What Does The White Smoke From My Exhaust Mean?

​There can be different colors of smoke that can go outside your car’s exhaust, and this can be caused by various kinds of reasons and problems in your vehicle. Other would associate white smoke with a steam caused by condensation and the cold weather. While this can be true, the real problems lie in the inner parts of your car.


Diagnosing the symptoms and finding out the source of the problem may not be easy, but with the proper information, anything can be solved. Read through the article to know the necessary information and guide in diagnosing the problem.

What are the possible causes of the white smoke?

• Weather

You probably notice that you get white smoke from your exhaust, especially in cold weather. This is because it might be the product of condensation. When you starts your engine, the system heats up under a cold atmosphere, and this causes the steam or the white smoke that you see. This would later dissipate, and it would eventually vanish completely.

• Coolant related problems

If the white smoke is continuous even after the engine heats up, this might be caused by an inner problem in your vehicle – internal coolant leak. This can cause surges of white smoke and a sweet odor or a low coolant reservoir level. Faulty coolant also affects your engine oil and this makes the oil appear frothy and milky. Even if a small amount of leak contaminates the combustion chamber, this is enough to produce a white smoke.

Causes of white smoke and coolant loss

One of the causes of white smoke and faulty coolant is a bad cylinder, a failure in head gasket because of overheating, or a cracked. This can be in the form of a warped or cracked cylinder. A cracked cylinder head may cause the coolant to leak into other cylinder head or other vehicle parts such as the combustion chamber.

Another reason is a poor maintenance of your coolant, a non-functioning cooling fan, or a low coolant level causes overheating of the engine – leading to a faulty coolant and white smoke. Another reason is an engine wear which causes the gaskets to seal properly causing some problems in the coolant system. These reasons – gasket and head failures are two of the common sources of coolant loss, because of an engine wear.

What can you do?

One of the things you can do is to never remove the cap of the radiator or the coolant reservoir during the time the engine is heating up. Doing so may cause serious problems and accidents. You need to let the engine cool down completely.

You need to check first the coolant level and determine if it is already low. This is the best indication of a low coolant causing the white smoke. However, if the reservoir is not low and at the exact level, while continuously experiencing the vast amount of white smoke, you need to determine where the leaks in your vehicle through a cooling system pressure.

Other smoke colors and their causes

• Black smoke

means that your engine is heating up a significant amount of oil and fuel. The very thing you should do is to check your air-filter and other internal parts such as fuel injectors and fuel-pressure regulator. It can also be a cause of a clogged fuel return line.

• Gray smoke

A gray smoke’s cause is hard to point out. This might mean at least, your vehicle is just heating up the oil, or it also indicates that you are experiencing a problem from a faulty turbocharger. One thing you can do is to check for the oil consumption and the excess oils you have been using.

This might be caused by issues in your transmission fluid getting fired up that is caused by overheating, or a transmission vacuum modulator problems.

• Blue smoke

Blue smoke can just mean you are just burning fuel while starting the engine. However, this may indicate that your valve guide seals are at fault, and the oil is leaking into the combustion chamber where it is heated with the fuel. Another reason can be when the car is turbocharged, and that you need a blower replacement.

Click here for more information about different kinds of smoke and what they indicate.

Should I be worried about this white smoke?

It depends on. It is because the causes and effects can vary. White smoke can mean nothing while it can mean that serious problems are experienced by the engine or the vehicle. If you see it when you start your engine in the morning, there is nothing to worry about. But, if it already continuous, there are two indications – if it dissipates after coming from the exhaust, it might be caused by a blown head gasket. Well, this is bad news. However, if it doesn’t dissipate, then it just means a burnt oil. Whatever it is, there is always need to look at the matter. 

So, you see that anything can be easily diagnosed with proper information. However, you have to take note that double-checking of the source of the problem is necessary. You might decide on changing some internal components for just nothing. Whatever the smoke that’s going outside from your exhaust, remember to always ask for some advice from mechanical experts whenever you feel necessary.

About the Author Chris Lawrence

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