Alfa romeo 156 JTS oil Mystery - Alfa Romeo Forum
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Question Alfa romeo 156 JTS oil Mystery

Hope someone can help or maybe I can help someone. I have be an Alfa driver pretty much all my life. I have recently acquired a 2004, 156 jts (74,000 kms) and discovered the following;
Down on power, burning oil, burning fuel excessively as proven by the spark plugs with black carbon build up in base, core and arch (not oily).
carried out compression test - 150 psi (dry) and cold engine. 250psi (wet). I think that is good compression, please let me know otherwise.
took cam cover off and hold and behold discovered Cam lobes worn - replaced them with 147 TS, had a spare set lying around...yes, they are the same, and they work !. just need to have a thread machined on the end of the exhaust cam shaft for the HP fuel pump spindle.
Also replaced the variator and variator half bearings (intake cam) and half bearing for exhaust cam, they were scored.
Also replaced all 16 valve lifters/tapets.
Re-assembled. Put fresh Castrol Edge 10-60W oil and bang ! Power is up, fuel consumption is better, no noisy tappet sound from the lifters but still blowing out smoke under heavy revving, doesn't seem blue, more like black.
Oil consumption seem excessive to me (100 ml to 100km's) this is city driving, short trips. Noticed the temperature does not rise quickly, possible thermostat issue (open all the time). Can take about 20 minute to reach 70-80 degrees.
Checked spark plugs and burning right to me, slight black grey on base but grey white in core and arches (NGK twin arch spark plug).
Also discovered that the Cat Converter core (honey comb material) has been damaged as I discovered bits in the muffler (assuming due to excessive fuel burning and heat from inadequate intake and exhaust aperture). Have not experienced the Motor control system failure alert and checked the codes with the ECU Multiscan and only error code is P0443 - Evaporative Control Valve which I replaced (had one lying around) and still get the error. This one beats me, not sure but I'm not too worried about it.
So... my mystery is where is the oil going ? If it was the valve stem seals leaking surely I would see oil build up on the spark plugs. Compression is good as I can see. Is it the Cat converter causing issues ? Anyone have any suggestions or silver bullet ??
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Not heard of someone fitting TS cams to a JTS. They aren't the same (actually I think one of them is, but timed different) and if you're interested you could google Alfa JTS development or similar to understand the theory behind the high compression ratio and cylinder scavenging. I would be worried that the more traditional timing of the TS cams in combination with the very high static compression of the JTS could lead to very high dynamic compression and so under load you might get a cylinder meltdown. But then again it might work. As an aside, when you fitted the TS cams which camlocks did you use, TS or JTS?

As for the oil consumption I would use the car a bit and monitor it to see if it settles or gets worse. The worn cam lobes suggest the oil was not changed very often (if at all) through the car's life. So maybe run it for a bit then change the oil and filter again and see where you're at. 100ml per 100km is right on the limit of Alfa's recommendation for 'normal" usage (1 litre per 1000km).
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jts engines use a lot of oil. 1 liter pr 1000 km's is "normal".

Worn cam lobes are also normal, and it seems to be fuel congestion of oil (direct injection) and low oil pressure in engine top. Most early jts will need new cams, and i changed mine at approx 178' km's. Had the hardning checked in a lab, and it was normal. Also "upped" the oil-pump to deliver higher oil pressure.

This was an industry first engine, so it had some issues.
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Black smoke = rich, which you probably already identified the cause of, a defective thermostat. Excess fuel will also wash oil from the bores and increase oil consumption, as well as hastening wear. And it'll kill the catalyst and lambda sensors. I'd change the thermostat for new OE and see where that gets you.
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Do you up the oil pressure by adjusting or replacing the oil pressure relief valve please?
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This was an industry first engine...
No it wasn't, not by a long way.
Mitsubishi introduced their GDI in 1996
Nissan in 1997
Toyota 1998
Renault in 1999
VW in 2000

and Alfa introduced their JTS direct injection engine in 2002.
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Not much to add other than that MAF and Lambda issues can also lead to rich running as the ecu adjusts mix to compensate for percieved incorrect ratio, did on my JTS anyway..proved when the replacement of MAF and Lambda cleared up the rich running issues, weirdly got no other maf symptoms as such and no codes either, diagnosed after failing emmisions on an MOT, CAT was fairly new having replaced the year before.

