Opel Corsa B 1993–2000 Service and Repair Manual: Compression test - description and interpretation

1. When engine performance is down, or if misfiring occurs which cannot be attributed to the ignition or fuel systems, a compression test can provide diagnostic clues as to the engine's condition. If the test is performed regularly, it can give warning of trouble before any other symptoms become apparent.

2. The engine must be fully warmed-up to normal operating temperature, the battery must be fully charged, and all the spark plugs must be removed. The aid of an assistant will also be required.

3. Disable the ignition system by disconnecting the ignition HT coil lead from the distributor cap and earthing it on the cylinder block. Use a jumper lead or similar wire to make a good connection.

4. Fit a compression tester to the No 1 cylinder spark plug hole - the type of tester which screws into the plug thread is best.

5. Have the assistant hold the throttle wide open, and crank the engine on the starter motor; after one or two revolutions, the compression pressure should build up to a maximum figure, and then stabilise. Record the highest reading obtained.

6. Repeat the test on the remaining cylinders, recording the pressure in each.

7. All cylinders should produce very similar pressures; a difference of more than 2 bars between any two cylinders indicates a fault.

Note that the compression should build up quickly in a healthy engine; low compression on the first stroke, followed by graduallyincreasing pressure on successive strokes, indicates worn piston rings. A low compression reading on the first stroke, which does not build up during successive strokes, indicates leaking valves or a blown head gasket (a cracked head could also be the cause). Deposits on the undersides of the valve heads can also cause low compression.

8. Although Vauxhall do not specify exact compression pressures, as a guide, any cylinder pressure of below 10 bars can be considered as less than healthy. Refer to a Vauxhall dealer or other specialist if in doubt as to whether a particular pressure reading is acceptable.

9. If the pressure in any cylinder is low, carry out the following test to isolate the cause. Put a teaspoonfull of clean oil into that cylinder through its spark plug hole, and repeat the test.

10. If the addition of oil temporarily improves the compression pressure, this indicates that bore or piston wear is responsible for the pressure loss. No improvement suggests that leaking or burnt valves, or a blown head gasket, may be to blame.

11. A low reading from two adjacent cylinders is almost certainly due to the head gasket having blown between them; the presence of coolant in the engine oil will confirm this.

12. If one cylinder is about 20 percent lower than the others and the engine has a slightly rough idle, a worn camshaft lobe could be the cause.

13. If the compression reading is unusually high, the combustion chambers are probably coated with carbon deposits. If this is the case, the cylinder head should be removed and decarbonised.

14. On completion of the test, refit the spark plugs and reconnect the ignition system.

Operations possible with the engine in the car

The following operations may be carried out without having to remove the engine:

  1. Adjustment of the valve clearances.
  2. Removal and refitting of cylinder head.
  3. Removal and refitting of sump.
  4. Removal and refitting of oil pump.
  5. Removal and refitting of the timing gear components.
  6. Removal and refitting of pistons and connecting rods.
  7. Removal and refitting of the flywheel.
  8. Removal and refitting of the engine/transmission mountings.

Operations requiring engine removal

The following operations can only be carried out after removal of the engine:

  1. Removal and refitting of the camshaft and tappets.
  2. Removal and refitting of the crankshaft and main bearings.
  3. Removal and refitting of the crankshaft rear oil seal.
    General description
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    Engine dismantling and reassembly - general information
    1. If the engine has been removed from the car for major overhaul, or if individual components have been removed for repair or renewal, observe the following general hints on dismantling and reass ...

    See also:

    Opel Corsa Owners Manual. Refuelling
    Refuelling Danger: Before refuelling, switch off engine and any external heaters with combustion chambers (identified by sticker on fuel filler flap). Switch off any mobile phones. Follow the ...


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