Piston Ring Repair

Trying to decide if a piston ring repair is worth it and accurate on my 2002 Accord Ex w/ 100,000 miles (car still looks in good shape and I like my car). Please see below for repair/car history on this piston ring issue.


Took into dealer for repair - burnt exhaust valve - #3 cylinder not working properly. They repaired cylinder head, replaced valve and seats. After the repair I was burning oil too quickly - but no visible oil leaks and no smoke. Dealer kept telling me it was using oil due to an internal wear issue (added supplement to condition internal engine wear), use 20/50 and engine oil supplement, and check oil every 1000 miles. Still did not work after a month, and they finally told me it is a ring issue and will just need to replace engine (can go w/ either short or long block).

Took it for a 2nd opinion, and mechanic said he thinks the piston rings are stuck (compression was fine, engine sounds like it runs fine, the drive is smooth, and no smoke). Says he can repair rings and bearings for $1545 … or he can replace the engine w/ a short block like Honda suggested (keeping my cylinder head since Honda already repaired it) … that will run $3500.

Any advise/suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Or, buy a new/used car (although don’t like the idea of going back into pymts).

Three places I can think of where the oil is going IF none was “disappearing” before the car surgery:

  • Leaky valve stem seal, due to faulty seal or bad head repair work…compression would be fine, driveability would be fine, spark plug where valve was replaced would look “different” than the rest, perhaps oily/sooty, might see/smell minor smoke out the exhaust more noticeable at part throttle or idle conditions

  • Leaky headgasket - oil is entering one or more cylinders by blowing between a block-to-head oil port, and one or more cylinders…again, one or more spark plugs might appear oily/sooty, and compression will most likely still be fine

  • Leaky headgasket - oil is leaking from an oil port into a water passage at the head gasket surface…this one’s unlikely because your radiator would be getting an accumulation of oil

If the problem is the first one and not too much time has passed, you could try to get them to redo the work, although they’ll be happy to come up with some excuse not to I’m sure.

I will be curious to see what our real mechanics have to say. I think go for the $1600 repair, rather than short block, and see what happens.

I would not go back to the Honda dealer again. In my mind, they should have also checked cylinder compression and ring condition before the did the estimate for the valve repair. I also think their oil recommendations were very poor, depending on where you live and what the climate is.

Something’s missing from the story. Why did they say the valve burned up? That’s pretty darned rare in a properly maintained and driven stock engine. Could it (possibly due to a gummed up lifter/tappet), and your gummed up oil rings, be a result of serious neglect? Or repeated hot running?

Don’t worry, I won’t judge you, but of this is all the cause of serious neglect and running low and eternally unchanged oil, we need to know so we can make valid suggestions.

There’s a few problems with checking compression if valve issues are involved. It’s near impossible to gauge ring condition if the valves are leaking.

The reason the exhaust valve in No. 3 is burnt is more than likely because the valve lash has never been inspected or adjusted and overly tight lash burnt it out.
I don’t fault car owners for this because Honda Motor Co. recommends lash inspection intervals that are far too long; in excess of 100k miles when it should be 30k at the most.

This is an issue I carp about all of the time and the OP is not the first person to suffer this problem. If Honda Motor Co. wants to make an idiotic recommendation like that then Honda Motor Co. should be the ones paying for the cylinder head repairs IMHO.

There’s a few issues with simply doing a re-ring job also. Cylinder bores should be inspected with inside micrometers and checked for taper, egg, etc. Anything over spec means a bore job and this means a complete overhaul.

Assuming the cylinder bores are within spec (unlikely) then one has the issue of crankshaft journals. The rod bearings will have to be removed and this leads to inspection of the crankshaft journals for taper, egg, etc. Out of spec means a reground or new crank then this should lead to a complete overhaul given the circumstances.

