You're sitting in your driveway, start your car and you notice from the rearview mirror that you have white smoke billowing from your exhaust. What does this white smoke mean? What is wrong with your car? What will this cost you? All you do know is that this is not the way you wanted to start your day. This article will go into depth on what this white smoke is, what the possible causes are and most importantly what damage a repair like this will do to your wallet.
What Causes White Smoke From a Tailpipe and What are the Symptoms?
Knowledge is key when owning a car. If you understand why and how things happen to your car, it is easier to avoid such massive hits to your wallet and your well being. Maintenance is so important when owning a car and it can avoid so many hefty bills and stress but is often neglected for a variety of reasons. Life is hectic, complicated, and expensive. The last thing anyone is thinking of is taking a trip to the mechanic to have their car looked over. Most people don’t even go to the doctor for regular checkups let alone have their car looked over. If you fall into this category like most of us do, let’s discuss the why and how of white smoke spilling from your exhaust.
So, what causes white smoke to expel from your exhaust? There are a few reasons this could be happening and some causes are significantly more expensive than the others.
- Condensation- Is white smoke from exhaust normal?
Believe it or not, there’s a reason for this white smoke that won’t actually cost you a thing to repair because it is totally normal. If the “white smoke” is thin like vapor and disappears as the car warms up, you are in the clear! This vapor is nothing more than steam due to condensation from a cold morning.
- Cracked cylinder head- How do you know you have a cracked head gasket?
Does the white smoke from your exhaust smell sweet? This could be because coolant has mixed with your engine oil. One of the most common reasons for that sweet-smelling white smoke to exit your tailpipe is a cracked cylinder head, head gasket failure or a cracked engine block. These three problems are all a result of an overheating car.
A cracked cylinder head usually causes the coolant to enter one or more cylinders and in some cases enters the combustion chamber. The cause of a cracked cylinder head happens when dirty coolant is present, the cooling system has not been properly maintained, and lastly, you are regularly running the car with insufficient coolant levels. In some cases, simple wear and tear can cause poor seals within the head gaskets which will also lead to coolant leaking into the engine chamber.
- Faulty injector pump timing
If you are noticing white smoke from your exhaust and you happen to be driving a diesel-fueled car, this can indicate that the fuel pump injection timing has stopped working.
Timing is key when this fuel pump is pumping diesel fuel into the cylinders of a diesel engine. When the fuel is injected the timing ensures high fuel efficiency and it also prevents an overrun of diesel. If the timing is off it can lead to thick white smoke exiting your exhaust.
- Bad fuel injector
If a fuel injector is stuck open or is leaking from the o-ring this will let too much fuel into the combustion chamber. This excess fuel can’t burn in the engine properly and will produce a thick grey smoke. In more severe cases it can produce black to dark grey smoke.
- Oil leakage- Does white smoke mean burning oil?
No, white smoke is not indicative of burning oil. If valve seals go faulty or if oil leaks from the piston this will result in oil seeping into the combustion chamber. When oil seeps into the combustion chamber it will mix with fuel resulting in a blue-colored smoke from your exhaust.
Other Frequently Asked Questions Related to White Smoke Escaping From Your Exhaust
- Can too much oil cause white smoke from exhaust?
Yes, this can indicate too much oil in the engine. It is suggested that you take your vehicle to a mechanic as soon as possible to avoid the possibility of causing any permanent damage to the engine block.
- Can low oil cause white smoke?
If your engine is low on oil there is a possibility that there’s an external oil leak and the engine oil is leaking onto the exhaust system. In general, blue smoke is caused by oil being burned along with the fuel.
- Can bad spark plugs cause white smoke?
No, white exhaust is not a symptom of spark plugs, this is more than likely a coolant leak in the combustion chamber.
- Can I drive my car with white smoke?
No, it is not recommended. Due to the fact that white smoke is indicative of a blown head gasket serious engine damage can occur if you continue to drive.
- Why is my engine smoking but not overheating?
Smoke coming from under the hood can be from a number of issues outside of overheating. If the smoke smells like asphalt or tar then it’s probably burning oil. This happens when a gasket goes bad.
On older cars especially, oil smoke can come from the filler cap. This will cause residue to build up and when the engine gets hot it will burn off. It can also happen if the valves inside the piston cylinders have wear.
If black smoke is present this can be due to the fuel not being mixed properly. This can happen when the air intake system malfunctions which causes a lack of air getting into the mixture leading to too much fuel. A bad fuel sensor can lead to too much fuel in the system as well.
There are a number of other leaking fluids that can cause smoke as well such as condensation burn off, coolant burning off, power steering fluid or transmission fluid. All leaks should be taken seriously and should be addressed.
Lastly, the electrical system can cause smoke although it is unlikely. If the alternator is going out and shorting it can create white smoke.
- Can a bad fuel filter cause white smoke?
If the fuel filter, head gasket, or cylinder head are damaged, or the engine is clogged or cracked, white smoke will expel from the exhaust.
