Car Troubles: What That White Smoke Means

Unfortunately, there are all sorts of things that can go wrong with a car. While a few people are lucky and rarely, if ever, experience any car troubles, most people have some sort of auto issue from time to time. When a car has smoke issuing from it, that’s almost always a sign of trouble. However, it’s the color of the smoke that determines just what sort of problem it could be. The following frequently asked questions deal with white smoke coming from the exhaust.

Can Smoke Color Really Indicate Potential Issues?

It absolutely can. Naturally, a car that is running just as it should will have no smoke coming out of it at all. It should be noted that the color of the smoke that comes from the exhaust doesn’t indicate the exact problem. This just narrows down the list of potential issues to a few. If the car is smoking from the exhaust, note the color to get a general idea of what the problem could be.

Does White Smoke Always Mean a Problem?

Most of the time it does, but not always. There is one instance in which it is not an issue. This is on cooler days at startup. A thin, white smoke comes out and disappears almost as quickly as it was seen. This is not a repair issue, just condensation that has turned to steam. It is when the smoke is thick and doesn’t go away that there is trouble.

What Causes White Smoke?

The most likely cause for the white smoke would be the engine is burning coolant. This is definitely not good. This usually means that there’s an internal coolant leak. The coolant is getting inside the combustion chamber where it’s burning. The result is the white smoke. There are other things to look for to help determine if this is what’s really going on. A somewhat sweet odor is one other indicator as well as a lower-than-normal coolant level.

What Causes Internal Coolant Leaks?

There are three main causes that can lead to an internal coolant leak, which in turn leads to smoke. A cylinder head could be cracked or warped. The engine block could be cracked as well. A head gasket that has blown or otherwise failed is the other main potential issue. This last is commonly due to the engine overheating. The bad news is that any of these problems will be fairly expensive to fix.

What if the Smoke Isn”t Really That Bad?

This doesn’t matter at all. If there is smoke coming from the exhaust and it’s not a brief bit at startup on a cool morning, there is a problem. The issue needs to be looked at quickly. Any of the main causes of the coolant leak which is producing the smoke will be expensive to fix. However, those costs are only going to rise the longer if the issue is ignored as these problems will get worse.

White smoke coming from the car’s exhaust is bad and unfortunately this type of smoke means expensive repairs. These costs can be controlled somewhat by recognizing the problem early and getting it fixed early. The appearance of this type of issue can be prevented by proper maintenance. The engine and cooling system, when properly cared for, will yield fewer problems in the long run. Keep the coolant levels up to avoid overheating, keep oil levels proper in the car, and have a coolant system flush at least once a year so the coolant doesn’t get dirty. Check the cooling fan as well to ensure it’s working properly.