WPS500X In-cylinder compression – cranking (petrol)

The purpose of this test is to evaluate the in-cylinder compression of a petrol engine through 720° of crankshaft rotation, during cranking.

Connection guidance

General connection advice:

Ensure that the WPS500X is fully charged before starting this test.


The engine must be prohibited from starting and the fuel injection system disabled, NO fuel delivery.

How to perform the test


  1. BNC to BNC test lead
  2. WPS500X Pressure Transducer
  3. TA212 Standard compression hose
  4. TA213 to TA220 Standard compression hose spark plug adaptors (exact adaptor depends upon spark plug thread and depth).

PicoScope settings

  1. Channel A Probe setting: WPS500X Range 1
  2. Channel A range: -2 .. 14 bar
  3. Timebase 500 ms/div


  1. Remove the relevant spark plug ensuring the surrounding area is clean, dry and free of debris.
  2. Measure the spark plug thread pitch and length, and select the appropriate compression hose adaptor.
  3. Securely attach the selected compression hose adaptor to the standard compression hose.
  4. Introduce the standard compression hose into the spark plug aperture and tighten into the cylinder head / combustion chamber. This is an identical procedure to a conventional compression test gauge application.
  5. Connect BNC to BNC lead to Channel A of your scope and the BNC socket of the WPS500X pressure transducer.
  6. Switch on the WPS500X and wait for the self-test to complete (LED will scroll from range 1 to 3 and revert to 1). Do not connect the compression hose until the self-test is complete.
  7. Connect the standard compression hose to the inlet port of the WPS500X.
  8. To prevent exhaust catalyst damage, engine oil contamination  and bore washing, ensure fuel injection is prohibited to all cylinders.
  9. Run your scope software by pressing either the space bar on your keyboard or the Go button in PicoScope.
  10. Ensure the throttle is held wide open and crank the engine for approximately 5 seconds.
  11. Cease cranking and stop your scope by pressing either the space bar on your keyboard or the Stop button in PicoScope.

We advise you to recharge your WPS500X after use to ensure it is ready for future measurements.

Waveform notes

All values included in the Example waveforms are typical and not specific to all vehicle types.

Channel A: Indicates the rise and fall in-cylinder pressure over 5 seconds of cranking.

Refer to vehicle technical data for specific test conditions and results.

Typical values
Engine cranking:

Overview and Zoomed (Figures 2 and 3)

1. Peak positive pressures recorded during cranking (11.79 bar) are confirmed using the signal ruler where the value is recorded in the ruler legend (marker 4).

2. Signal ruler indicating 0 bar or atmospheric pressure.

3. Compression peak (tower) indicating the symmetrical rise and fall in cylinder pressure during cranking.

4. The ruler legend records the numerical pressure, time and degree values relative to the position of the signal, time and rotation rulers.

Zoomed (Figure 3)

Use PicoScope zoom functions (marker 11) to display two consecutive compression towers.

5. Expansion pocket (Negative pressure – 207 mbar) formed as the piston descends the cylinder during the expansion stroke. The negative pressure value is indicated by the signal ruler and recorded in the ruler legend (marker 4).

6. Rotation ruler handle position. Click on the rotation ruler handle and drag to positions on the waveform that align with two consecutive TDC (Top Dead Centre) compression peaks (towers) (marker 1). This will denote 0 – 720° of rotation of the crankshaft relative to TDC and peak compression.

7. Rotation ruler partitions can be added here by clicking on the ruler button (marker 7) and selecting four rotation partitions from the dialogue box. The distance and time between the rotation rulers (marker 6) will now be partitioned into four equal areas, each representing 180° of rotation of the crankshaft, relative to the positions of the rotation rulers (placed at TDC of compression stroke).

8. The time ruler handle is located at the bottom left-hand corner of the waveform. Drag both time rulers to align with the 0 and 360° rotation rulers to measure the cranking speed recorded in the frequency and RPM legend (marker 9).

