Your vehicle is an amazing, mechanical piece of art. Thousands of pieces fitting into one car to make it run. But what happens if something is out of whack? What happens when something becomes loose, you smell a foul odor, or better yet, you see something coming out of your exhaust?
Engine smoke can tell you a lot about your vehicle. Just like different vibrations can warn you when something is out of alignment, or bumpy drives when your tires are shot, the color of your engine smoke could mean danger.
Wait.. you mean I can determine what’s wrong with my vehicle by noticing the color of my engine smoke? Heck yes!
Let’s dig in. You’ll want to jot these down.
Engine Smoke & A Change Of Color
I am sure you’ve driven behind someone and there is tons of “smoke” coming from their exhaust. Soon after, you smell something weird… sound familiar?
You really should not see smoke coming from your exhaust, especially in the summer. Of course, you will see a little when the temperatures drop, but once your car warms up, that “smoke” should disappear. However, what a lot of people do not understand, is that your exhaust color could indicate engine problems that need to be fixed!
What are those colors you could potentially see? Keep reading to find out!
Engine Smoke Color:
1. Thick White Smoke
Do not confuse thick white smoke from a thin white (vapor like) smoke. As I mentioned above, your car will give off a little bit of thin white smoke when you first start your vehicle or when accelerating. You will only see this when the temperatures are cold. Now, if you see thick white smoke… something is off. Thick white smoke is probably the most common smoke you will see when driving. After seeing this white cloud, you usually get a smelly sensation.
Thick white smoke is an indication that coolant is burning in the combustion chamber. This is a big problem. Your coolant fluid should not enter the combustion center so you have one of three problems:
- Cracked Cylinder Head
- Blown Head Gasket
- Cracked Engine Block
Not good! As you should know by now since you’ve read my article on Engine Coolant ;), your coolant is what keeps your car from overheating. If you have a leak, then your reservoir will get too low and your engine will overheat. So, of course, if you notice thick white smoke, pull over and call your mechanic.
2. Blue Smoke
Similar to the white smoke, if you notice blue smoke coming from your exhaust, this is an indication that you are burning engine oil. Just like a coolant leak, an oil leak could cause serious problems to your engine. Get it fixed ASAP. Your mechanic will know what you do when you mention blue smoke.
3. Black Smoke
I know we see a lot of black smoke with any diesel cars, however black smoke coming from your exhaust is an indication that your engine is burning too much fuel. Some think it is cool with big diesel cars to step on the gas and burn through fuel, however, if you are trying to save some money on gas, this isn’t the solution. Check your air filter to make sure it isn’t clogged and make sure your fuel line isn’t clogged. This is not a serious problem but you will be “fueling up” more often!
4. Gray Smoke
Gray smoke can be a little more difficult to diagnosis. It could be a combination of these issues:
- Burning Oil (like blue smoke)
- Issue With Transmission Fluid
- Stuck PCV Valve
While gray smoke could indicate one of those three issues, your mechanic will be able to pinpoint what exactly is wrong. Definitely, do not ignore this color smoke! Take it in ASAP.
Below is a picture, from Pro Car Mechanics, of the different colors for your reference. If you notice smoke don’t ignore it! Your engine is trying to tell you something so make sure to listen 🙂