How do you check engine compression without a gauge?

My engine has been constantly misfiring, failing to start, and delivering seriously reduced fuel economy. I’m thinking that my engine compression might be off but I don’t have a gauge. Is there a way I can check the compression without one?

Patrick Price · Updated on
Reviewed by Shannon Martin, Licensed Insurance Agent.
Based on those symptoms, it does indeed sound like your engine compression might be bad. The good news is that the answer is yes—there is a way you can check your engine compression without a gauge though the results will never be as reliable. And you’ll need to have the tools and know-how to perform a leakdown test.
Here’s what you’ll need to do:
  • Inspect your timing belt and ensure that it is in good condition
  • Pour oil into each of the cylinders
  • Remove the oil cap
  • Perform a leakdown test
Based on the results of the leakdown test, you should be able to determine wheater or not you actually do have an engine compression problem.
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