One of the most dreaded car problems is the discovery that smoke is coming from the engine. While seeing smoke is never a good sign, the issues that cause it can range from something as simple as a mild oil leak, to serious fuel combustion problems. If you have a smoking engine on your hands, then use this guide to determine the source of the problem and get it back to running properly again.
Consider the Location
The smoke from an engine may begin to come from under the hood, or you may see it flowing out of the tailpipe. In most cases, smoke coming from under the hood indicates a leak. For instance, oil or power steering fluid leaking onto the hot engine will cause it to smoke. Often, this will also create a noticeable burning odor that you may smell in the car’s cabin or when you stand outside of the vehicle. Smoke that comes from under the hood can also indicate that the engine is overheating, which is considered an automobile emergency.
Note the Color of the Smoke
When smoke flows out of the tailpipe, the color gives valuable clues as to what is causing the problem. For example, blue smoke is a sign that oil is mixing with fuel somewhere in the combustion chamber, which requires a trip to the service center for professional repair. While white smoke that goes away may just be condensation, you should be concerned if it lingers since this could mean that you have a blown head gasket or antifreeze leak in your car. Grey smoke could signal trouble with the transmission, and ignoring this could begin to affect your vehicle’s performance
Assess the Overall Functioning of the Vehicle
If you detect smoke coming from the engine, then you should also do a quick check of the general functioning of the vehicle. For example, oil leaks often start out slowly, and you may have already noticed oil spots on the ground where you park. Alternatively, your dashboard warning lights may indicate that fluids are low or that the temperature of the engine is beginning to ride. With transmission problems, you may find it hard to get your vehicle to change gears, or it may seem to lack power. Fuel mixture issues could cause problems at start up, or the engine may die when the car is idling. Take note of any other issues that you have noticed with your vehicle and mention them to the mechanic when you bring your car in for services.
Avoid Causing More Damage
Large amounts of smoke combined with other signs of a problem such as a rising temperature indicate that your car is at serious risk of catastrophic engine failure. Unfortunately, continuing to drive your vehicle when it is overheating could lead to a cracked engine head that requires a full replacement. Learn what to do when your car overheats or has another serious problem so that you can prevent more damage from occurring.
A smoking engine may cause you to fear that your vehicle is beyond repair, yet there are often many things that can be done to save your car if you address the issue early on. Always watch for signs that your car is struggling, and bring it in for an assessment as soon as you notice any type of smoke.