I also had a worn lobe on the exhaust camshaft which was replaced,the early manuals state 5w40 as far as I know, this was later revised to 10/60 in order to reduce oil consumption...some are of the opinion that the heavier oil does not adequately lubricate the top end and leads to the premature camshaft wear..if you are not running 10/60 switching will reduce oil consumption somewhat but as stated pluses and minuses to that solution.


all in all the JTS can be a troublesome beast, in just a year of ownership mine cost me 2k on engine related stuff, all unexpected and at the very low mileage of 31k totally unjustified..sound like you have dealt with most of it but don't be surprised if it throws a couple more 'wobblers'' before you get it sorted.

TS is a much better engine overall but must admit I did enjoy the extra torque available from the JTS over the twinnie...that said it doesn't sound nearly as good and the TS is much happier up the rev range than the JTS is.

It's Busso time ..
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Do you up the oil pressure by adjusting or replacing the oil pressure relief valve please?
adjusting
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The huge increase in compression when you did the wet test leads me to think you have very worn piston rings or bores despite what the dry test told you.
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The huge increase in compression when you did the wet test leads me to think you have very worn piston rings or bores despite what the dry test told you.
I agree .. a 100 psi jump is pretty big ..

And yes, you do need a new thermostat.
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Not heard of someone fitting TS cams to a JTS. They aren't the same (actually I think one of them is, but timed different) and if you're interested you could google Alfa JTS development or similar to understand the theory behind the high compression ratio and cylinder scavenging. I would be worried that the more traditional timing of the TS cams in combination with the very high static compression of the JTS could lead to very high dynamic compression and so under load you might get a cylinder meltdown. But then again it might work. As an aside, when you fitted the TS cams which camlocks did you use, TS or JTS?

As for the oil consumption I would use the car a bit and monitor it to see if it settles or gets worse. The worn cam lobes suggest the oil was not changed very often (if at all) through the car's life. So maybe run it for a bit then change the oil and filter again and see where you're at. 100ml per 100km is right on the limit of Alfa's recommendation for 'normal" usage (1 litre per 1000km).
hey SprintVeloce, interesting theories about the timing concepts. The engine to me is running really well and pulls hard and yes, I used the TS cam locks. I visually looked and measured the cam profiles between the TS and the JTS and could not see any difference apart from the worn lobes. I'm no expert but measurements and fitment looks spot on and as proven it is running a lot quitter and efficiently than before. Thanks for the re-assurance of the oil consumption and will replace the thermo and monitor. Happy to hear any feedback. Cheers.
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jts engines use a lot of oil. 1 liter pr 1000 km's is "normal".

Worn cam lobes are also normal, and it seems to be fuel congestion of oil (direct injection) and low oil pressure in engine top. Most early jts will need new cams, and i changed mine at approx 178' km's. Had the hardning checked in a lab, and it was normal. Also "upped" the oil-pump to deliver higher oil pressure.

This was an industry first engine, so it had some issues.

My JTS uses very little oil. Maybe 100ML every couple of thousand miles. 10w60 Castrol Edge.
I must have a gud'n then
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The huge increase in compression when you did the wet test leads me to think you have very worn piston rings or bores despite what the dry test told you.
Just thought I'd add that I did a compression test (dry and cold) last night, post the replacement of the camshaft and I am getting 200 psi across consistently. I can only put it down to better intake in the compression build up when turning the engine over. I think that is good news.
 