- Can a bad PCV valve cause white smoke?
When the PCV valve (positive crankcase ventilation) hoses are blocked causes the crankcase to push up oil into the combustion chamber which will, in turn, cause the oil to burn inside the engine and out the exhaust pipe. This will cause a blue colored smoke to exit the tailpipe. If the faulty PCV valve causes a rich or lean mixture to enter the engine you can get a white or black smoke from the exhaust as a result.
How Much Does Fixing White Smoke From the Exhaust Cost?
As we have seen, the cause of white smoke expelling from your exhaust can be caused by a wide range of issues. Due to the number of reasons that can cause white smoke from your exhaust the cost of repairing this issue can vary greatly. Here are the common reasons for white smoke to expel from your exhaust and the average cost to repair these issues.
- Head gasket repair- $1,200-$1,500
- Injector pump repair- $1,400-$2,000
- Fuel injector repair- $1,100-$1,400
- Oil leak repair-$150-$1,200
- Fuel filter repair- $55-$165
- PCV valve repair- $60-$90
An issue like white smoke coming from your exhaust is usually not a cheap repair, taking on a repair of this cost can cause a large amount of stress. If your repair is on the expensive side, you should take into consideration the value of your car and if your car is even worth such a costly investment.
Why Does it Cost so Much to Repair White Smoke from your Exhaust?
Repairing your car that has white smoke exiting your tailpipe can vary so greatly because it is not just one thing that can cause this issue. There are multiple failure points that can create this issue, it can be as little as $55 or as high as $2,000. That is an unsettling gap in costs! The amount of stress that can occur from an unexpected vehicle repair can be daunting, no one wants to pay that kind of money for a car repair. Maintenance of a car is so incredibly important because it can avoid such a hit to your wallet.
Is it Worth Fixing the White Smoke from your Exhaust?
Before you go down the rabbit hole wondering what you need to sell or pawn off to afford fixing your car, let’s consider if your car is even worth such an expensive repair. If you are dealing with white smoke from your exhaust you are probably experiencing other problems as well, especially if you are dealing with an older vehicle. As much as we grow an attachment to our four-wheeled beast and want them around forever that is not always the case.
Trustworthy and reliable websites like Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds are great tools offered to the public to help figure out the value of your vehicle. Bear in mind that these are rough estimates. These estimates are not written in stone. When you have a rough idea of your car’s value it will be easier to determine how you want to move forward, maybe it’s time to invest in a car that will be a more reliable vehicle to you. Aren’t you tired of wondering what else will fail on your car?
You Can Sell Your Car As-Is Even if you Have White Smoke from Exhaust Pipe
I bet you didn’t know that despite the fact that your car may be billowing white smoke, you can sell it just as is. There are several options available to offload a car that is becoming a bigger headache than it is worth and is borrowing a large hole in your wallet. Generally, most people who are selling a car are utilizing the Internet to get rid of and advertise their vehicle when it is in working condition. The same mentality applies to a vehicle that is a non working condition. Your options include craigslist, dealerships, junkyards or parting the car out yourself. Let’s briefly explore each topic.
By far the most common method of selling a car on the Internet is craigslist. Their platform allows sellers to list their vehicles online free of charge, locally, and for the world to see. The results of this type of platform are a large string of calls, text messages and emails from all over the world at all hours of the day and night. One of Craigslist’s most common uses is for scammers, who will contact you and try to initiate wire fraud and check scams. You will also have to deal with buyers locally who are looking to pick up your car for very cheap so they can sell it for a profit.
You can also take your broken car to a car dealership and attempt to trade it in but you’ll receive very little money for your vehicle. A junkyard has much of the same story, offering you very little for your car in exchange for quickly taking it off your hands, an age old scheme. Many people actually embark on the journey parting out the car themselves! Tearing a vehicle down to its parts and selling them one by one. If you think that’s difficult, that’s because it is best left to people that have plenty of space in the expertise necessary to tear apart a car.
The truth is none of these options are particularly fantastic but there is an option that will give you a fair price for your car for little to no hassle. What more could you ask for?
Stop Worrying About the White Smoke From your Exhaust- Sell Your Car to Us instead
Trust me when I tell you that the options laid out above will give you nothing but a massive headache! If you want to invite scammers into your life or deal with bait and switch tactics and going with craigslist is the choice for you! For the rest of us, a better option exists. Cash Cars Buyer is here to help you.
What is more valuable than time? There’s not a lot of things we won’t do to save ourselves a few precious moments. A few precious moments that we can spend with our family and friends instead of running around town trying to get rid of a car that’s a piece of junk. Cash car buyers is an incredibly straightforward process. The first step is to access the Cash Cars Buyer website, there you are able to put in your car's details and get an offer right there on the spot. All you have to do then is schedule an appraiser to come view your vehicle in person and then get the cash you need right away. They will even take away your car if it’s not running! So what are you waiting for? It’s time to get the cash you need and invest in something that you can rely on today.