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White Smoke From Exhaust On Startup – Can Low Oil Cause White Smoke?

White Smoke From Exhaust On Startup – Can Low Oil Cause White Smoke?

That white smoke coming from your car isn’t making way for a genie to grant your wishes. So, what does white smoke from exhaust on startup mean? Can you save you car? We have the answers that you need now! 

Auto Repairs Are EXPENSIVE

What Does White Smoke Coming From Your Vehicle’s Exhaust Mean?

Whisps of white smoke coming from your car’s exhaust during startup is normal. The white smoke is due to condensation that builds up in the car’s exhaust system. As a result, that condensation creates steam that looks like traces of faint white smoke. If you live in an area where winter descends on you for several months at a time, you will see this smoke in a more pronounced state once that mercury drops! 

But if you’re experiencing heavy and large plumes of white smoke from your exhaust on startup of your car, then there’s a problem. So, what could be the reasons that you see white smoke coming from your car’s exhaust? 

A Blown Head Gasket 

You may have heavy white smoke from your exhaust due to a blown head gasket or two. Coolant that makes its way into the combustion chamber is one of the most (if not the most) common causes of a driver seeing and experiencing white smoke. In fact, what you see is not white smoke, but rather plumes of steam.  Once that coolant finds its way into the combustion chamber, chances are you have a blown head gasket or two. The gasket is no longer performing its job of covering or sealing the combustion chamber from the vehicle’s cooling system passages. Generally, a car’s head gaskets fail to work after the engine has overheated. Thinking that replacing your head gasket will be a quick and easy fix? Think again. The head gasket is located between the cylinder head and the engine block. This makes it difficult for a mechanic to easily access. Getting to that head gasket takes time and precision. So, prepare to spend a few thousand dollars to replace your vehicle’s head gaskets. 

Cylinder Head That is Broken 

Another reason for the white smoke emitting from your exhaust may be due to a cylinder head that is cracked or broken. Once you have a broken cylinder coolant can now come inside of the combustion chamber, similar to a faulty head gasket. The difference between the repair of a head casket and a cylinder head, is cost. To repair and replace a broken cylinder head is far more expensive than fixing a blown head gasket.  Also similar to a blown head gasket, a broken cylinder head generally results from your car’s engine overheating. So, as you drive, try to avoid the expensive failures by looking at your temperature gauge from time to time. 

Fuel Entering The Exhaust That Has not Burned 

White smoke pouring out of the tailpipe of a diesel-powered vehicle suggests that partially burned or unburned fuel is making its way into the exhaust. The cause can be traced to anything from bad glow plugs, to a faulty fuel pump. 

Can Low Oil Cause White Smoke?

If you have lack of or low engine oil in your vehicle, white smoke is not very typical. But what you will eventually experience is tremendous wear and tear of your engine. And if you keep driving with little to low oil, count on your engine failing. 

Your engine has fast moving parts in it that run with friction. Your engine oil acts as a lubricant so that the movement is smooth and steady.  If you have little to no oil, how can those parts run smoothly against each other? No, white smoke may not be your problem if you have low oil, but a seized engine will be. 

Why Do I See White Smoke After I Get an Oil Change? 

Seeing white smoke means that coolant or water is making its way into the getting into the exhaust port or the combustion chamber. Generally, this occurs if coolant is entering the head. White smoke can also indicate that water is coming into the carburetor or the exhaust after someone pressure-washed the engine. White smoke can also mean that oil is going around the rings on piston or valve seals- and is being burned in the vehicle’s combustion chamber. 


You can also see white smoke if you use new oil that is not compatible with car’s original equipment specifications. The wrong oil can also bypass the valve seals or the rings on the piston and make its way into the vehicle’s combustion chamber. Another reason for white smoke could be that the original oil in your car was mineral oil- and was replaced with synthetic oil. Synthetic is better for dissolving soot deposits and varnish. When those deposits have been dissolved, the oil’s tolerances can open and give the oil a path it has never had before. 

What Are The Causes Of White Smoke Coming From My Exhaust When I Start My Car? 

If you start your car and you see white smoke coming from the exhaust pipe, then there are some reasons this is happening. While you may think that ignoring the smoke may help the issue, we recommend that you consider taking your car to a mechanic. You want to find out what the issue is and get it fixed ASAP. 


The Wrong Injector Pump Timing- for Diesel Engine Vehicles 

If you operate a car that has a diesel engine, then you have a vehicle that needs precision fuel pressure and timing of the injector pump. If you have timing that’s off or incorrect, then your vehicle’s will be running in a “rich mode”. This means that fuel will not be able to completely burn. And that unburned fuel will make its way out of the exhaust, in the form of white (or even gray!) smoke. 

Faulty Fuel Injector 

A bad fuel injector- generally one that is leaking from the o-ring or is stuck open -will overdeliver fuel to the vehicle’s combustion chamber. With the excess of fuel, the extra fuel will not consistently and properly burn in the engine. What will happen instead, is while smoke emitting from your car’s tailpipe. So, what’s the solution? Your car mechanic will diagnose the issue and replace the bad injector, or the o-ring. The difficulty with this fix comes in figuring out which fuel injector is bad. And since this is such an intricate problem, your mechanic may tell you to replace all of the injectors since the cost to replace them is minimal- but ensures your safety and car’s health later. 

Valve Seal Leak or Piston Ring 

Another reason for the white smoke coming from your tailpipe could be due to leaking piston rings or leaking valve seals. In this circumstance, the faulty seals or the bad piston rings can cause oil to enter into the vehicle’s combustion chamber. That oil then mixes with the fuel and then burns into a white smoke.  While we recommend taking your car to a mechanic, you may choose to look into the issue yourself. Just be sure that you wait for your car to complexly cool. Then look at the vehicle’s reservoir and check your coolant level. If you see that your coolant looks pretty normal, then you may need to see about getting your cooling system pressure checked ensuring you can effectively pinpoint where the coolant leaks are originating from. 

There is a Coolant Leak 

For the white smoke coming from the pipe after your car engine has warmed up then you may have a coolant leak. White smoke can be traced to an internal coolant leak many times. If you see consistent white smoke coming from your exhaust, and you smell a “sweet smell” alongside seeing that white smoke from your exhaust, then you have some sort of coolant leakage issue. Why is the coolant leaking? 

Your car may have a fracture in the engine block or the cylinder head. Even a small crack is a problem. Just because you have a small fracture, that coolant can leak out and then eventually contaminate the oil of your engine. 


This is the creation of the white smoke that you see. Only a little coolant is needed to leak out- to cause a huge problem. Once you have a low coolant level, you will eventually have a seized engine, because your car will overheat. 



Condensation is a common occurrence- especially for drivers who live in colder climates. Once the temperature dips, white smoke will be visible as you start your car. But when the hot gases from the 

exhaust meet the cold air outside, then you have steam and condensation as the final result. You should see the white smoke disappear as you drive. But what if you don’t? Then it’s time to seek the assistance of a mechanic as you have an issue that we have mentioned earlier in this post. 


A cracked engine block, a faulty engine control unit or even a faulty coolant reservoir tank can also cause white smoke to come from your exhaust. Visit your mechanic ASAP! 


Looking to sell a car With Faulty Parts And White Smoke Coming From Exhaust? 

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