White smoke: What does it alert and how to fix these problems?

08/06/2018

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While the white smoke problem is not itself serious, it can lead to multiple other dire consequences.

Normally, the smoke fume coming out of the exhaust pipe should not have any color or just a little grayish because the fumes originated from the combusting process has been passing through a long filter system, turning all of its original colors to none. So, if the fume coming out of the pipe is white, there's probably something wrong with your car. At best, it could be some minor problem, likely an accumulated condensation and shouldn't be taken too seriously. At worst, one or more components in your car are breaking down and thus you should take some measure right away. Below is our explanation from Naijauto.com for this phenomenon.

a car emitting white smoke

The reasons for white smoke range from minor to real serious issues

1. When did the smoke appear?

When you ignite the engine, you notice white smoke starts to come out in thin bits, there's nothing to worry about here. Water vapor condensed inside the pipe is nothing new, especially if your car is parked in a high humidity environment. However, if your vehicle is a Diesel type and the same thing happened, you need to take it to an auto service because it's a sign that the fuel injection is not working with the supposed tune, in other words, its timing is incorrect. 

a car emitting thin white smoke

If it appears thin like this, don't worry, it's probably water vapor

2. Fluid leakage

After you have fixed the issue above, the white smoke still comes out, not only when you started the engine but during your trip as well. In this case, that might be the result of a leak in the coolant tank, which allows coolant or water to escape. It will then find its way to the cylinder, where is supposed to burn the mixture of fuel and air only. Now it has to burn an additional compound, the coolant. To this point, you probably have guessed why the color of the smoke is white because it's steam, the result of burning coolant by fuel. In the cooling system, there is a small part called the head gasket sitting between the engine block and cylinder head, with the purpose to prevent coolant from entering the cylinder. So, in some occasion, the engine got overheat thus leading to the open of the gasket or it somehow releases itself due to a failure in the system, the cooling fluid would find its way to the burning chamber and get burnt. When this problem occurs, stop the car and check immediately for leakage. If you can't find anything unusual with the coolant tank, drive it to the nearest auto shop to have it checked. 

a car emitting white smoke

The white smoke caused by coolant leakage can lead to more adverse problems

One more thing, if there's a leak in the cooling system, the coolant might be dried up. In that case, look at the check engine light very closely because it's very likely that your car will overheat. Stop your car if necessary.

3. How thick is the smoke?

As we mentioned above, when the smoke comes out of the pipe in thin bits, it's probably because of water vapor condensation that gets heated up and vaporizes. This is particularly normal if you live in an area with high level of humidity in the air, or areas that are in the cold period of the year. So this shouldn't keep you up at night. 

Another possible reason could be the owner does not use his or her vehicle for a long time, thus the old gas would store up some water in it. To get rid of this, you could add some fuel stabilizer to neutralize the old fuel, and refill the tank regularly to get rid of the old fuel more quickly.

>>> You might also want to read: Drive your car twice a week at least to protect its vital parts

a car emitting white smoke

The density of the smoke could tell you something about the problem

When the smoke appears thick, there might be a bigger problem inside. It's very likely that your car is burning coolant leaked from the cooling system because of a faulty head gasket (used to separate the engine block and the cylinder head), a broken cylinder or a shattered engine. Even when you narrow the problem down to the best scenario - a leak in the cooling pipe, which requires minimal effort to fix, the consequence of that could gradually get bigger the longer you neglect it. A leak in the pipe would lead to the car overheating, inflicting damage to the engine and from there affect the whole vehicle.

4. What to do when your car is emitting white smoke

Don't panic, we have laid out some tips and procedures below so that you can know how to react when it happens:

  • Stop driving your car right away. Coolant is very important to your car's well-being. Open the hood and check to see if the coolant tank is still filled to the top with anti-freeze, check the radiator as well. If there are no leaks in the tank but it's about to dry up, fill it.
  • If the coolant tank is filled up, the next step is to check its color. Sometimes fuels and coolants can mix up and form a weird color mixture, similar to that of a cup of mint chocolate drink. You can examine it by using the dipstick. In this case, call an auto service and have a mechanic over to examine the problem for you immediately. Do not try to drive after you have found out about this problem, you don't want your car to run on the mixture of coolant and fuel, do you? Unlike other problems, issues within the engine are nightmarishly costly and would actually bankrupt you.

a white woman and a black mechanic

Have a mechanic over to help you with the problem if necessary

That's pretty much the way to deal with white smokes. But still, the best way to fix a problem is to never let it happen in the first place. You should take your car to regular maintenance and spend some minutes a day to take care of your car and you won't have to worry about that too much anymore. 

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