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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I was changing the spark plugs and DIC in my mom's 9-5 and for some reason the 4th spark plug was SUPER tight. I got it off but not without the white ceramic in top of the NGK plugs broke off and fell in to the cylinder.

I was able to get some of the pieces out, via really thin pliers and using a vacuum hose to suck it out with my mouth, but I'm pretty sure there's a decent size piece in there just out of view

I tried starting the engine because I very stupidly convinced myself I got it out because I could not see anything AT ALL looking at angles, but I heard a very scary rattling noise when it was turning over, so I shut it off immediately

Am I screwed? What happened when it turned over and fired for a brief second? I'm gonna throw in the towel and get it towed so someone can get it out for me. Are they gonna have to replace the valve cover and head gasket, among other things? Did I ruin the cylinder or a valve? How dumb am I?

This sucks, and has never happened in the dozen+ times I've replaced spark plugs :(
 

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Just to be clear, but ceramic pieces of the 4th spark plug fell into one of the cylinders, right? Is that what you're saying? I think it is but I wanted to be sure.

It's really hard to say. It's too bad you started the engine. I know it's easy to say in hindsight and "the damage is done" at this point.

I poked around the Internet for other threads about this. One guy had the same issue as you, started the engine, and had "minor" damage to one of his cylinders. Sounds like his car was still drive-able. Some others didn't end so well. I think only a professional can find the remaining pieces and tell you how much if any damage has been done.

They'd replace the head gasket if they have to pull the head, but they will probably start by using a scope and looking in the cylinder. Valve cover gasket is trivial, and is the least of your concerns at this point. Good luck. I hope there is no damage, but the cynical side of me thinks there has to be at least some damage if you heard a piece rattling around inside the cylinder. Keep us posted!
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Just to be clear, but ceramic pieces of the 4th spark plug fell into one of the cylinders, right? Is that what you're saying? I think it is but I wanted to be sure.

It's really hard to say. It's too bad you started the engine. I know it's easy to say in hindsight and "the damage is done" at this point.

I poked around the Internet for other threads about this. One guy had the same issue as you, started the engine, and had "minor" damage to one of his cylinders. Sounds like his car was still drive-able. Some others didn't end so well. I think only a professional can find the remaining pieces and tell you how much if any damage has been done.

They'd replace the head gasket if they have to pull the head, but they will probably start by using a scope and looking in the cylinder. Valve cover gasket is trivial, and is the least of your concerns at this point. Good luck. I hope there is no damage, but the cynical side of me thinks there has to be at least some damage if you heard a piece rattling around inside the cylinder. Keep us posted!
Yes that's what happened

I looked online and I found a scope that's decently reviewed for $20. I'm gonna buy it and poke around and see if I can find the piece

I looked more online and realize now I should have tried other methods to try and get it out. This sucks, and I feel like a major idiot

From what others have been saying, my biggest hope is that it went through the exhaust valve and is stuck in the cat. However, I feel like that is a fingers crossed type situation, considering how small the valve is.

Also, wouldn't it get sucked right in to the turbo?

Is it possible I'm going to see it stuck in a valve? If I see nothing, does that indicate it went through a valve?

Could it go through the intake valve?
 

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It could have gotten sucked into the exhaust side of the turbo, but I doubt it. We’re only guessing at this point. Sounds like you’re eyeing a reasonable scope. I bet you’ll find the piece, and you can also use the scope to inspect for damage.
 

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Turn the engine by hand the opposite direction it goes when starting it. You can do this with a socket on the harmonic balancer. Then use a shop vac in the spark plug hole to suck everything out. I bet if the only thing left in there is porcelain it should not damage the engine.

Do not be so hard on yourself. This sh!t happens.
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
Turn the engine by hand the opposite direction it goes when starting it. You can do this with a socket on the harmonic balancer. Then use a shop vac in the spark plug hole to suck everything out. I bet if the only thing left in there is porcelain it should not damage the engine.

Do not be so hard on yourself. This sh!t happens.
Would you mind explaining how to do this? I've never done it

The car should be in neutral? The size of the bolt is 24 mm, correct? I'm pretty sure the crankshaft is visible as soon as I take the passenger wheel off unless I'm thinking of something else?

This may sound stupid, but would it be easier to 'bump' the starter very gently with the injectors/plugs removed until it gets in the position I want?

Just got the endoscope. Can barely see anything because the piston is too high
 

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Would you mind explaining how to do this? I've never done it

The car should be in neutral? The size of the bolt is 24 mm, correct? I'm pretty sure the crankshaft is visible as soon as I take the passenger wheel off unless I'm thinking of something else?

