Your car emits smoke from its tailpipe – the escape point of the exhaust gas. Smoke emissions, as long as small, are normal and generally nothing to worry about.
However, they can also serve as tell-tale indications of how your vehicle is doing at the moment. It’s the color that usually tells the sign.
For instance, a white smoke from the exhaust could mean a lot of things. In most cases, it designates a sign of trouble.
Having a white smoke getting out of your car should concern you as the owner. There might be a number of issues brewing under the hood of your car.
So in this article, we will discuss the causes of white smoke from the exhaust. Apart from that, you will also learn how to fix the white smoke from the exhaust.
Change in Color
It would be wise to take note of the color of your emission in a daily basis. A change in color from your tailpipe means there is a fault within your vehicle.
In most cases, it means condensation has already accumulated in an abnormal volume that may cause undesirable implication. Further, it could also mean your car is slowly breaking down.
A change in color could indeed mean anything. But one thing’s for sure – a change in your exhaust smoke color means you should act immediately before any further consequences rise. Read more to know about the matter.
Diagnosing Through Thickness Levels
The severity of the probable problems depends on how thick the white smoke coming out from your exhaust is.
1. Thin Smoke
If you only see white smoke in the form of thin vapor, then you can just ignore the matter. This is probably just the regular build-up of condensation in your pipe that gets out during start up.
Having thin smoke is common during cold climate conditions, and also possible during damp weathers. It disappears quickly so you have nothing to worry about.
Another reason behind could be lack of fuel stabilizer. You can also expect white smoke when you haven’t used your car for a long time now.
When you start your engine, your vehicle may emit a steamy-like smoke due to another reason – when you are not able to fill the gas with fuel stabilizer. That’s why it is important to add a fuel-stabilizer whenever necessary.
And if you’re car hasn’t been used for a while, it is advisable to drain the old gas first and fill it with fresh gas before going for another drive.
2. Thick Smoke
As a general rule; the thicker the smoke, the worse.
Seeing a thick smoke, even if it’s white, could mean a bigger problem. A thick smoke indicates your vehicle is already burning coolant.
This smoke is not only visible while you start your engine but also persistent while you drive (as explained later). Further, the coolant can mix with your oil, which imposes a bigger threat to your car.
Seeing some thin white smoke while you are driving may not be too much of a concern for the meantime. However, noticing thick smokes while driving is a sure sign that you should see your mechanic right away.
Your engine burns coolant due to several reasons; it could be due to a cracked engine block, damaged cylinder head, or a blown head gasket. The root is usually from an overheating engine.
A small leak can be a catalyst of overheating, and can lead to more damage if taken for granted.
Seeing White Smoke During Start-Up
Okay, so here’s the catch. When you see white smoke only while you are STARTING the engine and not while running it on the road, then you have nothing to worry about.
This is only caused by the condensation inside your pipe that finally went out when you kicked your engine on.
However, if you are driving a diesel engine and you see a LOT of white smoke during start-up, it could mean that the timing of your fuel pump is off. You can call your mechanic for further diagnosis. Or you can check it yourself.
Seeing White Smoke While Driving
It’s normal to see white smoke when you start your car. But when the white smoke persists even while you are driving, then you have a little more serious matter at hand.
Seeing white smoke while on the road could mean coolant or anti-freeze leakage. You are leaking coolant and burning it in the process.
The leak is not large of a concern for the meantime, but could worsen in the long run. That is why you should still see your mechanic when that happens.
The white smoke you are seeing are actually in the form of steam and not literally smoke.
It could be that an anti-freeze or water have managed to infiltrate your cylinder, consequently being burned in the combustion process while your engine is operating.
The result is a white steam coming out of your exhaust pipe that looks like white smoke.
It is usually the responsibility of some special gaskets or the head gasket to prevent the anti-freeze from entering the cylinders.
However, they could sometimes fail due to excessive heat. Your engine can overheat, making the head gaskets fail in the process.
This phenomenon provided an open window for the anti-freeze to enter the cylinder. And voila. White smoke while you are driving.
Related: Valve Covers Gasket Leak Symptoms
The condition above also opens another possibility – you might be running out of coolant. This is actually quite possible because lack of coolant could be the reason behind why your engine has overheated in the first place.
