1996 Hyundai Elantra

Engine Performance problem
1996 Hyundai Elantra 4 cyl Front Wheel Drive Automatic

For the past 3 mths, I've been having starting problems! I've narrowed down the problem to be carbon foul plugs. Each time I replaced them the cars starts fine and performs ok for approx. 2-3 weeks before I have to change the plugs again. It now appears the problem is getting worst since the plugs lifespan are getting shorter and shorter. Need advice!

Observations/parts changed thus far:
1) Compression checked- all cylinders above 170psi.
2) Dry black appearance of plugs.
3) Rich fuel smell at exhaust when idling.
4) Coolant being force out of system via reservoir.
5) Replaced crankshaft sensor, gas pressure regulator, coil pack, ECT sensor and air filter.
May 21, 2009.

The coolant is my concern. Does it push the coolant out all of the time? Is the engine overheating?

Let me know.


Thanks for your reply! Anyway, on two occasions I was caught by surprise while in traffic when I glanced at my temp gauge and noticed it registered about 90% of full scale before I took evasive action. However, since then I've done some work on the cooling system(replaced all hoses and thermostat housing which was badly pitted and leaking at the pipe end) and have noticed an improvement. After making over 100km the coolant level in the radiator was normal while the reservoir level dropped(now opposite). I'll continue to monitor this condition. I should mentioned that I've been running this car without a thermostat(live in the tropics) well over 10 years without any problems. My temperature gauge normally registers near mid-scale where the fan cycles on/off. I'm planning to have the car scan this week by the local dealership since I've tried 4 different models scanners without any success. I'll keep you posted!

May 25, 2009.
I was not able to get my car scan last week due to the backlog of work pending at the local dealer. In the mean time, after repairing all visible coolant leaks, I noticed that I'm still losing coolant. The reservoir level keeps dropping(condition reverse) and I noticed that there is a buildup of sludge around the inner-walls of the reservoir. I'm starting to think that I have a leaking cylinder head gasket, since this sludge contains oil. I checked both transmission & engine oil for coolant contamination, but both oils appear not to have been contaminated. Yesterday, I did a lot of driving and had to pull aside and top up the coolant level because I noticed the temp gauge climbing above the half way point. I have also noticed a crack at the top of the coolant reservoir. Could this be contributing to my problem?

May 30, 2009.
IT sounds like you have a head gasket leaking. As far as the scan, if you have an Auto Zone or Advance near by, they will scan it for free and there is no apt. Necessary.

Honestly, it sounds like a bad head gasket. You should have the compression tested to see if there is one or more with low compression.

Let me know what you come up with.


Earlier today, I did a compression test on each cylinder and obtained the following results: cyl 1- 205
cyl 2- 200
cyl 3- 195
cyl 4- 180

I would like to hear your thoughts about these readings, despite the small traces of oil seen in the cooling system.
Unfortunately, here in the Caribbean, there are no Autozone or Advance auto-shops nearby, hence the reason why I have no other choice! Of course, there are other auto-shops around that will charge for the scan, but not as complete as the Dealer scan tool which I know is the High scan Pro manufactured by Nextech. I've seen this scan tool in action and I must say it's incredible. This tool can diagnose ABS, PCM and transmission problems. I wish I had one, but it's not cheap! Can you recommend a good but reasonable scan tool which you know would work on my car! Thanks!

May 30, 2009.
Hi: Cylender 4 has me thinking you have a headgasket problem. If you are getting traces of oil in the coolant, chances are that is where it is coming from. I believe the manufacturer allows for a 10% difference in compression between cylenders, and you are at max.

As far as a scan tool, sorry you don't have access to one. They sell them here on this web site for very good prices. Go to the " Test Equipment Store" under the Popular Site Links and check for one. I think you'll be able to find one for a good price.

Let me know how this works out for you.


Hi Joe,

You're diagnosis of the problem has been confirmed. Yesterday, I drove to a mechanic friend of mine for his advice and was shocked when he opened the oil cap only to see what appears to look like " ice cream" accumulation under the oil cap and inside the tappet cover. Yet, the oil appears to be normal when I checked the dipstick. I've been checking the dipstick almost every other day but failed to do the same with the oil cap. Well, at this point, I'll let the mechanic take control of this situation since, I know the head must be removed and checked before the gasket is replaced etc.

Upon reflection, I think it's safe to say that the initial symptoms of hard starting and coolant leaks were signs of a failing head gasket that has now matured.
I must admit despite the many inconveniences experienced and money spent mostly on my part, it has been a very good learning experienced for me! I thoroughly enjoyed your expertise and guidance along the way and want to encourage you to keep up the good work! Thanks!

P.S. I'll check out the web site you mentioned for a scan tool that I can use for future symptoms!


Jun 1, 2009.
Thank you and I'm glad you got to the bottom of your problem. In the future, let us know if you have questions or concerns. We'll be here and happy to help out the best we can.