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My '99 with 235k is losing a lot of oil and coolant is disappearing. The engine is running fine except for a very few random, rough starts - I think mostly when cold. No visble smoke, although the oil does smell of gas. Don't know what's normal but it's noticeable. I replaced the radiator about a year ago and I've checked for coolant leaks but all is dry. I'm losing what's in the reservoir about every 3-4 weeks. If my numbers are right, it's burning about 1 qt every 500 miles. There are no major oil leaks. I checked the PCV valve and there is suction at tube otherwise it looks ok. I'm replacing tomorrow anyway.

I suspect I may have a blown head gasket. I pulled the plugs tonight and the #1 & #2 plugs were so tight I thought I was stripping the threads. I've been changing my plugs for years and it took a lot of force to loosen and it continued for most of the threads. Cylinder 3 & 4 plugs were easy to get out. I took a picture and while it's not clear, the 1 & 2 plugs have .050 gap versus about .045 for 3 & 4. There's brown, almost like burnt coating on ceramic of #1 & 2 and I can't recall if that's normal. There is white ash on plug #3 that is not on any of the others. The oil on stick looks ok. I checked the radiator cap this morning and there were a few specks of oil on the cap but the fluid in radiator looked ok. When I started the car with cap off, the coolant was going to overflow the radiator. Is that normal?

My question is that is it possible that it's the valves that are causing the oil loss or are the oil rings worn - or maybe both. What would have caused the plugs to seize up? I'm sure I used anti-seize. I'm going to do a compression test but don't think that will help much from what I've read. I can replace the head gasket myself, but if it's the pistons I'm screwed. Don't have $$ to replace the engine or pay dealer to rebuild, so I'm really hoping for a less expensive fix. Thanks for the help.
 

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From your photo, your plugs actually look decent -- just a little wear on the electrode.

The burnt part of the insulator is completely normal too. This is called the corona.

The ground strap on plug #2 looks a tad bit oily, but in this photo that's tough to tell.

Plug #1 -- the corona looks kinda oily. Maybe you're using oil by the spark plug seals?
 
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