How long can I drive my car with one cylinder only having 20% compression?


Asked by May 03, 2015 at 11:11 PM about the 1995 Honda Civic EX

Question type: General

About a week ago I was driving up a steep hill and my car couldn't handle it. We took
it to the shop and they told me that one of the cylinders only has 20% compression.
They told me that I could drive it up to a year and it'd be fine. When I idle, the whole
car shakes and jumps because the cylinder isn't firing with the others. How long can I
continue driving the car in this condition? A year seems a long time, and I'm worried
that all the shaking will just break something else in the engine. Thanks

14 Answers


The engine can handle the imbalance, it the mounts that are taking a beating at idle, then the catalysts and O2 sensors, you will start to notice a drop in economy and a major drop power. It takes 2 cylinders to overcome the power loss of 1 cylinder, so don't jump out in front of someone and expect too pull away.

2 people found this helpful.

Yes it can last a year, but most people can't put up with it that long and either fix it or junk it.


With that low of a compression reading sounds like a burned or stuck valve. On a 20 year old car it's not worth fixing. Drive it until it quits or you can buy something else. HTH. -Jim


Diagnose it and find the failed part, dont pump fuel into the catalyst, sheesh! Get a used replacement for the head or the engine. They have yards that are specialists in getting the right one and delivering it, then help with smart instructions to protect your warranty. for the used covered items.


Those cars are supposed to be soooooooo frickin great, lets see how long you can keep it running and passing emissions. it's only 20 or so. My benz is 30 and wants to retire early.


My chevy is 43 and can spin circles around both of them.


I'm tight on money right now, so I was wondering how long I could take to find a new car. I'd love to fix it up, but they also said the body was rusting away.


It also has an oil leak somewhere and they claim they can't identify where it I have been replacing the oil every few weeks for the past 2 years.


If you got rust then it is history, it should keep going for a while, just don't force it.


The big issue with a misfiring engine is the catalytic converter. It will overheat and eventually become clogged. When that happens the exhaust system will become restricted and the engine won't be able to breathe. Then it will no longer want to run. It's a gamble as far as how long you can drive it. But I wouldn't take any long trips with it. You may get another year out of it or another month. It's really hard to say. HTH. -Jim

1 people found this helpful.

agree jim, and the cause of misfire or loss of compression can be simpler since we havent heard the failed part. a leaking injector causing compression loss eventually can then lead to more danger in the catalyst. burn the carpet and start grass fires this time of year. This person can remove their plugs, add oil to the plug holes in very small amounts and crank the engine. when the mess subsides, they can measure compression again and again to look for a rise..................They can also do a leakdown to see if they need a used head instead.


or even just a valve, parts permitting. they arent always available and when they see that the suppliers raise prices above that of a used head. A low mile replacement engine could save the car or avail it for resale. Depends what the owners aptitude is. Or, how hard they look for a shop to help.


But why did they need someone to tell them the cars body was rusted? Must be not in sight? Or the battery area? I dont need to guess, it's zero maintenance, meaning sneakers has a valid point. They may have nicer cars at the u-pull-it yard.


The oil leak story is kinda common, if you use a sheet of cardboard and find the general area, you have to consistently park in the same place, or carry the cardboard. If you maintain the belt and waterpump, you have new cam and crank seals, if you maintain the valves, you have a good cover gasket and a fresh pcv. Giving the benefit of the doubt, that leaves rear main, a 20 minute diagnosis at the most. I would get a builder car from the yard if I planned to treat it like that. Just kept driving without any repair. And had no care. Fix it up and go till it wont go. Claim ignorance, and go do it again.

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