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Oil Mystery unravelled

Hi all,

An update for anyone who was interested in this and may be interested for future reference. I am an Alfa enthusiast, I think.., so I persevered with this issue and mystery...
I decided to dig deeper so pulled the heads off, as you do. Upon inspection of the rings found them worn, pistons looked to be ok but evidence of oil flowing into the cylinder and into heads. Cylinder bores looked pristine, shiny with cross hatching visible. Pulled apart the head and upon inspection found massive amount of oil and gunk build up behind the valves and face of the valves. Also pulled the main bearing caps and inspected the main bearings which were ok, no sign of excessive ware or marks. Pulled the big end bearings off and found them to be excessively worn with score marks (not good) The bearings have a coating which was missing. Crank shaft had no signs of ware, luckily ! So.. decide to buy new head gasket set, piston rings and bind end bearings. This was actually quite reasonable price wise (about AU $ 400). Note I took a bit of a gamble with the rings as I ordered from a supplier in UK who could not supply the Goetze brand so supplied Nippon rings. Much can be said about this but you can ping me with questions, if you wish after reading...
I cleaned all pistons and installed the new Nippon rings. Used piston ring pliers and compressor (eBay $30).
Disassembled the heads, degreased cleaned with brass brush and high pressure hose with combination of degreaser and soapy water then high pressure aired it out. came up squeaky clean. Cleaned all valves and then reinstalled them with new Valve stem seals. Installing is a fun job. I think I spent a whole day just working on the head. Double sprung valves are fun... need a specific tool for this from eBay ($40).
I did all this work while the engine was in the car, removing sump was fun... oil pick up gets in the way as drive shaft block the sump from moving around. like wise re-installing had to loosely git the oil pick up to allow movement then once in place the sump, you can tighten the oil pick up and then fit the sump. You need a person to help with this, got my son to help with this. anyway just a tip here ...
Installed the head following the torque procedure as per manual, that was fun and worked up a good sweat. I really love my torque wrench now !
So... cut a long story short. I installed the remainder of the camshafts, belts and exhaust components, installed all fluids (cheap 15-40 oil) and fired it up !
This was scarey ! first time I rebuild an engine ! (essentially) so I was freaking out a bit so many steps and so many parts !
She started up beautifully ! got it to running temperature and then took it for a drive to ware in the rings (I took the quick burst and engine compression braking approach) much can be said about this.... After about 100 ks I changed the oil and I am running 10-60 full synt. The car has now done 1000 kms since rebuild and has used up zero oil ! not a drop ! niente ! , no smoke, no smell no pollution and no oil consumption !!! yeayyyy !!
So the mystery is no more ! It was the rings and possibly the valve guide seals. Luckily I salvaged this engine before it was too late but boy what a journey !!!
Hope this helps some one out there in the Alfa land !
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I think you did the right thing with your ring run-in procedure. The more conventional take-it-easy slow run in polishes rings and makes blow-by and oil burning more likely. With your version the ring acquires a slightly rough matte surface from microwelds, that retains oil film instead. There's been quite a long debate about this in motorcycling where it was noticed that gently-thrashed-from-day-one engines tended to outperform normally run in motors. 50 years ago progressive run in was vital, but engineering finish, oils and materials have improved.
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I took the quick burst and engine compression braking approach
Nice job, well done!

What exactly do you mean by the above comment?
 