Tough call because there is no way of knowing about the ring/cylinder bore/crank journal scenario unless torn apart and tested.
There is the head removal, run a hone through the cyl. bores anyway, and throw a new set of bearings in on what may appear to be good journals but that can be a crap shoot if the specs are iffy. Will it go another 100k miles? Maybe, maybe not.

I would strongly urge you to stop using supplements and return to 5w20 or 10w30 oil ASAP. You could be gumming up the rings instead of freeing them. Then take it out on a back road and do a few 20-50 accelerations as fast as you can without downshifting. You want to put as much pressure on the rings as possible at as low an RPM as possible, this can reseat the rings. BTW, the rings aren’t stuck, they are just unseated.

About 10 of these 20-50 runs should do the trick. Stop if the engine starts to get hot or make any unusual sounds, but it should do this just fine unless there is another major problem going on. You also need to do this with the lightest weight oil your engine is designed for, i.e. 5w20 or 5w30.

If it still losses oil, then you may have a leak that you just haven’t seen yet. An oil pressure sending unit can spray a fine mist of oil out, but not be noticed because it doesn’t leak when the engine isn’t running and sometimes the oil doesn’t collect on any of the vehicle surfaces.

I have heard a number of times that doing a valve repair on a car with that high a mileage will increase compression and cause excessive oil use. You should have been advised of this at the start. I also suspect a little neglect and think at this point it would be best to simply live with it or put in a used engine and be done with it. No way would I have it opened up again to do rings.

Ten posts and no one bothered to ask “HOW MUCH OIL IS IT BURNING??” A quart every ? miles??

Don’t Honda engines use “sleeveless” aluminum blocks? The Alumasil process. This makes a “ring job” without installing sleeves quite a gamble…Lets see how much oil the car is burning before we overhaul the engine…

Thank you for your replies. To answer a couple questions - how much oil it burns… I’m not exact sure, but my check engine light went on every 1200 miles because of low oil. The car was maintained well prior to burnt exhaust valve job.

Two points here.
One is that you should get in the habit of checking the oil level every couple of weeks and never rely on any kind of light to tell you there’s a problem.

Two is that maybe your oil consumption problem is related to the cylinder head repair. At a 100k miles and with a burnt valve, the cylinder head should be resurfaced and every valve/seat reground or replaced as necessary. This also means that ALL valve seals should be replaced at that time.

Surely they did not do a piecemeal repair by only replacing the exhaust valve/seat on No. 3 cylinder only? If so, they’ve made a serious mistake.
If this head was sent out to an auto machine shop for the valve job and/or resurfacing (a common procedure) this means your copy of the bill should have a separate charge under the “Sublet” category.

As I was reading down the posts, I thought the same thing; the decision to fix would depend greatly on the amount of consumption.

but my check engine light went on every 1200 miles because of low oil. The car was maintained well prior to burnt exhaust valve job.

With all due respect, ONE check engine light due to low oil is excusable. Using it repeatedly as a reminder is not a sign of someone who properly maintains their car. Once you saw it was burning oil, you should have been religious about checking it often enough to insure it never got low again. Habitually running low on oil just increases the damage being done.

I don’t think that Honda has a “low oil level” indication of any kind. They DO have an Aladdin lamp icon on the dash which indicates LOW OIL PRESSURE. Did this lamp light come on and you kept driving?

If the dash icon of an engine outline, with the word “check” came on, this would be the “check engine light”. If this light came on, there would be a code set in the engine computer for whatever problem was detected. Oil level, or oil pressure will not be detected by the engine computer. That’s what the other warning lamp is for.

The dealer advised you to check the engine oil at least every 1,000 miles. Evidently, you didn’t because you said that at 1200 mile intervals the “check engine light”, or the “low oil pressure light” would come on. To “check engine oil” means to check the oil level AND add oil as needed to bring the oil level up to the full mark. Is this not your understanding of the advice of, “check the oil level”?

Of course, now, it’s too late for any preventative actions on this engine; but, for the next (or, repaired) engine, it’s something to watch.