9. The frequency and RPM legend displays the engine RPM relative to the position of both time rulers.

10. Arrows denoting the direction of piston travel, labelled with the relevant stroke of the four-stroke cycle.

11. Zoom tools are at your disposal in order to zoom into the two consecutive compression peaks and towers.

Further guidance

Figure 2

Compression towers and peaks

cylinder pressure is achieved as the piston ascends the cylinder during the compression stroke. (Intake and exhaust valves closed). By using the signal rulers (marker 1) we reveal the cylinder compression peaks at 11.79 bar as would a typical compression tester. However, we can now see repeated, even and symmetrical compression peaks as the crankshaft rotates and, more importantly, events taking place between compressions that could not be seen with our conventional compression tester. The signal ruler (marker 2) denotes zero bar (atmospheric pressure) where the cylinder pressure should remain throughout 360° of crankshaft rotation during the exhaust and intake strokes.

Note: Peak cylinder pressure of the compression stroke can be considered as TDC (top dead centre).

Figure 3

Rotation rulers and partitions

By using PicoScope's rotation rulers (marker 6) and partitions (marker 7), we can equally divide the distance between compression events into four equal divisions to reveal the position of the crankshaft (degrees of rotation). If we know the position of the crankshaft we can identify each of the four stroke cycles between compression events.

Expansion Pocket

At the base of each compression tower during the expansion stroke, you can see the expansion pocket (marker 5) dropping below the zero bar. The cylinder pressure momentarily drops to negative (vacuum). This indicates adequate sealing of both intake and exhaust valves that should remain closed as the piston descends down the cylinder towards the end of the power stroke (referred to here as the expansion stroke as there is no combustion). Valve timing, the integrity of the piston compression rings and cylinder face can also be confirmed via the expansion pocket. The depth of the expansion pocket (and so the vacuum level) can be measured using the signal ruler (marker 5) and the value displayed in the ruler legend (marker 4) -207 mbar.

Cranking speed (= Frequency x 60)

With the Time rulers (marker 8) placed at the 0° and 360° rotation rulers, we can also measure and display the cranking speed. The time taken (frequency in Hz) for the crankshaft to rotate 360° (measured by the time rulers) is multiplied by 60 to reveal the cranking speed, where the value (278 RPM) will be displayed in the frequency and RPM legend (marker 9).

You can read more about Compression testing and find our troubleshooter for compression testing on our training page.


This help topic is subject to changes without notification. The information within is carefully checked and considered to be correct. This information is an example of our investigations and findings and is not a definitive procedure. Pico Technology accepts no responsibility for inaccuracies. Each vehicle may be different and require unique test settings.

Suitable accessories

  • WPS500X Maxi Kit thumbnail

    WPS500X Maxi Kit (with carry case)


  • WPS500X Pressure Transducer Kit (with carry case)


  • WPS500X Pressure Transducer


  • WPS500X Adaptor Kit A

    WPS500X Adaptor Kit A


  • WPS500X Adaptor Kit B

    WPS500X Adaptor kit B


Help us improve our tests

We know that our PicoScope users are clever and creative and we’d love to receive your ideas for improvement on this test. Click the Add comment button to leave your feedback.

4 comments | Add comment

Gary Porter
December 02 2017

Could you not test diesel working pressure by using an adaptor in a glowplug hole?  Is the transducer unable to handle a)the working pressure, or b) the heat of a running diesel engine?

I just noticed this is a page for testing petrol engines - the question is still relevant to a diesel page if there is one.

If the transducer can handle the pressure / heat of a petrol engine, I’d consider investigating drilling and tapping a hole in a cylinder head just to see the results.  I understand the complexities and dangers of doing so, but the results from working cylinders would be much more valuable than from a non-working cylinder.

Steve Smith
October 21 2016

Hi Ric,

Waveforms for various variations of a mildly blown head gasket would be superb to see, however we don’t currently have access to PicoScope data of that sort.

Hi Ron,

Only the relevant spark plug for the cylinder under test is removed, no need to remove them all.

Ric Stacey
October 04 2016

Waveform for various variations of a mildly blown head gasket would be interesting

Ron Vinsant
September 30 2016

It is unclear to me that the test is done with only one spark plug removed or all plugs removed.
I would think it would be one at a time…

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Guided test: In-cylinder compression - cranking (petrol)