Should I fix this leak or just plan on investing more in motor oil?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | May 01, 1995

Dear Tom and Ray:

I love your column for its laughs and straight ahead information. I have a 1978 VW Scirocco with 121,000 miles. Recently, it started burning a quart of oil every 1,000 miles. My mechanic checked it for leaks and did a compression test. He found no significant leaks, but on the compression test, two cylinders registered 125 while the other two registered 150. He also noticed oil residue on two of the spark plugs. He said that in 10,000-15,000 miles, it would probably get significantly worse, and that if I intended to keep the car, I should get it fixed. He said there were three possibilities; a valve job ($600), plus a ring job ($1,000), plus bore the cylinders ($2,000). He also said there was no way to know what it needed (therefore how much it will cost me) until they actually tear down the engine. Should I have the work done or should I buy a newer used car?

RAY: I'd do nothing, Malcolm. At least not now. A quart every 1,000 miles is not that terrible.

TOM: It MAY get significantly worse in 10,000 or 15,000 miles, but it may not. And who knows what else will happen? The transmission may fall out in 5,000 miles...or five miles! With a car this old, it doesn't make sense to plan too far into the future.

RAY: My brother's wife understands this. She doesn't start making dinner for him until she sees whether he actually finds his way home from work each day.

TOM: And in this particular case, as long as you don't let the oil level run low, you won't do any further damage to the engine by waiting and fixing it later...assuming you're still driving the car later.

RAY: So for now, keep an eye on the oil level and keep driving, Malcolm. And when blue smoke starts enveloping the car at stop lights, and little old ladies on the sidewalk start coughing and giving you rude hand gestures, then I'd reevaluate the situation.

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