Engine Failure & White Smoke


Engine failure can be caused by a variety of conditions, including high mileage, neglect, age and mechanical malfunctions. One of the common symptoms of engine problems is white smoke coming from the exhaust pipe on the vehicle. White smoke is one of the first telltale indicators that vehicle may be having engine problems and requires repairs to prevent engine failure.

White Smoke

  • White smoke is normally caused by coolant leaking into the engine and getting into the cylinders. When the engine attempts to burn the coolant off, it creates the steamy white smoke that you see coming out of the exhaust. One of the most common causes of this is a blown head gasket, which will allow antifreeze to leak into the engine oil and can cause serious engine failure if not quickly repaired.

What Causes a Blown Head Gasket

  • Coolant can enter your engine a limited number of ways. The most common cause is a blown head gasket, which can occur when your engine overheats and causes the gasket between the intake manifold and the cylinder head to fail. A blown head gasket can also result from improper gasket installation or wear and tear caused by high mileage.

Coolant in Oil and Engine Failure

  • A vehicle's engine oil is designed to provide both cooling and lubrication to the various components. When water contaminates your engine oil, the oil is no longer able to properly function as a lubricant. A lack of lubrication can permanently damage a variety of engine components including pistons, cylinders and rings. Overheating due to a loss of coolant in the cooling system can also cause serious engine damage.

Identifying Coolant Leaks

  • If your vehicle has white smoke coming out of its exhaust, check your engine oil. If the oil appears milky, overfull or has a consistency and color similar to a chocolate milkshake, there is a good chance you have coolant mixed in your oil. Also check the coolant level in the radiator to see if the coolant is low. If you see any of these conditions, have your vehicle diagnosed and repaired by a mechanic. Do not drive the vehicle -- doing so can cause further damage.


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