Exhaust puffing and idle is heavy

I'm having a hard time figuring out why my car is having a small problem being sluggish while turning over, idling heavy(as far as vibration goes, rpm is a little under 1000), and the exhaust is
puffing louder than normal. I had an oil change saturday, drove for 4 hours sunday and when i was almost to where i was going i started losing power and thats when the shaking started. i check the dipstick and it was below the first dot, so i put oil in. The oil never leaked out on the 4 hour drive back home. today i replaced the spark plugs and wires and pulled the negative cable off to clear any timing adjustments, but still the same things going on. any ideas as to what's happening?
Thanks, Ricky
93 civic lx 205k miles
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Just a shot in the dark, but the exhaust note makes me wonder if your timing belt has slipped. If so, catastrophic failure may be in the near future unless the belt is replaced. Retarded valve timing results in an odd "hollow" exhaust sound. If that doesn't describe the exhaust then "never mind." But... how long / many miles since the last timing belt change?
Mike
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ahh geez...it's about time for a timing belt. just been a broke college kid and don't really have the money to shell out for it. actually have thought about getting another engine because the head gasket has gone twice in it and had a new head put it. not sure what types of engines i can swap. my dad keeps after me about this guy who is selling an engine from a 95 civic si vtec, but i don't think you can put a vtec in a car that didn't have vtec to begin with can you?
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Ooh - the head gasket history only opens up another, even worse possibility. Not sure of the exact head gasket design, but it is possible the gasket has blown out between two cylinders. That will show up as uneven cranking (er, errr, er, errr or other pattern depending on which pair of cylinders is involved.) You can do a quickie test by removing the radiator cap - engine cold! - and starting the engine. Pinch closed the hose to the reservoir and put the palm of your hand over the radiator cap opening. If you feel steadily rising pressure or pulsations the head gasket, or something equally troublesome, is bad.
I hate to say it but I don't have a warm fuzzy feeling about this. Dunno about swapping different engine models - there are people here more up on that than I am.
Mike
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On Feb 23, 4:12 pm, snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

I agree with Michael that your current symptoms and the previous head gasket jobs suggest the two are related.
Go to www.honda-tech.com for advice on what engines are swappable. Those guys/gals there love to swap engines and report on it in detail. From reading posts there, one might say that many a honda-tech participant has indeed hammered a square peg into a round hole. I think they care about the joy in the journey (that is, the education) as they do the final product.
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