How to Do a Compression Test
A compression test reveals the condition of your engine's valves, its valve seats, and piston rings and whether these parts are wearing evenly. Healthy engines should have compression over 100 psi per cylinder, with no more than 10 percent variation between the highest and lowest readings. With a compression tester, a few hand tools, and 20 minutes, you can try this yourself.
STEP 1 Remove the fuel pump and fuel-injection fuses. Disconnect the main wire to the coil and spark plug wires; remove spark plugs.
STEP 2 Start the threaded end of the compression gauge in a spark plug hole by hand.
STEP 3 Turn the ignition on, depress the throttle, and crank the engine four revolutions. This should result in a stable reading; if not, crank up to 10 revolutions, but do the same with all cylinders.
STEP 4 Mark the pressure reading for each cylinder on the valve cover in chalk, then move to the next cylinder.
TIP For a cylinder below 100 psi, pour 1 teaspoon of engine oil into the plug hole and retest. If the reading jumps, the piston rings are worn. If not, think valve problems.