Partial Or No Compression If Sitting For A Few Days.

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1998 Prizm 3 speed auto 129,000 mi

Car drives fine 99% of the time... but for the last few years, yes years... if it sits for more than a few days without being driven or at least started, when I start it up, it sounds like and feels like some or all of the cylinders have no compression. If no compression, I crank it longer and it starts... (this has only happened once)... or if it has partial compression loss and starts, it shakes bad but I let it idle for a minute, and everything returns to normal.

Would stuck rings cause this?

Oil info...

Synthetic 5w30 (Mobil 1 or Castrol or Valvoline depending on sale) since 100,000 mi

Burns 1.5 qt per 3000 mi when mostly city / some short highway (normally add a 1/2 every 1000)


Burns 1/3 qt per hour @ 70

Burns 1/2 qt per hour @ 80 mph (3900 rpm)

Pretty hard to believe that it looses this much compression but still be alive. Have you tested the compression on it to be sure?

For a car to act odd after sitting for some time - that is a different matter. Mine does that as well - as it could be parted for weeks on end, when I go on field deployments.

Depends on the car and its history. Especially in cases of slight oil consumption - you could have oil leaking into the combustion chamber after it sits for some time. Injectors can also be fouled from bad gas that is in the tank. Plugs might also be close to their end of life, if they have a hard time lighting off the engine.

Also keep in mind that you have a returnless fuel system. Takes more time to start these up than the previous setup - as fuel is only delivered on demand. Might take a couple of extra cranks to light it up - pretty normal.

As long as the engine "clears" up after a couple of minutes, sounds OK to me. Might need to drive it hard, every once and a while - so called "Italian tune-up" to burn off some flaky deposits, clean the plugs, and circulate the fluids completely.

Wow, you consume 1 qt in 160 miles at 80mph but only 1.5 q every 1000 miles in city? Sounds like alot of wet compression on the highway but lots of dry in city.

Not as bad as my 98..which was consuming 1 qt every 500-800 miles. Looks like i'll be doing the 'Bennie'piston ring repair' this summer as it hasn't starting since February ( 30lbs #1 30lbs #2 )..looks like I'm starting a timing chain thread this weekend, maybe removing timing chain cover..

Wow, you consume 1 qt in 160 miles at 80mph but only 1.5 q every [3000] miles in city?

Yep... I'll do a compression test Monday or Tuesday.

Do a dry and wet..I'm curious about the results.

ETCG videos are corney, but he knows alot and i usually learn something from them:


It did it again the other day first time since march, sat overnight, had zero issues the day before, and no issues since.

I remember now this is at least the 4th time this has happened, in the same number of years... the first time I can pin down was in August 2011 after a week of sitting while we were on vacation, the second after just two days of sitting, but this car will sit for 24+ hours regularly if I'm off work and stay home and sometimes all weekend if we drive my wife's car... third described above and fourth below.

Thursday night, I put the car on a battery charger because the temps were about to drop later in the week and wanted peak power, it charged for an hour and then went to maintain mode, later went to bed.

Friday morning, I removed the charger, cranked it, it sounded like compression on only one cylinder, then another until it fired and missed for a few seconds until I revved it and they all started catching...

Since I did not catch it on video, all i can say is it went like this...

Drove it the normal 1 1/2 miles home from work (it was outside in 30 something degrees F), parked it in garage, went to bed, next morning temp gauge said 46 or so in garage...

Whir = that dreaded no compression, freely moving piston sound... you know it if you've heard it.

chug = compression bump

miss = shake

fire = cylinder firing

Whir whir whir chug whir whir whir chug, whir whir whir chug, stop.

whir whir whir chug, whir whir whir chug, whir whir whir chug, whir whir chug chug, whir whir whir chug, whir whir chug fire, whir whir chug fire, miss miss fire fire, miss miss fire fire, miss miss fire fire, miss miss fire fire, rev a little missing horrible, rev to 2000 missing smoothed, drop to high idle... ran fine, drove to work.

Drove the car 4 times that day (1 1/2 mi each work to home and vice-versa), 6+ times yesterday (home to work to home to work to store to home), and 4 times today which twice was in snow (home to work to home to work in flurries and home in snow), zero issues, runs smooth, no unusual noises for my car, plenty of power, no CEL.

Battery... Good, fully charged night before. charger / maintainer WAS NOT on the other times this has happened, and not likely the cause. This issue also has never occurred after disconnecting or changing the battery. Battery likely not the cause.

Timing... runs great, good power.

Fuel... BP regular half tank. Likely not the cause.

Oil... level is 1/2 qt low 2000 mile into normal 3000 mile change with Castrol / Mobil / Valvoline (I forget which) 5w30 synthetic with a qt of store brand syn. mixed in due to consumption.

Noises... I work with peoples cars daily and my car sounds no different starting, running or idling, than any other 98-02 1zzfe except at these times that it loses it's mind.

Temperature... was in garage ~45 degrees F... The car had been outside this week in 20's 30's @ 40's and in garage which has stayed around 45-55, it has started normal every other time. It started slow but fine this Feb. when it was -12 and it will be +10 tomorrow and it will probably start then too. Does not appear to be the cause.

Sitting time... ~12 hours... normal overnight sitting time... should not be cause.

I'm baffled because if it was time sitting or temperature related, bad compression, or bad rings, or whatever, this should happen every time I let it sit for a day or two and certainly more than once every 8 months...

Any other car, I'd suspect lifters are losing prime, but the 1zzfe has solid lifters...


How many miles do you log between oil changes? How old are your spark plugs? If you inspect them, you could do that compression test while you're at it.. .Any CEL trouble codes appear when it happens?

How is it usually driven? Have you tried an Italian tuneup?