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Car is mk4 (-98) Astra 1,6l 16v (about 260,000 km). It started to use more oil, and quite suddenly also more gas. I had ignored some "knocking" in the engine until car lost some power. It always started and I could drive it but going uphill became suddenly tough. The engine had slight burning oil smell, and it seemed to smoke more from the exhaust, but couldn't say if it was blue smoke. Plugs had oil on inside. They were actually dripping. I've used 5w-40 oil, as it is on a recommendation list in biggest parts shop here and mostly 95e10 for gas. For few years it had had high idle some time after starting it cold, but I ignored it as a minor thing.

After some reading I figured the valve stem seals could be bad and I was going to change them without removing the head gasket with an idea from some youtube-videos (
) to fill the cylinder with rope and pressure it by cranking enough to prevent the valves from dropping into cylinders. However, I'm wondering if it's actually head gasket seal or worn piston rings, and if it's actually even more likely than valve stem seals?

I don't have tools to pressurize cylinder blocks to test for piston rings. I've sometimes driven oil almost dry, though, so taking that into account...

Writing this I'm already starting to lean on removing the head gasket as a better option, but I'd be thankful for any feedback and advice.
 

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I'll just clean the oil from the cylinders, put it all together, check air valves, check compressions, and look for any fault-specific symptoms again while having it in occasional use. Maybe it holds together until summer.
 
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