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E34 (1989 - 1995)

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  #1  
Old 10-06-2012, 03:00 PM
manuelwindows manuelwindows is offline
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1994 530i Nikasil engine block issue

I have the 1994 530i. I believe it was the first or one of the first V-8s that BMW put in a 5-series. Here's the thing I have gathered from a lot of different sources and I do have a question at the end of this post and welcome any corrections or additions to this information.

I understand there was a production split on the engine in this model (1994 530i) for imports into the US and that some of them have an aluminum alloy block known as the "Nikasil" block and that this engine often becomes defective around 70,000 - 150,000 miles.

I also believe that BMW recognized the issue early on and for the first few years after it was put out, BMW had that particular engine under recall but only if it failed on you.

So if it started to deterioate around right now (2012) in my case with about 170,000 miles on it, you're kind of screwed. What I am understanding is happening with the Nikasil block is that even just the small traces of lead in the gasoline (even if unleaded gas) cause the 7th and 8th cylinder heads to deteriorate early and the engine starts to miss and probably will fail altogether. These are things that I have been told by the BMW dealership and a BMW mechanic who weren't trying to sell me anything and I don't know if the information is true but it is what has been told to me.

So here's the thing is that this is a great car to drive and everything else on this car is either up to date or has been replaced, new brakes, tires, bushings, alignment, radiator, this car runs amazing and the interior is great. Cruise control is awesome on long trips, great leather interior, great manual shifting, incredible engine performance (until recently) and great safety features. It's a great car. I could go on for a while about it but you probably get the point because you are here in the first place. But one thing I will say is that I am disappointed in BMW because they should take more responsibility for engines that are likely to fail in the 100,000 - 150,000 mile range because that is low mileage for a 5-series engine to fail if it has been properly maintained and maintenance is not the issue here and when you buy a BMW, I think you should be able to expect at least 250,000 miles out the engine as I think that's the standard they should still be holding themselves to but I'm not going off on that anymore so here's my specific issue:

I am not a mechanic and not very familiar with technical terms but anyway, I could get a replacement engine for this car at a pretty reasonable price and I'm wondering if anybody here knows:

a) how I would be able to tell if the replacement engine I am considering buying is the Nikasil block, if that is possible. The replacement engine does have an aluminum block head but I think all the engines have that and that is not an indicator that it is the Nikasil block.

b) how much would a reputable mechanic charge to replace the engine in this car with the replacement engine?

Thanks!
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  #2  
Old 10-06-2012, 03:17 PM
air_cooled air_cooled is offline
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Read this - http://www.bmw4life.com/nikasil.htm
Verify the numbers on the block.

I would suggest that if your engine was at 170k miles and had good compression you have nothing to worry about.

The cost to replace the engine, if you are not doing it yourself, is more than the car is worth.

....and welcome to the forums
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  #3  
Old 10-06-2012, 03:38 PM
manuelwindows manuelwindows is offline
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Thank you very much, great information! If I may ask a follow up question, why do I have nothing to worry about if I had good compression up until 170,000 miles? Is that because it is probably not the Nikasil corrosion issue but something else affecting the idling or at this point?

The one thing I have not done is have the spark plug and spark plug wires replaced, which I plan to do next week. I've had it checked for vacuum leaks and pretty much everything else it could be except for the spark plugs. I am embarrassed to admit that but it's the situation.

The dealership did a whole diagnosis for free and replaced the e-prom and thermostat and billed me nothing for the diagnostics or the parts or labor for that problem, because, believe it or not, this model is still under factory recall for an issue with the e-prom and thermostat. But it was a bummer when I got the car back and still had the low idle and the hesitation in acceleration that is also occurring with the low idle. The car rides great at about 60 mpg - 80 mpg in 5th gear, with no hesitation at all, if that helps any. And thanks again.
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  #4  
Old 10-06-2012, 07:13 PM
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Average 70mpg? Must be a typo - 16 or 18 I would run with. If you have lost compression on two cylinders only it probably not be a bore/block problem. Get brave (rich) take the heads off and recondition them. Full turne up and cooling system service. Then see what problems you have.
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  #5  
Old 10-06-2012, 07:42 PM
manuelwindows manuelwindows is offline
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yes, that was a typo. What I mean to write is that it rides great and without hesitation or any noticeable loss of power in 4th or 5th gear, from 60 - 80 miles per hour. Starts to hesitate above about 80 mph.

