot and water, has been collecting below the manifold. It looks wet, not like water that should evaporate there after a time.
 

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Discussion Starter #15 (Edited)
Tomorrow, I’ll put in some oil and warm it up and get a better read on a full combustion gas test. I’ll pull the plugs and see if I see anything on the piston heads and do comp tests. . Once ( if ] I determine that it is passing combustion gas, is a leak down or cylinder compression check really gonna tell me anything else I need to know, or should I just start planning on doing the head gasket?
 

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I wouldn't plan on a repair until you know it's warranted... it would be a shame to take a head off to find the turbo has a damaged center section and that's the issue, or there is an external leak, or something else.
 

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The cylinder with the gasket leak just happened to be approaching TDC on the compression stroke. The connecting rod bent.
That seems like a weird set of circumstances. You should remove the spark plugs when doing the cooling system test, so leakage into the cylinder can be detected. Finding that, then putting the plugs back in, then trying to start the motor? That probably shouldn't have happened.:(
 

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That seems like a weird set of circumstances. You should remove the spark plugs when doing the cooling system test, so leakage into the cylinder can be detected. Finding that, then putting the plugs back in, then trying to start the motor? That probably shouldn't have happened.:(
I wasn't the pilot in command...I was an innocent bystander (riding an air cooled motorcycle that day).
 

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Discussion Starter #20 (Edited)
I did cylinder tests today. Warmed up the car. Plenty of white smoke. Not overly sweet smelling like I might have expected. Ran a bit rough and rougher as it warmed up, with the idle speed bouncing around. Didn’t see anything unusual in looking at the piston tops. Except my reflection in #1...

3 cylinders were nearly the same compression and dry plugs. #1 cylinder had coolant in it, plug was wet/sooty and it compression tested about 30 lbs higher than the other cylinders. Because of the coolant in there? Leak down test: 3 cylinders showed moderate leak down and the 4th, ( #1 cylinder) test started pushing coolant out of the tank. I didn’t think I needed to redo the combustion gas test.

seems like just the headgasket? Is anything else I need to test or eliminate as issues before moving forward?
 
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