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Hi all,

An update for anyone who was interested in this and may be interested for future reference. I am an Alfa enthusiast, I think.., so I persevered with this issue and mystery...
I decided to dig deeper so pulled the heads off, as you do. Upon inspection of the rings found them worn, pistons looked to be ok but evidence of oil flowing into the cylinder and into heads. Cylinder bores looked pristine, shiny with cross hatching visible. Pulled apart the head and upon inspection found massive amount of oil and gunk build up behind the valves and face of the valves. Also pulled the main bearing caps and inspected the main bearings which were ok, no sign of excessive ware or marks. Pulled the big end bearings off and found them to be excessively worn with score marks (not good) The bearings have a coating which was missing. Crank shaft had no signs of ware, luckily ! So.. decide to buy new head gasket set, piston rings and bind end bearings. This was actually quite reasonable price wise (about AU $ 400). Note I took a bit of a gamble with the rings as I ordered from a supplier in UK who could not supply the Goetze brand so supplied Nippon rings. Much can be said about this but you can ping me with questions, if you wish after reading...
I cleaned all pistons and installed the new Nippon rings. Used piston ring pliers and compressor (eBay $30).
Disassembled the heads, degreased cleaned with brass brush and high pressure hose with combination of degreaser and soapy water then high pressure aired it out. came up squeaky clean. Cleaned all valves and then reinstalled them with new Valve stem seals. Installing is a fun job. I think I spent a whole day just working on the head. Double sprung valves are fun... need a specific tool for this from eBay ($40).
I did all this work while the engine was in the car, removing sump was fun... oil pick up gets in the way as drive shaft block the sump from moving around. like wise re-installing had to loosely git the oil pick up to allow movement then once in place the sump, you can tighten the oil pick up and then fit the sump. You need a person to help with this, got my son to help with this. anyway just a tip here ...
Installed the head following the torque procedure as per manual, that was fun and worked up a good sweat. I really love my torque wrench now !
So... cut a long story short. I installed the remainder of the camshafts, belts and exhaust components, installed all fluids (cheap 15-40 oil) and fired it up !
This was scarey ! first time I rebuild an engine ! (essentially) so I was freaking out a bit so many steps and so many parts !
She started up beautifully ! got it to running temperature and then took it for a drive to ware in the rings (I took the quick burst and engine compression braking approach) much can be said about this.... After about 100 ks I changed the oil and I am running 10-60 full synt. The car has now done 1000 kms since rebuild and has used up zero oil ! not a drop ! niente ! , no smoke, no smell no pollution and no oil consumption !!! yeayyyy !!
So the mystery is no more ! It was the rings and possibly the valve guide seals. Luckily I salvaged this engine before it was too late but boy what a journey !!!
Hope this helps some one out there in the Alfa land !
gabalfa, Thanks for the nice write up. I have to do the same thing for my 2005 GT (132000 km) . Do you have any pictures of the work ? Anything special to look for while dismantling / rebuilding ? How long did it take for you to remove the head and the pistons ? And rebuilt for that matter Did you skim the head gasket surface ? It seems that there are two schools when it comes to this. Some are adamant that one has to skim it no matter what and some say not if it's straight.
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I think you did the right thing with your ring run-in procedure. The more conventional take-it-easy slow run in polishes rings and makes blow-by and oil burning more likely. With your version the ring acquires a slightly rough matte surface from microwelds, that retains oil film instead. There's been quite a long debate about this in motorcycling where it was noticed that gently-thrashed-from-day-one engines tended to outperform normally run in motors. 50 years ago progressive run in was vital, but engineering finish, oils and materials have improved.
In 1985 I bought a Ducati 900 S2 (90 deg V twin, shaft driven Desmo valve gear), and the running-in recommendations included: "To assist in running-in engine, brakes and suspensions drive your motorcycle on hilly territories with plenty of bends". My thoughts: "Thank you very much; I think perhaps I will!"
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Last edited by ChrisH77; 18-01-17 at 15:30.
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Nice one ChrisH77, I love motorcycles, I own a Cagiva Raptor 1000. Lots of fun !
So, to answer the brake in process Guest ?, basically I used as quick as possible acceleration in first without redlining (6000 rpm), really don't get more power beyond the 6k. Full load on car (AC on) then into 2nd and 3rd and let the engine do the breaking not your brakes. you can repeat this a number of times. The idea is to explore the full range of acceleration, compression/decompression of your engine. So high way driving is no good, too steady. find a somewhere where you can do this safely, I just did it around my streets, quite enough and some good stretches.
Kauko, if you do this yourself to your beloved GT, I'm guessing its a JTS 2.2 litre as the V6's are much stronger, Be very organized and you will need lots and lots of tools. On thing I really learned is how important and handy a torque wrench is. I think I spent at least 50 hours working on this. You have to be methodical with your approach and if you have not worked on Alfa's before (at leash timing belt work) then I would not suggest to attempt this. I have all the tools for lifting the car and engine stands and hoist (not required) but I have over the years accumulated lots of tools to make the job easier. A couple of interesting points to add.
- removed rear engine mount to drop rear enough to remove the sump.
- intake manifold can be removed with out the heads but found it easy (once you disconnect all wiring, some from below) to remove with it. however install air intake after installing the heads. Don't forget to jack the engine back up so that you can get just enough clearance to install the air intake, its a tight fit as is everything else in the engine bay area of an Alfa
- As far as the heads are concerned, The car had done 70k km so visually inspecting I could not fault them, I chose not shave as there was no build up or corrosion on the engine block, the head came off easily once the 10 bolts were removed (I re-used the bolts), yes, I know they are meant to stretch but again did not see any issue with them. I cleaned the heads gently with a sharp scraper ensuring no scratches or gouges. I installed the head gasket set bar the intake gasket.
- There are many you tube clips you can watch that demonstrate various tools to use and steps to follow. It was helpful !
Thanks every one for your comments and questions ! here are some pics...
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Nice one ChrisH77, I love motorcycles, I own a Cagiva Raptor 1000. Lots of fun !
So, to answer the brake in process Guest ?, basically I used as quick as possible acceleration in first without redlining (6000 rpm), really don't get more power beyond the 6k. Full load on car (AC on) then into 2nd and 3rd and let the engine do the breaking not your brakes. you can repeat this a number of times. The idea is to explore the full range of acceleration, compression/decompression of your engine. So high way driving is no good, too steady. find a somewhere where you can do this safely, I just did it around my streets, quite enough and some good stretches.
Kauko, if you do this yourself to your beloved GT, I'm guessing its a JTS 2.2 litre as the V6's are much stronger, Be very organized and you will need lots and lots of tools. On thing I really learned is how important and handy a torque wrench is. I think I spent at least 50 hours working on this. You have to be methodical with your approach and if you have not worked on Alfa's before (at leash timing belt work) then I would not suggest to attempt this. I have all the tools for lifting the car and engine stands and hoist (not required) but I have over the years accumulated lots of tools to make the job easier. A couple of interesting points to add.
- removed rear engine mount to drop rear enough to remove the sump.
- intake manifold can be removed with out the heads but found it easy (once you disconnect all wiring, some from below) to remove with it. however install air intake after installing the heads. Don't forget to jack the engine back up so that you can get just enough clearance to install the air intake, its a tight fit as is everything else in the engine bay area of an Alfa
- As far as the heads are concerned, The car had done 70k km so visually inspecting I could not fault them, I chose not shave as there was no build up or corrosion on the engine block, the head came off easily once the 10 bolts were removed (I re-used the bolts), yes, I know they are meant to stretch but again did not see any issue with them. I cleaned the heads gently with a sharp scraper ensuring no scratches or gouges. I installed the head gasket set bar the intake gasket.
- There are many you tube clips you can watch that demonstrate various tools to use and steps to follow. It was helpful !
Thanks every one for your comments and questions ! here are some pics...
I'm actually ex bike racer (500's and superbikes) myself and I still love 'em ! But after a bike an Alfa comes next . Thanks for the picks and t info. I'm supposed to start the work this weekend, let's see when we're done with it. I'll keep you guys posted with the results.
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what a fantastic write up..!

