This tutorial will help you test the engine compression on the 3.4L V6 Chevrolet and Pontiac vehicles.
You'll also be able to interpret your compression test results and find out if you've got a compression problem causing a misfire problem or an engine no-start problem.
Contents of this tutorial at a glance:
You can find this tutorial in Spanish here: Cómo Probar La Compresión Del Motor (1996-2005 3.4L V6 Chevrolet, Pontiac) (at: autotecnico-online.com).
APPLIES TO: This tutorial applies to the following vehicles:
- 3.4L V6 Chevrolet Impala: 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005.
- 3.4L V6 Chevrolet Monte Carlo: 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005.
- 3.4L V6 Chevrolet Lumina Minivan: 1996.
- 3.4L V6 Chevrolet Venture: 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005.
- 3.4L V6 Pontiac Aztek: 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005.
- 3.4L V6 Pontiac Grand Am: 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005.
- 3.4L V6 Pontiac Montana: 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005.
- 3.4L V6 Pontiac Trans Sport: 1996, 1997, 1998.
Symptoms Of Low Or No Engine Cylinder Compression
An engine compression problem will usually manifest itself in one of two ways:
- The engine compression problem will cause the engine not to start.
- The engine will start and run, but it will run with a misfire.
If the engine in your vehicle starts and runs, but it's suffering an engine compression problem, you're gonna see one or more of the following symptoms:
- Bad gas mileage.
- A heavier exhaust smell coming out of its tailpipe.
- The engine is not as peppy as it was once.
- Rough idle that goes away as soon as you accelerate the engine.
Which Compression Tester Should I Buy?
There are lot of engine compression testers to choose from and many places to buy them. I'm gonna' make two recommendations to you:
1) Which one to buy: The engine compression tester that I have always used is the Actron CP7827 Compression Tester Kit. My only complaint about this engine compression tester is that it does not come with a case to store it in.
Engine Compression Gauge Testers
TEST 1: Finding The Dead Cylinders
As you're probably already aware, you'll need to remove the spark plugs to test the engine's compression.
Before you remove them, be sure to label the spark plug wires with the cylinder they belong to. This way, you will avoid losing their firing order (when it comes time to put everything back together).
If you don't have a compression tester, you can run down to your local auto parts store (AutoZone, O'Reilly Auto Parts) and borrow one from them (for a small deposit which they'll return once you return the tool).
If you'd like to buy your own and save a few bucks in the process, check out my recommendations here: Which Compression Tester Should I Buy?
IMPORTANT: If the engine has been running for any length of time, let it cool down completely before removing the spark plugs. Removing the spark plugs from a hot engine can damage the spark plug hole threads!
OK, let's get testing:
Disable the ignition system by disconnecting the ignition coil pack/ignition control module assembly from its electrical connector.
This will prevent the ignition coil from sparking during the test.
Remove the spark plugs. Remember, the engine can not be hot!
When removing the spark plugs, be careful not to drop any on the floor, or you run the risk of having the spark plug's porcelain insulator crack and then you'll have a misfire on your hands.
Thread the engine compression gauge into the spark plug hole for the number 1 engine cylinder.
Hand tighten the compression gauge only! Do not use any type of tool to get it tight.
Have your helper crank the engine till the needle on the compression gauge stops climbing.
Record the value at which the needle stopped and the number of the engine cylinder on a piece of paper.
Release the pressure on the gauge and repeat this step one more time.
Repeat test steps 3 - 5 on the remaining cylinders.
Let's examine your test results:
CASE 1: Several cylinders had a much lower compression value than the others. Up to a certain range, this could be normal.
To further interpret these test results go to: Interpreting The Compression Test Results.
CASE 2: Three or more cylinders had almost no compression or 0 PSI compression. Having three or more cylinders with almost no compression or 0 PSI compression will cause your Chevrolet (Pontiac) vehicle's engine to not start.
Having a compression value close to 0 PSI or 0 PSI is usually due to a problem in the cylinder head valves or piston rings of the affected cylinders.
We can find out which of the two it is by doing a wet compression test. For this test go to: TEST 2: Wet Engine Compression Test.
CASE 3: The compression value of all six cylinders was similar and above 120 PSI. This test result lets you know that an engine compression problem is not behind the misfire condition and/or engine no-start problem you're troubleshooting.
I'll explain why: If the engine had a compression problem causing a misfire or a no-start condition, then your test results would have indicated one or more cylinders with low or very close to 0 PSI compression.
Since your test results indicate that all 6 cylinders have very similar compression values, you can rule out engine compression as a source of the misfire or engine no-start problem you're trying to diagnose.