You can check the levels of your coolant to confirm the condition.
You can’t always blame a leaked coolant for seeing abnormal volumes of white smoke from your car. In some cases, it’s the fuel filter itself to blame.
The fact alone that your car emits white smoke is your vehicle’s way of suggesting there is something wrong beneath and that you need to take action as soon as you can. Prolonging the agony can lead to more costly repairs.
Possible diagnosis include problems relating to fuel filter, cracked engine block, or a faulty cylinder head gasket.
Things To Do
Here are some things you can do when you see your car emitting lots of white smoke in the exhaust while you are driving.
- Stop the car immediately and park at the side. You are lucky enough if you see a nearby garage that can offer assistance. You can also call for mobile road side services if available.
- You can check your radiator and see if there is a sufficient amount of anti-freeze.
- Change the anti-freeze to their proper amount if needed. Also, pay attention to the over-flow bottle.
- Determine whether your vehicle’s engine oil has been contaminated with anti-freeze. See the engine oil filler cap’s underside, and also the engine oil dipstick.
- If the color looks like a chocolate milkshake, it is a sure-fire indication of anti-freeze contamination. When that happens, contact your mechanic right away.
If you are far from any mechanic, you can still drive your car even if the oil has been contaminated. However, don’t let the problem sit too long as your car can end up with costly replacements and repairs.
How To Fix White Smoke From Exhaust
Though it may be normal during a cold weather, a white smoke can be considered abnormal when it occurs during the warm seasons. No matter what the cause is, here are things you can do to stop white smoke from the exhaust.
1. Cold weather - Nothing to Worry
You already know that seeing white smoke during start-up is nothing to be concerned about. The oil can leak past the valves and then combine with the moisture existing in the exhaust part.
When your car is subjected to an extremely cold weather, the car itself also becomes cool by natural phenomenon. As a result, the air inside compresses and produces moisture.
Matter of fact, the moisture volume can accumulate as much a cup of water in the motor and exhaust system. This process is known as condensation.
So, when you ignite your engine, the heat will significantly rise. Hot temperatures can boil the miniscule moisture content in the exhaust system. And as a result, you can see a white smoke, which is really just a steam coming out from your tailpipe.
This white fog will stop on its own after a few minutes.
2. Neutralizing Flush or Stop Leak Products
In some cases, the worsened coolant is the one responsible for making your car emit white smoke. A weakened coolant can enter the combustion cylinders.
The extreme heat can vaporize the coolant and spew it out to the exhaust in the form of white smoke. The best solution for this problem is have a professional replace your gasket with a new one.
In the absence of an immediate mechanic, you can apply temporary treatment to your car. It is ideal to have a neutralizing flush or a stop leak product in hand.
You can buy these items in specialized shops. Just pour the right amount of these products to the coolant system to stop the radiator acid from making the situation worse.
Fixing white smoke problems can be treated with a variety of additive products. You can buy items compatible with your make and model at any car products store or online.
Using additives is actually an expert’s advice to solve white smoke issues; especially if you can’t take your car to the mechanic right away.
There are cases where the additives completely eradicate the issue for long-term, while there are also times when these products can not.
There are several reasons for this – worn out or dirty parts to name a few. If so, your car may require a more profound servicing from the professionals.
4. Special Motor Treatment
Acid is created when moisture gets mixed with sulfur in the engine. Don’t be surprised though; all gas and diesel fuel, along with oil contain an amount of sulfur in them.
However, the engine and transmission are protected against sulfur through the additives in the fuel and oil. Or at least most of them.
You can prevent expensive valve repairs by buying special motor treatments. These products can seal oil loss, helping you keep the acid from infiltrating the engine more.
You must prevent the acid from damaging your muffler or the motor. The muffler is responsible of changing the unburnt oil and gas into water.
You should also ensure you are able to check the oil in your car as frequently as you can. Also, top it up if necessary. Taking care of your oil and fuel can help avoid acid problems in the future.
That white smoke from the exhaust is that unsuspecting element that can actually mean serious problems under the hood. Well, at least you now know the causes of white smoke.
You can also incorporate your knowledge on how to fix white smoke problems whenever needed. The only thing to keep in mind is to take proper actions as soon as possible.