Interpreting Your Compression Test Results

On high mileage vehicles it's not uncommon to see the compression values differ between cylinders.

Up to a certain point, this difference in compression values does not cause any engine performance problems.

But if the values vary beyond a certain range, then you'll definitely have a misfire or rough idle problem on your hands.

To find out if the lower compression value is causing a problem, you need to find out if it's lower than 15% of the highest compression value you got.

You can do this (figuring out the 15%) in one of two ways: You can calculate this 15% difference with pen and paper or you can use my low compression calculator. You can find the low compression calculator here: Online Low Engine Compression Calculator (at: easyautodiagnostics.com).

If you want to manually calculate the 15% difference, here's what you'll need to do:

  1. STEP 1: Multiply the highest compression value by 0.15 (this is the decimal value of 15%).
  2. STEP 2: Round the result to the nearest one (for example: 25.6 would become 26).
  3. STEP 3: Subtract the result (the number that was rounded) from the highest compression value.
  4. ANSWER: The result of this subtraction is the lowest possible compression value any cylinder can have.

Now, let me give you a more specific example: Let's say that I got the following compression readings:

Cylinder Pressure
#1 165 PSI
#2   95 PSI
#3 155 PSI
#4 175 PSI

My next step is to do the following calculation:

  1. STEP 1:  175 x 0.15 = 26.25.
  2. STEP 2:  26.25 = 26 (rounded to nearest one).
  3. STEP 3:  175 - 26 = 149.
  4. ANSWER:  149 PSI. Any cylinder with this compression (or lower) value will misfire.

Since cylinder #2 is only producing 95 PSI, I can now conclude that it's 'dead' and causing a misfire.

To find out if the lowest compression value you got from your engine compression test is within a good range, you'll need to do the same calculation. Of course, you'll need to use the highest compression value you got and not the one in the example.

Once you've found the 'dead' cylinder, the next step is to find out what's causing the low compression value. For this step, go to: TEST 2: ‘Wet’ Engine Compression Test.

TEST 2: ‘Wet’ Engine Compression Test

How To Do An Engine Compression Test (1.8L Nissan)

The next step, after finding and/or confirming that you indeed do have a ‘dead’ cylinder on your hands, is a ‘Wet’ compression test.

All this means is that you'll add about two tablespoons of oil to the confirmed ‘dead’ engine cylinder.

The engine oil that you're gonna' add to the cylinder will help determine if the low compression reading you recorded in the ‘Dry’ compression test are caused by worn piston rings or worn cylinder head valves.

Depending on whether the compression pressure rises (on your compression tester) or not, you'll be able to say that the problem lies in the piston's rings or in the cylinder head valves.

OK, this is what you need to do:

  1. 1

    Add a small amount of engine oil to the cylinder that reported low compression or no compression in the ‘Dry’ compression test.

    The amount should be about 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil.

  2. 2

    Install the compression tester onto the cylinder.

    Do not use any type of tool to tightened the compression tester. Hand tight is fine.

  3. 3

    When all is set up, have your helper crank the engine.

  4. 4

    You'll get one of two results:

    1.) The compression value will go up (from the one you recorded before).

    2.) The compression value will stay the same.

Let's take a look at what your test results mean:

CASE 1: The compression value shot up. This tells you that the piston compression rings are worn out and thus the problem is in the bottom end (block) of the engine in your 1.8L Nissan Sentra.

CASE 2: The compression value stayed the same. This confirms that the low compression problem of the affected cylinder is due to worn or damaged cylinder head valves.

More 1.8L Nissan Tutorials

You can find all of the 1.8L Nissan equipped vehicle articles here: Nissan 1.8L Index Of Articles.

Here's a sample of the tutorials you'll find in the index:

  1. How To Test The Ignition COP Coils (Nissan 1.8L).
  2. Mass Air Flow (MAF) Sensor Test Nissan Sentra 1.6L (1995-1999) (at: easyautodiagnostics.com).
  3. How To Test The 2000-2002 Nissan Sentra 1.8L MAF Sensor (at: easyautodiagnostics.com).
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Nissan Vehicles:

  • Sentra 1.8L
    • 2000,
      2001,
      2002,
      2003,
      2004,
      2005