Rarely are you outside of your vehicle while the engine is running, unless you have remote start or are just running inside your house to grab something you forgot on your way to work. If you take a moment to get it going and step outside around to the back of your car, however, you might take a moment to pay attention to the tailpipe—specifically the exhaust coming from it.
In a perfect world, you shouldn’t see much of anything coming from your tailpipe—your exhaust should be close to invisible at all times, save for those chilly winter days where sudden accelerations can release a jet of white vapor from your muffler. More often than not, however, you’re going to see smoke of some form or another being issued from your muffler.
Depending on the color and intensity of your smoke, you can learn a lot about your vehicle! Knowing if you’re burning oil, you have a water leak or you’re headed for engine repair in Conway, AR is important, and they’re just a few of the things your engine smoke will tell you, if you take the time to pay attention to it:
- Black smoke: This is bad! Very bad! Basically, black smoke issuing from your exhaust means you’re burning way too much fuel. Make sure your fuel filter is in good condition and that your injectors are working appropriately—these things, coupled with a faulty fuel pressure regulator, are usually what’s causing your black smoke. Take your vehicle in for engine repair in Conway, AR as soon as you can, before you do permanent damage to your engine or pay out the nose for lackluster fuel economy.
- Blue smoke: Another very bad color to see! Blue smoke means you’re burning oil at a heavy rate. Eroded valve seals or damaged piston rings are going to be fundamental causes here. If left unchecked, major engine damage can occur—from both the burnt oil and the low oil levels leftover to lubricate your engine’s many moving parts. Can’t tell if your smoke is blue or black? Keep an eye on the dipstick to see if you’re losing oil at a quicker pace than you should be.
- White smoke: White smoke isn’t inherently bad—what you’re looking for here is the density of the smoke. Wispy white smoke is generally fine: it’s likely the natural condensation from the exhaust system being vaporized. Thin white smoke is also likely present on rainy or humid days. Thicker white smoke, however, is something to take seriously: it’s likely caused by your engine burning coolant. Blown gasket heads or cracked cylinders are major problems that can cause thicker white smoke to issue from your tailpipe. Get them checked immediately!
- Gray smoke: This could be any number of things, but one thing is certain… it’s likely not good. From small amounts of burning oil to burning transmission fluid to a stuck PVC valve and beyond, gray smoke is going to need a clinical diagnosis from your mechanic.
The bottom line here is that any smoke coming from your tailpipe is bad and likely means there’s a problem down the line or in your engine. Have your smoke diagnosed and the root problem solved quickly to avoid doing potentially irreparable harm to your engine!