I've just had cooling system service so I'm going to go with the low-hanging fruit and get new spark plugs and spark plug wires and see if there might be any oil leaking in there somehow when I do that and see if that takes care of it as I'm going with the least expensive things first. And I'll update sometime next week after I get to that, on what results I have.
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  #6  
Old 10-06-2012, 07:45 PM
robertobaggio20 robertobaggio20 is offline
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The nikasil issue had nothing to do with lead, but sulphur. Gas sold in the 90s in some places had too much sulphur to be nice to the nikasil block. All the nikasil blocks were replaced when they started noticing this issue, and not just the ones that had problems. Car recalls affect all cars with the defective part, and not just those that have issues.

You don't have to worry now because gasoline is unleaded everywhere and all sulphur went out together with the lead. In any case, there was a good chance that your engine was replaced. Besides, if it had not been replaced, it was probably given a steady diet of premium gasoline in its early years, which would have been unleaded anyway, so you don't have to worry about nikasil deterioration.

Please read the maintenance threads at the top of these forums. In particular, please change out the following immediately or asap to new OEM stuff : fuel pump, fuel pump fuse, fuel pump relay and crankshaft position sensor. These components commonly fail unpredictably at this stage in our car (read through these forums), and when they do, the car will not start. What's worse is that they often do not give any warning of impending failure. It has happened so many times its ridiculous. But the great thing is that these are known issues so you don't have to learn about this the hard way. Buy OEM stuff and you're basically good for the next 1- years. Do this even if your stuff seems to be working fine right now.

Also, have your battery and alternator tested with an electronic battery tester, for good measure. It only takes 5 minutes total for this, its too quick a test not to do and you do seem to be concerned about keeping your car in good shape.
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  #7  
Old 10-06-2012, 07:50 PM
robertobaggio20 robertobaggio20 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by manuelwindows View Post
Thank you very much, great information! If I may ask a follow up question, why do I have nothing to worry about if I had good compression up until 170,000 miles? Is that because it is probably not the Nikasil corrosion issue but something else affecting the idling or at this point?

The one thing I have not done is have the spark plug and spark plug wires replaced, which I plan to do next week. I've had it checked for vacuum leaks and pretty much everything else it could be except for the spark plugs. I am embarrassed to admit that but it's the situation.

The dealership did a whole diagnosis for free and replaced the e-prom and thermostat and billed me nothing for the diagnostics or the parts or labor for that problem, because, believe it or not, this model is still under factory recall for an issue with the e-prom and thermostat. But it was a bummer when I got the car back and still had the low idle and the hesitation in acceleration that is also occurring with the low idle. The car rides great at about 60 mpg - 80 mpg in 5th gear, with no hesitation at all, if that helps any. And thanks again.
Most people do not check for vacuum leaks so if you don't have them, that shows your engine is probably in really good shape. What you need to do is a compression test. The device required is cheap off ebay and you can do them in concert with changing your spark plugs and ignition wires. If the compression readings remains consistent across all chambers, you've got nothing to worry about. Please google and check youtube for lots of outstanding and detailed information on how to conduct and interpret compression tests.

The main reason why I feel that you don't have a compression problem is because you are so pleased with your car. If the compression is not great, the car will not drive well, and you probably won't be writing so enthusiastically about it. :-)
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  #8  
Old 10-06-2012, 08:00 PM
robertobaggio20 robertobaggio20 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by manuelwindows View Post
yes, that was a typo. What I mean to write is that it rides great and without hesitation or any noticeable loss of power in 4th or 5th gear, from 60 - 80 miles per hour. Starts to hesitate above about 80 mph.

I've just had cooling system service so I'm going to go with the low-hanging fruit and get new spark plugs and spark plug wires and see if there might be any oil leaking in there somehow when I do that and see if that takes care of it as I'm going with the least expensive things first. And I'll update sometime next week after I get to that, on what results I have.
1. (This is unlikely to help but) please clean out your idle control valve. That could fix the idling issue. I suspect you know how to do this already, if not youtube has many informative videos for this.