sounds like a very involved job, glad to hear you had a positive outcome! re the running in procedure couldn't agree more that hard and fast is better than the conventional.

I was also a biker and hard the same thing when I rebuilt my Cagiva Mito (many many years ago) did a hard run in and the bike (all 125cc of it) seemed to have a bit more than it did when new.

glad you persevered with the JTS, my experience with one was not good but they can't all be bad! It has made me consider one in a GT again as they are cheap and it might make a fun project doing a rebuild on a Direct injection engine.
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Ok , here we go. My son and I started the work today. In 5h we'd gotten the cyl.head off and pistons out. We didn't need to tilt the engine to remove the oil pan. We lowered the pan as far as possible and removed the oil pick up. This created enough space for us to remove the pan. Honing marks are still visible in the cylinders and crank pins had no wear marks on them. Con.rod bearings (big end bearings) had some wear but nothing to be worried about. Now I'm wondering about the piston ring end gaps. I measured the top ring on cyl. 4 and it was 0,9 - 0,95 mm which seems excessive to me and the oil ring had a gap of 1,8 mm which sounds huge to me ! gabalfa, did you get readings for how much the end gaps should be ? Piston # 1 had some scratches on the intake side but nothing to worried about. The exhaust pipe was also in bad condition, we'll have to replace / repair everything after the headers. To be continued.
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hey kauko40, and so it begins... 5 hours is pretty good ! you must be an old hand at it. So, as far as the rings gaps is concerned I'm not quite sure what your referring to as I measured the width of the top 2 rings and compared to the new ones there was a visible reduction in ware, there was less edge and measured about .15 mm less in width. now that wasn't the issue I believe, the real ware in the ring set was the oil ring (number 3, bottom one) For some reason the goetze brand makes a 2 piece oil ring, the top and bottom are 1 piece and have tiny holes to allow for the back flow of oil. It looked quite clogged, probably due to oil starvation and bad oil. The middle ring is spiral shape and acts as a "scraper". I'm not sure why goetze does this but the set I bought was Nippon and was a 3 piece oil ring with a larger scraper (middle ring) which I think allows for better oil flow and back flow. In either case I would just replace them once your at this stage. Mine cost me $200 delivered from UK to Australia. Well worth it. Of course once you've got the head off it make sense to refurbish with a new head gasket set. This was the bulk of the work for me. Pulling apart the valves (bloody collets) are a pain. You need the right spring valve compressor (the large kind you wind down) ebay sells them. and putting them back in after cleaning I used tweezers to re-install the collets. time consuming ! half a day to clean and re-assemble.... between hey dad... hope this helps ! good luck and let me know how you go.
 
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