New ring job or new engine?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Nov 01, 1993

Dear Tom and Ray:

I have a 1984 Pontiac Sunbird with a 1.8 liter engine. For about two years now, I have had an oil leak I cannot seem to locate. When I do a lot of driving, I may use a quart a day. If I don't drive a lot, maybe a quart every other day. The oil pan, I was told, has a dent in it, but no hole. The valve cover gaskets and the oil pan gasket have been replaced. I took it to my Pontiac dealer, who told me I need a new engine at a cost of $3,000 plus! The reason, he said, is that I have a "Porous Engine." What does this mean?

RAY: I thought Ford made the Porous. How'd you get a Ford Porous engine in a Pontiac Sunbird?

TOM: That's Taurus, you knucklehead. Ford Taurus.
Your mechanic must have been an english major, Barbara. The American Heritage Dictionary lists as definition number two for POROUS: "Admitting the passage of gas or liquid through pores or interstices." Interstices?? Give me that dictionary again!

RAY: I guess your mechanic thinks definition number three for POROUS is "In dire need of ring job." I've never heard it used in this situation, but my guess is he's using the word porous to describe the rings, and the fact that oil is seeping past them into the cylinders where it's being burned.

TOM: Regardless of his flowery description, he's probably right that you need a new engine. But I wouldn't buy a "new" engine for an '84 Sunbird. If you want to keep the car, I'd get a used engine from a junkyard, and have a mechanic put it in for you. A used engine costs half as much. So you'll only be half as porous you would be had you bought a new engine. Get it?

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