Smoke coming from your tailpipe is something you never want to experience. It is normal to see some white smoke coming out of your exhaust during the winter. If you see thick white bursts from your exhaust, it could be a sign of a problem.
Most often, thick white exhaust smoke is caused by a malfunction that needs immediate repair or replacement of parts. Many of these are expensive. If you continue driving in this condition, you risk further expensive and serious damage to your engine.
You must know the steps for troubleshooting and fixing these problems to avoid it. The cost of repair or replacement is also included in each case.
Exhaust emissions: What is normal
You must understand the normality of exhaust fumes before you can explain why thick smoke is a bad sign. A spark ignites a mixture of air and fuel in the combustion chamber of your engine, creating a series of explosions within the cylinder.
These explosions produce exhaust gases, which are then directed down the system. These gases are filtered through a muffler and a catalytic convertor before they exit through your tailpipe.
Normal conditions should not allow you to see exhaust fumes coming from your tailpipe. In winter, however, it is possible to see a thin white veil, which is actually water vapor. It is normal for this to happen and will disappear in a few minutes.
You should know that while thin, white smoke is normal, it can be thicker and come out in visible bursts. This will require you to inspect various parts of your vehicle to determine the cause of the problem.
What does white smoke from exhaust mean
The thick white exhaust indicates that coolant or even water has accidentally entered the combustion chamber. This is not acceptable. The thick white smoke produced by coolant or water burning in the engine block is what you see coming out of your tailpipe.
White smoke is often seen in large bursts. This is not something to ignore. Cracks in vital engine parts, such as damage to the cylinder heads, engine blocks, or head gaskets, are the most likely causes.
If you drive on with the crack and don’t replace it, the damage will get worse.
This could lead to further contamination of the engine oil or overheating, which can cause permanent damage. The engine would then need to be replaced, which can be expensive and should only be done by professionals.
Below are the nine most common causes of white exhaust smoke. Also, you will find out how to solve each problem.
Condensation buildup: Thin White Smoke
A thin white smoke that appears at first and then disappears usually results from condensation within the exhaust system. This usually occurs in winter or on cold mornings.
Smoke should only be small, thin, and not visible when you start your car. It will disappear quickly once the engine has warmed up.
This is not a problem, but it could be a sign that your engine has a serious issue.
Coolant Leak: Damaged Coolant Reservoir Tank
If the coolant tank is cracked or damaged, coolant can leak into the combustion chamber of the engine. The coolant that circulates is then burnt in the cylinders to create a thick tailpipe.
A cracked reservoir tank will leak less coolant than a leak below it. However, this can occur when you accidentally damage the tank while fixing another issue nearby. You’ll have to replace your damaged reservoir tank.
Coolant leak: crack in the cylinder head, engine block, or head gasket
Most mechanics assume that the worst is going to happen when they hear about thick smoke coming from the exhaust. This is often due to a cracked cylinder head, engine block, or head gasket. These are expensive and difficult to replace and not for novices.
These cracks are the result of an engine that is constantly overheating due to low levels of coolant. This can be caused by coolant leakage and temperature fluctuations. These cracks allow coolant, or oil, to leak into the engine’s cylinders. The fat is then burned and produces thick smoke.
Cracked Cylinder head
Coolant can leak from your cylinder heads if they are damaged or cracked. This coolant then mixes with the engine oil. Oil will be contaminated once this happens.
It doesn’t have to be a large crack. A tiny break can create thick white bursts from your tailpipe. The white smoke will have an odor as coolant and engine oil continue to mix.
Head Gasket Cracked
Head gaskets are thin metal sheets that sit between the cylinder block and head, sandwiching both the top and the bottom of the engine. Its primary function is to seal the two parts together and prevent coolant from leaking out of the cover around the machine.
Normal wear and tear can cause cracks on the head gasket. This causes the coolant to leak out of the cooling channels and into the cylinder, where it is burned. The head gasket can’t be repaired. It will need to be replaced immediately.
Cracked engine block
The worst-case scenario is if your engine block has cracks. Be prepared to spend a lot of time and money on a replacement if this is the cause. In this case, you’d need professional help.
The majority of engine blocks are either made from cast-iron alloy or aluminum, which can withstand high temperatures and effectively dissipate heat.
The engine is a complicated system, and each component must work with absolute precision. The block will overheat if any element is not working properly.
White smoke from the exhaust is not the only sign that the block could be too hot. These symptoms can include discolored coolant or puddles under the car. They may also be accompanied by poor performance.