Smoke coming from your car almost always signals trouble. When your car burning oil and white smoke is emitted from the exhaust this can indicate that the coolant is traveling into the engine’s combustion chamber or the exhaust port.
This typically happens when coolant is leaking into the head gasket. However, it could also be something as simple as needing an oil change. Whatever the case may be you should have your car serviced as soon as possible because this can lead to a blown engine. When it comes to the issue of car burning oil and white smoke coming from the exhaust you should first understand the basics of how a car works so you can properly diagnose the problem.
Is White Smoking Coming From Your Exhaust Normal?
Believe it or not, your exhaust emissions can tell you a lot about your vehicle. First off, the fumes that are emitted from your exhaust through the tailpipe are the waste byproducts of the engine combustion process.
You might occasionally notice light white smoke coming from the tailpipe, most of the time’s just water vapor. Also, it’s normal to see smoking coming from the tailpipe when you first start your car on cold winter days.
A steady stream of milky white smoke isn’t normal. When you see blue, black or, white smoke emitting from your car’s tailpipe this is a distress signal. This thick cloud of white smoke is a sign that the coolant is being burned in the engine block.
Typically, when your car is burning oil, blue-tinted smoke will be emitting from the tailpipe. If your engine has been consuming excessive amounts of oil as well you could possibly be dealing with a cracked engine block, damaged cylinder, or a failing head gasket.
Car Burning Oil White Smoke – How Can I Tell If My Car Is Burning Oil?
Your car’s engine is likely to consume oil as it ages due to wear. For some vehicles, it’s normal for the engine to burn about a quart of oil in less than a thousand miles. However, for automobiles manufactured by General Motors, a properly maintained vehicle shouldn’t burn more than a quart of oil within 2,000 miles. How do you know when your car’s engine is excessively burning oil?
As a general rule of thumb, engines with less than 50,000 miles should need anything more than a quart of oil between oil changes. If you find that you have to continually add motor oil between oil changes then your car is burning too much oil. You can tell just how much oil your car is burning by popping the hood and checking the oil levels.
Extract the dipstick, wipe it off with a clean cloth, and put it back into the tube. Pull the dipstick back out and you’ll be able to see the “high”, “low” indicators. Repeat this every five hundred miles to see just how much oil your car is burning. Don’t forget to inspect the spark plugs. If your car is burning too much oil, the spark plugs will be oil or sooty from oil build-up.
Oftentimes, your vehicle’s emission system will let you know if you are burning oil. That thick white smoke coming from the tailpipe, if you look closer it might be slightly tinted blue. When the car is off you can smell the exhaust. An engine that is excessively burning oil tends to produce high emissions and will fail an emission test.
Should I Keep Driving If My Car Is Burning Oil and White Smoke Is Blowing?
Most of us heavily rely on our vehicles to get to point A and B. As long as the engine is running you might be tempted to keep driving your car while it’s burning oil and white smoke is coming from the exhaust. However, the possibility of your engine losing power or one of the important components that help keep it running is higher.
You should continually monitor your engine’s performance. If it begins misfiring, idling or you have trouble fully accelerating then your engine is slowly losing power. In this case, you should stop driving your car and seek help from a good mechanic.
Car Burning Oil and White Smoke – What Should You Do?
Now that you’ve checked the oil levels in your car, you should also check the coolant level. You’ll need to turn your car off and let the engine cool off before you can determine how much coolant is in your car. If you discover that your coolant levels are low but you don’t see any coolant leaking anywhere such as on the spark plugs then you likely have a crack or leak somewhere within the head gasket.
You can purchase an engine block leak detector to determine whether the coolant in your car has become contaminated with other fluids such as motor oil. The chemistry in the engine block leak detectors allows it to directly determine what kind of gases have contaminated the coolant. If motor oil has contaminated the coolant this will explain the white or white-bluish tint of smoke emitting from the tailpipe.
Car Burning Oil and White Smoke – When Motor Oil and Coolant Mixes
When the motor oil becomes contaminated you’ll notice a decrease in your oil levels. The “low oil pressure” warning light may even be triggered on the dashboard. This further supports your theory that your car is burning oil and in some cases even explain the white smoke coming from your tailpipe.
Intake Manifold Gasket Leak
The intake manifold gasket is one of the most important gaskets on an engine. The intake manifold gaskets are supposed to provide a vacuum-tight sealing against the intake manifold and the cylinder heads. The intake manifold is located on top of the engine and it plays a major role in your vehicle’s combustion process. Coolant flows through the intake manifold to the cylinder head where it’s absorbed by heat to regulate the engine’s temperature.
