'94 Saturn Help

I know this is a GM newsgroup, but then again I guess Saturn is made partly from GM parts.
My son-in-law has a '94 Saturn that has 160,000 miles on it. Recently he
drove it to work, when he came out it wouldn't start. I got checking into it and it has very little compression on cylinders #1 & #2 (50-60 lbs.) #3 had 100 lbs. and #4 seems normal at 150 lbs. I tore it down and found nothing wrong with the gasket or the valves (valves may have been leaking just a little). I reground the valves and the seats and lapped them it, but now I am wondering about the valve clearance. The lifters don't seem to compress like I would think hydraulic lifters ought to, so I wonder if clearance needs to be ground off of the valve stem, much like the old Briggs and Stratton engines do.
Any help would be appreciated, maybe someone knows if these are hydraulic or solid lifters? If I would grind off the ends of the valves and it is hydraulic it would probably rattle pretty good, but I don't know maybe that is the way it sounded new. Some kind of help for online tune-up specs? I am not going to buy a manual to work on the car one time, as I don't ever plan on buying a Saturn myself.
Doug
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not planning on buying a saturn was the smartest part of your post!......grinding down the valve stems to up compression was NOT! how did the wet/dry comp. test look? how about the leak down test?.....it would seem odd to me that ANY engine would wear out the rings, valves, valve guides, or valve stems while not running.......i would look alot closer at ign. and fueling before tearing the head off...oops, too late.
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Ignition was fine fuel was all being sucked to the #4 cylinder, which makes sense because that is the only one that has compression. When I took out all the spark plugs #4 was wet all the others were dry. Upon cranking the engine over all the spark plugs sparked and it shot gas out of the #4 cylinder.

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shot liquid gasoline out of the spark plug port?
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Yes it did! Kind of big drops went flying out, not a mist, but not a steady stream either.

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first; i apologize for trying to be flip in my first reply......that said, at the begining of the problem i would have been concerned about overfueling to the point of washing down cyl. walls thus lowering compression (liquid you say is gas in cyls.). thats why i would have run a wet/dry comp test.........poor ign., slipped timing belt, are a couple of places you could have went before extracting head........my 'crack' about not buying a saturn had little to do with there powerplants, mainly just there overall quality has left me uncomplimentary towards the brand since they started up....
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Maybe I left a few things out in the beginning. First of all I built my own engines that I raced on the oval tracks for several years. I've got my own boring bar to bore engines, grind my own valves, etc., the last engine I raced I was running on methanol and produced around 600 H.P. I do know a few things about the internal combustion engine. The first things I checked for was spark and fuel, at that point I checked the valve to crankshaft timing, which was fine. After I found that all that checked out I took a compression test. Regardless of spark or fuel problems an engine just either wont run or at least wont run right with that low of compression. Hence I am looking for an answer on this particular engine. The lifters don't seem to "give" like normal hydraulic lifters would, so therefore I am thinking they are holding the valves open to a certain extent and the compression is leaking past. My son-in-law said it was not using any oil prior to it not running and therefore I figured that the piston rings must not be too bad. Normally it is better to take a compression test with the engine warmed up, but since I can't get it running that is not a choice.
I do know that grinding off the valve stems was not the best idea, but that is the way that Kohler, Briggs and Stratton, and probably all the other small engines have been doing it for years. Of course they are "solid" lifter engines and require and valve clearance. This engine I assume is supposed to be a hydraulic lifter engine and does not require a valve clearance because the lifter "self adjusts". But like I stated previously the lifters don't seem to "give" at all. I tried a few lifters and they are all the same, so I can't believe they are all froze up. I am kind of lost on what to do to make this thing run, because the car is not worth putting a lot on money into. It is just a go to work vehicle that gets better mileage than his '99 GMC Jimmy, so I am trying to get it running for him.

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Doug, if my memory serves, I do not recall any GM engine ever requiring valve-stem shortening. I've seen some GM's, like Pontiac with non-adjustable hydraulics, use the technique of driving the push-in studs further into the heads to 'take up the slack' to eliminate the notorious ticking the 68-76 Pont.350, 400 etc. Haven't had any direct experience with Saturns, per se, but have bought, HAD repaired, & sold many of them--along with a myriad of other makes and models. Agreed, it seems unusual several lifters don't seem to want to compress as hyd's. should. I feel sure you agree: just to be on the safe side, why not just buy new lifters and go? s
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I dont remember one either, SD, but I have seen this on other engines.
In particular,my daughter's first car was a Fiat 128 with the OHC four engine. Dealership had ground the valves and seats before we bought the little car, and within a few hundred miles they were burned to pieces.
I took it apart, and had the heads redone.. (These valves adjusted with precision spacers-there are no adjustable lifters. )
I couldnt get the valves within adjustment with any spacers, and finally had to grind a little bit off the end of the stem to bring them in spec. (Something the dealership mechanic had NOT done, and caused the valves to burn out quickly).
The little engine ran strong for a couple of years, and finally was junked due to the trademark Fiat rustbug.
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