2. Check out the long maintenance list that I posted up here for someone else who just bought his first E34 :
http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=641002

You might find it relevant. CHeers.
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  #9  
Old 10-06-2012, 08:03 PM
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BMWFatherFigure BMWFatherFigure is offline
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Don't forget to disconnect the spark and fuel for compression tests (pull fuses and relays). Get your servicing and repairs up to date. If it is suspect or history unknown change it and keep a repair log. Dont forget the fuel filter - they clog and only allow reduced through put.
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Last edited by BMWFatherFigure; 10-06-2012 at 08:05 PM.
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  #10  
Old 10-06-2012, 08:04 PM
manuelwindows manuelwindows is offline
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Thanks everybody, great ideas and info! I'm going to try the different suggestions as I am able and will post the results here.
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  #11  
Old 10-06-2012, 08:08 PM
robertobaggio20 robertobaggio20 is offline
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Oh, and please download a soft copy of the Bentley manual for E34s. You will need it....good stuff.
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  #12  
Old 10-06-2012, 08:11 PM
robertobaggio20 robertobaggio20 is offline
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So it seems that your engine was great until recently so it has nothing to do with the nikasil issue. Don't bother about it. You shouldn't have gone there at all really, so I suspect that you're overlooking the simple and obvious stuff. Probably the spark plugs, wires, that sort of thing.

Remember to change your brake hoses to steel lined ones. You can buy them off ebay, they are good. The cost the same as OEM ones, yet provide better braking, and one of the best value-for-money upgrades for our car. Furthermore, your current hoses are liable to be cracked or soon begin cracking. Unfortunately you've already done some brake servicing, which would have been the ideal time to change them but perhaps you can do so anyway.
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  #13  
Old 10-06-2012, 08:30 PM
manuelwindows manuelwindows is offline
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OK, I was reviewing the service records from the BMW dealership from when they did the recall work under the factory warranty just last month. They replaced the oil filter so it can't be that. Now, please forgive my ignorance but is the oil filter different from the fuel filter that someone above recommended changing? If not, I'm not going to do that.

As for not having the Nikasil block, the BMW dealership said I had it after looking at the car. I am looking at the records here from last month where it states:

"Cylinder walls may be washed out as per SI B11 02 97."

"Engine is Nikasil block."

Now I also realize that the dealership sometimes doesn't know jack but for what it's worth, I am adding this information here because that is what is written on the service records.

I remain ever optimistic that replacing the spark plugs and spark plug wires will resolve this because it has been thoroughly checked for vacuum leaks and the overall compression seems good but this darn hesitation and low idle just basically appeared out of nowhere about two months ago so I am hoping for a burnt-out spark plug or wire.
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  #14  
Old 10-06-2012, 08:32 PM
manuelwindows manuelwindows is offline
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Can I blame this on the fuel in Oregon having a 10% ethanol content?
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  #15  
Old 10-06-2012, 08:34 PM
robertobaggio20 robertobaggio20 is offline
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Can I blame this on the fuel in Oregon having a 10% ethanol content?
Nope. Your car has an O2 sensor. Minor differences in fuel combustibility will be ironed out by its feedback loop.
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  #16  
Old 10-06-2012, 09:25 PM
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Oli Filter not the same as Fuel Filter. Oli Filter fitted to engine - Fuel Filter is fitted in fuel line. Unsure exactly where on your veh..
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  #17  
Old 10-06-2012, 09:55 PM
manuelwindows manuelwindows is offline
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but if it was the fuel filter, I would think that the hesitation (loss of power issue) would occur all the time, during acceleration and cruising, at all RPMs and be noticeable all the time.

One thing I have mentioned and I think has some relevance in this diagnosis is that the hesitation is generally occurring at lower RPMS and then the car runs very smooth, at say, 60 mph in 4th gear or 80mph in 5th gear, like you would expect. But then if you start to push the RPMs up over 4,000 - 4500, like over 85 mph in 5th gear, the hesitation will start to kick in noticeably although the engine is still quite responsive, there is definitely some loss of power and a hesitation.