This may sound stupid, but would it be easier to 'bump' the starter very gently with the injectors/plugs removed until it gets in the position I want?

Just got the endoscope. Can barely see anything because the piston is too high
Crank bolt is 27mm I believe

You need to put the car on jack stands, remove the passenger side wheel, and then remove the plastic shield. You will then be able to see/access the crank bolt

I would agree that you should put the car in N, but I don't know this for a fact. Maybe someone else can confirm this.

I wouldn't turn the starter, personally. I think it still cranks the engine pretty fast. According to Google, the normal cranking speed of an engine is 200 RPM. Still fast enough to cause damage if there are spark plug bits in there.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Crank bolt is 27mm I believe

You need to put the car on jack stands, remove the passenger side wheel, and then remove the plastic shield. You will then be able to see/access the crank bolt

I would agree that you should put the car in N, but I don't know this for a fact. Maybe someone else can confirm this.

I wouldn't turn the starter, personally. I think it still cranks the engine pretty fast. According to Google, the normal cranking speed of an engine is 200 RPM. Still fast enough to cause damage if there are spark plug bits in there.
Great, thanks! I actually have a 27 mm socket from when I bought that sandwich adapter / oil pressure gauge

Gotcha, won't try the starter. When toxicavenger says opposite the direction it goes when starting, I assume that's counterclockwise?
 

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I would not advise turning the engine backwards. The cam chain system relies on a unidirectional tensioner and cranking the engine backwards can result in the tensioner over-adjusting. This will cause rapid wear of the tensioner guide and possibly other parts of the timing system.

As long as you're cranking the engine over by hand (slowly) the little bits of ceramic should not cause any problems. The pistons fit pretty tightly in the bores so I doubt you'd get any pieces to catch and score the bore.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away I had an '83 Audi 5000 that stripped out a spark plug. I had to overdrill the plug hole and heli-coil it. I did it with the head on the engine. A piece of vinyl tubing duct-taped to end of a shop vac hose was used to clean out the cylinder as there was a good amount of shavings in there from drilling. I expect the same trick will work for you.
 

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I would not advise turning the engine backwards. The cam chain system relies on a unidirectional tensioner and cranking the engine backwards can result in the tensioner over-adjusting. This will cause rapid wear of the tensioner guide and possibly other parts of the timing system.

As long as you're cranking the engine over by hand (slowly) the little bits of ceramic should not cause any problems. The pistons fit pretty tightly in the bores so I doubt you'd get any pieces to catch and score the bore.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away I had an '83 Audi 5000 that stripped out a spark plug. I had to overdrill the plug hole and heli-coil it. I did it with the head on the engine. A piece of vinyl tubing duct-taped to end of a shop vac hose was used to clean out the cylinder as there was a good amount of shavings in there from drilling. I expect the same trick will work for you.
Turning the engine by hand backwards a few turns will not do any damage.

Heli-coils are great when in a oh-sh1t situation. I agree.
 

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
Okay, I got the piston to its lowest point. Grabbed some pictures of all angles:

https://imgur.com/a/HXe2kH9

I don't know what a bad piston looks like. The first and second picture, on the right and left side, does not look.....normal? All of the pistons in each cylinder are pretty ugly and dirty-ish. Keep in mind this engine has 240k+ miles (still runs like a champ though, when it's running)

I got a vacuum that fits the spark plug hole exactly. I'm going to dust bust the pieces that I see and vacuum it out.

So....I don't see the 'larger' piece of ceramic that I'm pretty sure was down there. Does that mean it got sucked up in to the valve already? Or it was pulverized in to the tiny pieces that I see? I don't really see how it could make up those few pieces though.

I'm assuming this means the damage is done. I'll await any further advice before attempting to start it
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Okay I cleaned it out as best as I could:

Air blasted it, vacuumed, rotated the engine a tiny bit, repeat. I did that until I think I got all of the cycles. No visible pieces in the cylinder

I don't think there's anything more I can do, unless anyone has any suggestions?
 

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If the piece was large enough to hit the top of the piston, when you started the car you pulverized it. you likely have "dust" everywhere in there. The big challenge will be if you got a piece stuck in the exhaust valves that is prohibiting the valve from closing. Over time that might break up but it also might damage the valve seat.

As others have said, find a way to vacuum out everything you can. Tape a piece of hose to the end of the vacuum and put it down in there and move it around, find as much as you can. Since you have a scope , continue to look for pieces.

