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OK. Here is the short version. 1988 Suzuki Samurai with only 61,000 miles. Engine had been running well, and did not burn oil or smoke. At a stop, noticed that the engine started to knock, pretty much in sync with each revolution. Most noticeable at idle or low rpm, and the knock either went away or gets drowned out with other engine noise when rpm's increase.

Tried to drive home. All seemed OK with power but after 5-10 miles I started to feel a quick, sudden drop in power, almost like you quickly took the foot off the gas or hit a bump. At first, just happened once and nothing for a few miles, but then it seemed to get more frequent. Just as I was about home, noticed it seemed like the engine was short on power and bogging down. By the time I got to the garage, it would really not even idle unless I kept revving it up. Now, I can't even get it to start.

Worried that the knock is a bad sign and may mean a major engine problem, but seems odd about the loss of power end inabilty to start. Could they be related? I can't imagine what quick, easy fix could cause the knocking, but also can't image what major engine problem would keep it from starting like this.

Any ideas of things to check before I give up and take it to a real mechanic?
 

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I'd start with a compression check, if you don't have a guage just use your finger just to see if one or more cylenders have lost compression. If so pull the valve cover to see what it looks like under there.

Mike
 

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That sounds somewhat familiar, you can see what my problem ended being by looking at my avatar pic... that was the #3 cylinder... we did not remove the piston nor did we find all of it.

You made if home so you are not as bad off is I was.

the fact that you made it home suggests that you problems are not as catastrophic as mine were but if you had a heavy metallic knocking then a loss of power it is definitively not good. Do as mikeww said and when you remove the sparkplugs look to see if they are damaged. If you remove the valve cover look to see if any of your valves are stuck open this may indicate you have a foreign object in one of your cylinders.

I had valves stuck open on cylinders #2 and #4, pieces of the #3 piston got in the way. I guess a 4 cylinder will not run on just one cylinder for very long.
 
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