The gasket that seals the intake manifold can leak. In most cars, the gaskets are made from a plastic material that often fails at 50,000-80,000 miles. When there is a leak in the intake manifold gasket coolant gets into the intake port or the crankcase and then drops down to the top of the engine.
Head Gasket Failure
As previously mentioned, head gasket failure may be the culprit behind the coolant and oil contamination. When there are coolants the head gasket is almost always responsible. A bad head gasket will cause coolant to leak into the crankcase. As a result, it dilutes the motor oil. When it’s leaking oil into the cylinder can it soils the spark plugs and causes your tailpipe to emit white smoke.
A failing head gasket will cause the engine to overheat and when the engine overheats it burns more oil. In addition, an overheating engine activates thermal expansion which further damages the head gasket causing more coolant to leak.
There are several other ways that can cause coolant to dilute the oil in the motor:
- Worn seals
- Corroded cylinder liners
- A cracked cylinder head
- Water pump seal failure
- Improperly machined block surfaces
- Corroded cooler cores
Is Coolant and Motor Oil Mixture Dangerous?
If coolant is getting mixed into the coolant and vice versa this usually means that one of the seals or gaskets has been compromised. Coolant also commonly referred to as antifreeze makes the motor oil thick which can make it difficult for the oil to flow throughout the cavities of the engine and properly lubricate the components.
When coolant and motor oil mix it creates harsh acids that can damage the bearings in the engine and other frictional surfaces. The lack of lubrication will result in the engine consuming more oil and your oil warning light may come on frequently.
The coolant is designed to keep your car from overheating. When it becomes diluted with motor oil, it isn’t able to do its job. When these two substances are mixed it threatens the health of your vehicle. You should expect overheating and ultimately the engine will be severely damaged.
If the coolant is diluting the engine oil and vice versa there is something you can do to hold your car over until you can get to a mechanic. Of course, you’ll want to start off by adding more oil to the engine and coolant to the coolant reservoir.
There are products available on the market that can help stop coolant leaks. Products like K-Seal Coolant Leak Repair and Bar’s Leak Cooling System Repair are made from large particles that clog leaks providing a barrier or seal between the cooling system and the engine.
Car Burning Oil and White Smoke – After A Oil Change
Is your car burning oil and white smoking coming from the tailpipe after a recent oil change? If the smoke is bluish-white then the oil reservoir was probably overfilled with too much oil. The excess oil is flowing down the cylinder wall. The crankcase begins to provide too much pressure causing the excess oil to make its way into the combustion chamber.
Another scenario is that the oil used during the oil change isn’t agreeing with your engine because it doesn’t meet the manufacturer’s specifications. If the oil viscosity is off or it’s just the wrong type of oil it will completely bypass the valve seals and piston rings. The oil will end up in the combustion chamber.
If you make the switch from mineral oil to synthetic oil your engine will have to adjust to the changes. Sometimes when you go to have your oil changed by a professional they make the switch for you because synthetic oil is better than mineral oil.
Synthetic oil has more cleaning power and can effectively remove varnish and soot deposits. Once these contaminants have been washed away, the tolerances in the engine are able to open up, providing new pathways for the oil with the deposits included. These scenarios are most common in older model vehicles. However, it can take a week or so to notice that these processes have affected your engine and exhaust system.
Car Burning Oil, White Smoke – Exhaust System Inspection
Whenever your car is blowing smoke from the exhaust, it’s a good idea to have an exhaust system inspection performed. Yes, your car’s exhaust and its emissions can be an indication of your vehicle’s engine performance which is very important if your car has been consuming a lot of oil.
If your car and the engine are in great condition, tailpipe emissions should be nearly undetectable. If you can’t figure out why white smoke is coming from the tailpipe you should have an exhaust system inspection performed. Having an inspection performed can help determine whether oil or coolant is making its way into your vehicle’s exhaust system.
Car Burning Oil, White Smoke – Check For Engine Leaks
Of course, whenever you are dealing with an issue where you feel your car is burning oil you need to check for engine leaks. Engine leaks can be a result of bad connections, worn engine gaskets, oil pan leaks, or even worn oil seals.
You’ll know for sure if your engine is leaking oil by checking under your car. When you see a dark brown or black puddle of oil underneath your car after it’s been sitting for a while, chances are the engine is indeed leaking oil. Some engine oil leaks aren’t as easy to spot because they aren't exactly leaking onto the ground but they are leaking on other parts under the hood.
If you have a small leak you can try using a product that stops engine oil leaks such as “No Leak”.These products soften and condition the seals so they can prevent oil leaks from occurring.
It can be hard to determine whether the issue is your vehicle’s cooling system or engine. Sometimes both issues are closely related. If the problem persists you should have your car inspected by a skilled mechanic.