The last thing I would do is to pour some oil down there with the engine at BDC for that cylinder and then crank the engine with the plug out and let it push the oil out. hopefully the ceramic dust will float on the top of the oil and come out that way. you'll have to use some form of suction to get all of the oil out with the piston at TDC.

Then give it a try. If you damaged it, the damage is already done and I don't think you'll damage it any more at this point after you clean it out the best you can.


As for damage, it can go from a bent valv, damaged valve seats, broken or weakened piston or scratched cylinder bores. Most of which put you in engine rebuild or replace territory.

Good luck
 

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Discussion Starter #15 (Edited)
If the piece was large enough to hit the top of the piston, when you started the car you pulverized it. you likely have "dust" everywhere in there. The big challenge will be if you got a piece stuck in the exhaust valves that is prohibiting the valve from closing. Over time that might break up but it also might damage the valve seat.

As others have said, find a way to vacuum out everything you can. Tape a piece of hose to the end of the vacuum and put it down in there and move it around, find as much as you can. Since you have a scope , continue to look for pieces.

The last thing I would do is to pour some oil down there with the engine at BDC for that cylinder and then crank the engine with the plug out and let it push the oil out. hopefully the ceramic dust will float on the top of the oil and come out that way. you'll have to use some form of suction to get all of the oil out with the piston at TDC.

Then give it a try. If you damaged it, the damage is already done and I don't think you'll damage it any more at this point after you clean it out the best you can.


As for damage, it can go from a bent valv, damaged valve seats, broken or weakened piston or scratched cylinder bores. Most of which put you in engine rebuild or replace territory.

Good luck
Thanks for the advice. I'll do all of that

What do you think of when I start the engine, my foot is giving it 1/2 throttle, so as to force all the pieces through the exhaust as fast as possible, instead of letting them potentially stay and cause more damage to their surroundings? Would this work, or could it potentially cause more damage to things?

I would also assume I should use some pretty thin oil so as to not damage anything when I crank the engine with the plug out? How much oil should I put in there? Just enough to have a thin layer on top of the piston?
 

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Discussion Starter #16 (Edited)
So I bought a shop vac and went to town. I put oil in the cylinder and cranked it as suggested and I cleaned it out to the best of my abilities. I was able to get a thin hose down there and suck out as much as I could

On trying to start the car, I couldn't get it firing. The starter kept cranking, and I could feel the engine struggling to engage, but no luck. I thought to myself, it's toast

So I kept trying, and the car really struggled. I got it firing, it was hesitating, barely stayed alive for more than 5 seconds

Then, all of a sudden, it just started working like normally. I'm pretty sure me giving it gas helped. I slammed the pedal up to 3-4000 rpm and after that, everything okay.

Now, it idles fine. Sounds fine. Revved it up to 4k rpm's, held it, fine. Nothing weird going on. I haven't taken it for a test drive or anything because I had to go to work, but I will tomorrow.

Anyone know what happened? Did I force a piece of ceramic out of an intake valve? Was it being jammed somewhere what kept it from not starting? Am I in the clear? I suppose time will tell. I'm wondering if anyone can give some insight as to what could have happened in the first minute where it would not start

Anything I should do next? Probably will do a compression test some time later this week
 

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One possibility is that the cranking during no start washed a major portion of the oil off the cylinders when it was not starting - then compression drops, and starting is very hard.

On another board a mechanic described exactly this scenario with a customer car that was brought in with a crank / no-start. IIRC that car had a bad DIC, but the new DIC would not make it start. The mechanic checked compression, added some oil to cylinders and it starting right up with no apparent damage.

I hope your experience is as positive !
 

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Discussion Starter #18
One possibility is that the cranking during no start washed a major portion of the oil off the cylinders when it was not starting - then compression drops, and starting is very hard.

On another board a mechanic described exactly this scenario with a customer car that was brought in with a crank / no-start. IIRC that car had a bad DIC, but the new DIC would not make it start. The mechanic checked compression, added some oil to cylinders and it starting right up with no apparent damage.

I hope your experience is as positive !
I'm confused. Cranking the engine when I was pushing oil out of the cylinder's caused internal oil to drain off the head? Therefore, no compression?

I've never even thought of that. I didn't think cranking without starting hurts much, considering oil pressure isn't at least 0 when just cranking. I hope I didn't hurt my engine. I never once considered it could have been starved of oil. How does one add oil to just the cylinders?
 
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