The idle control valve was checked as someone mentioned that above. It is controlled by the computer and all of the computer settings were all programmed in manually by the dealership after they replaced the e-prom and thermostat last month.

Dealership also switched it from synthetic oil to regular 15W-30. I could see why you would do that but I thought that was interesting that would be a factory-recommended oil, for what that's worth.
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Old 10-06-2012, 10:01 PM
robertobaggio20 robertobaggio20 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by manuelwindows View Post
but if it was the fuel filter, I would think that the hesitation (loss of power issue) would occur all the time, during acceleration and cruising, at all RPMs and be noticeable all the time.

One thing I have mentioned and I think has some relevance in this diagnosis is that the hesitation is generally occurring at lower RPMS and then the car runs very smooth, at say, 60 mph in 4th gear or 80mph in 5th gear, like you would expect. But then if you start to push the RPMs up over 4,000 - 4500, like over 85 mph in 5th gear, the hesitation will start to kick in noticeably although the engine is still quite responsive, there is definitely some loss of power and a hesitation.

The idle control valve was checked as someone mentioned that above. It is controlled by the computer and all of the computer settings were all programmed in manually by the dealership after they replaced the e-prom and thermostat last month.

Dealership also switched it from synthetic oil to regular 15W-30. I could see why you would do that but I thought that was interesting that would be a factory-recommended oil, for what that's worth.
The idle control valve ought to be cleaned, and not just scanned with a computer.

Change or rinse our your fuel filter and change your air filter. Then add 2-4 quarts of diesel to an empty tank and then immediately fill to full with regular gasoline, and then drive. This will clean out your fuel system.

After doing all of the above, then see if you have the same problem.
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Old 10-06-2012, 10:05 PM
robertobaggio20 robertobaggio20 is offline
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If you still have the same problem, it would be time to get your car scanned again.
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Old 10-06-2012, 10:11 PM
robertobaggio20 robertobaggio20 is offline
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Oh yeah include the spark plugs and wires too.

All of these might look like we're throwing parts at a problem without knowing what it actually is. However, all of these things (new plugs and wires, new oil and fuel filters, clean ICV, cleaned fuel system) are essential aspects of keeping the car in good shape anyway and need to be done from time to time. So its something that is required regardless.

I'm beginning to wonder if the CPS is at fault. hmm. Seems unlikely, if your car is not throwing the code. Have you done the stomp test yet ? Have you taken a look at the Bentley manual ?
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Old 10-06-2012, 10:16 PM
manuelwindows manuelwindows is offline
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it seems to me like I should still just do the spark plugs and spark plug wires to see if that resolves it before the entire fuel filter clean-out, although that sounds just crazy enough to work! :o) I like the way you think.

Here's the thing is this car is not worth more than $3,000 and there is nothing more that is going to be covered by the factory warranty so a new scan is going to go at least $120 and that's just the diagnosis so you can see where the math starts to not work, despite my heavy emotional attachment to the vehicle. I love the vehicle and its new breaks and I can just live with it even if I can't go 120 mph and just have to go 80 mph with some hesitation in accelerating, I can live with that, based on the age and value of the vehicle. If it were a 95 540i, I might feel differently but there might just be something to this Nikasil block. I can't completely discount that possibility that the Nikasil block has caused deterioration to the cylinder walls.
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Old 10-06-2012, 10:22 PM
manuelwindows manuelwindows is offline
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"I'm beginning to wonder if the CPS is at fault. hmm. Seems unlikely, if your car is not throwing the code. Have you done the stomp test yet ? Have you taken a look at the Bentley manual ?"

Unless the dealership is completely lying to me, I can eliminate the CPS because they said that the new e-prom took the code and that the CPS did not need to be replaced because it was properly holding the code and software after the installation of the new e-prom.

I have not done the stomp test unless you talk about how I feel like I would like to stomp on the heads of like 3 service managers and I have not looked at the Bentley manual. I did not do my homework.
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Old 10-06-2012, 10:35 PM
robertobaggio20 robertobaggio20 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by manuelwindows View Post
it seems to me like I should still just do the spark plugs and spark plug wires to see if that resolves it before the entire fuel filter clean-out, although that sounds just crazy enough to work! :o) I like the way you think.

