What Causes a Car to Smoke and How to Fix It

As you’re driving along on a warm summer’s day, relaxed and enjoying the view, you happen to glance into your rearview mirror and notice that smoke is coming from your car.

Well, your first thought, after the initial panic settles down is, why is my car smoking? No, this doesn’t look good at all. So you pull over to the side of the road to take a look, but you haven’t a clue as to what could be wrong.

Here is all you need to know about what causes a car to smoke and how to repair it. Plus the different colors of smoke and what they can mean as far as the areas of the car that can be affected.

what causes a car to smoke

In this case, since the smoke is coming from the rear of the car, it is the tailpipe that will help you find out the cause and just how bad the trouble is. The internal combustion engines of your vehicle are the parts that power the car.

The combustion chamber contains the engine where fuel is combined with air, compressed and ignited, thus its name. Whenever the combustion chamber needs to burn something off, it is automatically forced out through the tailpipe.

Why is There Steam Coming Out of My Car?

If you notice a steam-like vapor coming out through the tailpipe, don’t worry. This is merely water vapor and is entirely normal. It’s caused by condensation building up within the exhaust system.

Perhaps there will be a slow dripping of water from the tailpipe, but the steam will be swiftly dispersed into the air. If, however, you experience white smoke coming out the tailpipe, or your exhaust is smoking white, don’t ignore it thinking everything will be ok.

What Does White Smoking Coming From a Car Mean?

White smoke from the engine of your vehicle is a clear warning that there is some sort of trouble with the engine. There are a variety of different things that can cause this, for instance, coolant getting into the combustion chamber, a cracked cylinder head or engine block, or a leak in the head gasket.

Should there also be a sweet smell along with the smoke coming from the engine, it’s very likely that the coolant is the cause of all the smoke.

Warning: If the engine of your car should start to overheat, you vehicle will require immediate servicing. Letting the car overheat could result in severe and even irreversible damage to the engine. If you happen to smell fuel along with the white smoke, then something is wrong with the fuel system controls.

You need to get your car to a garage and have it looked at to find out if the fuel injector is faulty, or if it’s just that the fuel injection and valve timing are off and require readjusting.

Black Smoking Coming From Exhaust

If you see black smoke, this means that the car is consuming too much fuel. This is frequently caused by a faulty or leaking fuel injector, a fuel pressure regulator that is broken or damaged, or a carburetor that is not functioning properly. In turn, it could also be something as easy to fix as a clogged air filter.

In newer model cars you will have a check engine light that will light up if the fuel system is not in the correct range. However, if you have a fuel leak, it will not illuminate.

If your vehicle is indeed burning too much fuel, then your fuel economy may decrease noticeably. Have this repaired as soon as you can in order to save some money.

Your car’s engine is the most important part of your vehicle and will necessitate great care in order for it to remain in correct working condition. Having routine maintenance performed, including getting the oil changed, and regular fluid flushes will help you feel confident that your engine will keep running without any problems.

Car Smoking Under the Hood But Not Overheating?

Usually, your car smoking under the hood means a major problem. Whether its black, grey, blue, or white smoke from under the hood, something serious is going on. You need to pull over and take a look. You’ll be able to tell if the engine is smoking.

After doing a brief examination, turn the engine off. It’s always safer to wait and check your engine once it’s cooled down. Here is a list of what causes a car to smoke under the hood but not overheat.

– If you see the car blowing white smoke the issue could be low pressure in the oil gauge. In a case like that, get to an auto service shop as quickly as you can. If you ignore the problem, the engine could begin to stall on you.

– If the issue is your car smoking under the hood but not overheating, and it’s white smoke from the engine, it might be due to oil being outside of the engine. This could happen if you are not careful when refilling the gas tank.

Or, a spill could happen while you are putting oil in the crankcase.

– If the problem is merely an oil spill at the wrong place, you can relax because no harm will occur except that you will be able to detect a strong smell of oil. It will burn off fast without leading to any long-term damage. Keep in mind though that if spills happen fairly often and you don’t wipe them off, certain rubber or plastic parts could stop functioning from being covered in oil for too long a time.

– You might have smoke coming from the engine but not overheating the car, that doesn’t mean you are safe. It always makes sense to have any problem you can’t find the source of checked out by your local mechanic.

– If you have grey smoke from the exhaust or if you have blue smoke it is a sign of burning engine oil. Your engine may be using more oil but not giving any indication that there is a leak. Take your car to a mechanic as fast as you can or the engine could start seizing and then it will need to be replaced.

– If there is black smoke coming from your car, it’s a sure sign the car is burning up too much fuel, which might be because of a leaking fuel injector, broken carburetor, or the fuel pressure regulator diaphragm is broken or has cracked.

Car Smokes When Starting

If your car smokes when starting it’s normally because of worn piston rings or wear on the cylinders. The valves are located right on top of the cylinders and once the seals wear out, oil leaks into the combustion chambers and the car is then burning oil along with fuel.

– If you have a smoky car inside due to smoke lingering about, it means that perhaps your car smoke filter needs changing. When the air entering the car’s engine is clean, the combination of air and fuel helps to give your car the ultimate in power. That’s why it’s important to keep the smoke filter clean.

If you notice white smoke from your exhaust on startup, there can be various causes for this occurring; but it is commonplace for white exhaust smoke to be seen when you first start the car, usually when the days are cooler.

One of the basic reasons for white smoke issuing from the exhaust and loss of coolant is a cracked or damaged cylinder head, or gasket failure which is caused by overheating, or a cracked engine block.

Having your car serviced and the problem corrected as soon as possible will prevent the issue from becoming worse, thus saving you money on what could turn out to be even more expensive repairs, so act quickly and determine what causes your car to smoke before it’s too late!


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    I never knew that seeing signs of smoke coming out from your vehicle could signify that it’s overeating fuel. My colleague noticed that his uncle’s pickup truck has been doing the same thing lately, and it’s making him worry. I’ll probably share this with him so he could find an auto repair expert when the issue persists.

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