Here's the thing is this car is not worth more than $3,000 and there is nothing more that is going to be covered by the factory warranty so a new scan is going to go at least $120 and that's just the diagnosis so you can see where the math starts to not work, despite my heavy emotional attachment to the vehicle. I love the vehicle and its new breaks and I can just live with it even if I can't go 120 mph and just have to go 80 mph with some hesitation in accelerating, I can live with that, based on the age and value of the vehicle. If it were a 95 540i, I might feel differently but there might just be something to this Nikasil block. I can't completely discount that possibility that the Nikasil block has caused deterioration to the cylinder walls.
Dude, i remember something. A buddy of mine experienced a similar problem...where the engine could not be pushed beyond a certain speed.

The problem was the ecu. We were swopping in another ecu with a different tune. We had this problem. I'm sure it could have been solved given enough time (these chips are being sold for many years) but my friend elected to go back to the stock ecu for simplicity.

You say that you had an eprom recoded ? Well I think they could have ****ed that up.

There is something called the stomp test that allows you to read your own car's codes. Google and check on youtube for details.

The CPS, fuel pump and fuel pump relay ought to be changed to oem ones even if they are working fine now. They will fail unexpectedly at this age and your car will stop dead anywhere. The only time I wouldn't change it is when I have evidence that they were changed in the last few years.

I suggest you change that CPS, do all the stuff that you plan to do (they need to be done anyway) and see. If the problem remains, we know who is at fault. Tell them to test it by borrowing another ecu and swopping it in (you might have security system issues though those can be bypassed) and you'll know for sure.

Or you can go back to them right now. You've only recently had this issue right? It only appeared after they meddled with your eprom, right ? There you go.
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Old 10-07-2012, 08:12 AM
snowsled7 snowsled7 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by manuelwindows View Post
but if it was the fuel filter, I would think that the hesitation (loss of power issue) would occur all the time, during acceleration and cruising, at all RPMs and be noticeable all the time.

One thing I have mentioned and I think has some relevance in this diagnosis is that the hesitation is generally occurring at lower RPMS and then the car runs very smooth, at say, 60 mph in 4th gear or 80mph in 5th gear, like you would expect. But then if you start to push the RPMs up over 4,000 - 4500, like over 85 mph in 5th gear, the hesitation will start to kick in noticeably although the engine is still quite responsive, there is definitely some loss of power and a hesitation.
This sure sounds like a fuel delivery problem to me. Change the fuel filter, then test the fuel pressure because it could also be the fuel pump.

Quote:
The idle control valve was checked as someone mentioned that above. It is controlled by the computer and all of the computer settings were all programmed in manually by the dealership after they replaced the e-prom and thermostat last month.

Dealership also switched it from synthetic oil to regular 15W-30. I could see why you would do that but I thought that was interesting that would be a factory-recommended oil, for what that's worth.
The idle control valve can give you a high, low or erratic idle. It won't normally be the cause of the stumble unless the idle rpm is too low.

I would also expect poor spark to manifest itself at other rpms as a misfire, though the v8 can mask one bad spark pretty well.

Start with the fuel system, the filter isn't that much, and a pressure test should be cheap at a decent euro car indie mechanic. I would stop using the dealer. The techs do not remember the car, it is too old and they are certainly helping themselves to your wallet.
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  #25  
Old 10-07-2012, 08:31 AM
snowsled7 snowsled7 is offline
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The nikasil issue tends to manifest itself in a rocking of the engine at idle. I had a '95 740iL that started to show signs at 96k miles. The car had warranty up to 100k, I traded it off because the dealer said it wasn't bad enough YET. The actual preliminary diagnosis was to idle the car with the drivers door wide open and gauge how much it would shake up and down. This rocking was caused by compression loss.

It is actually the sulfer content that was so hard on these engines. At the time US content was above euro standards. Today most of the sulfer is removed from our gas so if the compression is good now, today's fuel will not likely worsen it.

So when people tell you that if your nikasil engine still runs good today, that it probably will last a long time, I think that is accurate.
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