My yard filled with exhaust on start...

Discussion in 'General Motoring' started by Mark 2000, Dec 30, 2003.

  1. Mark 2000

    Mark 2000 Guest

    Hey... I got a used engine put in my car a year and a half ago and a new
    transmission in October... I have a 94 Saturn SC1... I also had the head
    gasket on the engine resealed about a year ago...

    It's wintertime up here now, and we're getting temperatures overnight of
    about -5C or so. When I leave the car for about a day, I let it warm up
    before I drive it, of course...

    The other day, I did a long highway drive (about 300 miles/500 KM) and then
    left the car parked a day or so. I started her up and let her warm up,
    popped inside the house, and about 4-5 minutes later, I went out to the
    carpark to find the yard FILLED with white smoke. It wasn't the dark smoke
    that one typically associates with oil and it didn't smell like it either
    (knock on wood)... it was thick and white, and kind of just 'floated' there
    like a cloud.

    However, when I FIRST started her up, I didn't even notice. It's only after
    about a minute of idling in the cold that the exhaust starts to fume out
    heavily. I also notice a lot of condensation on the pavement where the
    muffler hits, so it looks like something with water was burning up.

    Even stranger, is that after driving a half mile or so, the exhaust stopped
    heavily churning out for the rest of the night, including when I parked and
    let it run at idle at my destination 20 minutes later.

    Any ideas of what this could be?

    Am I possibly experiencing the 'coolant milkshake'? I looked in the coolant,
    and its pretty solid green, murky, not at all discoloured, as I've heard the
    'milkshake' looks like. And it's fairly close to being filled to the top
    (it's about half an inch to an inch below the top of the reservoir).

    Oil level was OK, and clean too (only drove it about 1500 miles since my
    last change).

    After this bizarre behaviour, I did the 300 mile drive again, arrived at my
    destination problem-free.

    Was this possibly just an oddity?

    I also replaced my PCV valve last week. I assume I did it right, because it
    looks pretty straight-forward. I checked it, and it didn't seem loose or
    anything. Could this be the source of the problems?

    I've also recently passed an emissions test (August).

    Thanks for all your help. My biggest concern is that I'll get the coolant
    milkshake...because that always seems to lead to destruction, and I'm not
    going to get a third engine on this car. The vehicle already has 197000 KM
    on it, engine gots 120000 KM and tranny gots about 165000 KM.
    Mark 2000, Dec 30, 2003
  2. Mark 2000

    Napalm Heart Guest

    I'd watch your coolant level. The engine might be sucking coolant
    into a combustion chamber.

    Napalm Heart, Dec 30, 2003
  3. Mark 2000

    Mark 2000 Guest

    WAH!!! NOOOO!!!!!

    If this is indeed the case, am I headed for big trouble eventually? Is there
    any easy way to fix it? Does it mean it's going to start happening the other
    way around too (i.e. oil into the coolant line)?

    I'll check it later on, I just did a 4 hour drive, so I'll see if it is any
    lower than it was when I left...
    Mark 2000, Dec 30, 2003
  4. Mark 2000

    Dan Hicks Guest

    This all sounds fairly normal. Likely it was a windless day, and
    the water vapor produced by burning the gasoline just hung around
    rather than dissipating.

    When you first start the exhaust system is cold and the moisture
    condenses in there. After the exhaust system warms up the moisture
    begins comming out. Then, once you hit the road, the engine warms
    up enough that it leaves a warm air wake (from the radiator), so
    that the exhaust doesn't condense so readily.
    Dan Hicks, Dec 30, 2003
  5. Mark 2000

    Napalm Heart Guest

    This could be true, too. Time will tell.


    Napalm Heart, Dec 31, 2003
  6. Mark 2000

    Napalm Heart Guest

    IF this is the problem, my guesstimate would be that it wouldn't go
    the other way. IF it's sucking coolant in, it indicates that the
    problem is in an area where the coolant leak is exposed to vacuum
    rather than compression or the crankcase. That doesn't mean that a
    gasket failure could happen in one place and then give out in another
    later. I wouldn't get too excited yet. Read Dan Hick's comment, as
    that is also a reasonable explanation.

    Napalm Heart, Dec 31, 2003
  7. That could be a coolant leak into the engine - normal cold-weather exhaust
    fog doesn't usually persist like that, though I suppose under some
    conditions it could.

    The last (probably the only, actually) car that I saw putting out clouds of
    white smoke from burning coolant was also putting out a nasty, acrid smell..
    Robert Hancock, Dec 31, 2003
  8. Mark 2000

    Dan Hicks Guest

    Yes, it COULD be a coolant leak, but it definitely IS possible for
    "normal" cold-weather exhaust to persist like that, given the right

    If it's a coolant leak then it will be obvious as the coolant level
    drops. If the coolant level drops then he should check into it, but
    if the coolant level holds steady then he should find something else
    to worry about.
    Dan Hicks, Dec 31, 2003
  9. Mark 2000

    Mark 2000 Guest

    I'm praying that the problem was just moisture burning off when the car
    started to warm up. However, I don't think this was it, because there was a
    little bit of a burning-in-the-eyes, and a smell, to the smoke, and it was
    thicker than steam, for sure...

    But I just checked the coolant level after this 500 KM drive (300 miles or
    so) and its at the full-cold mark when just starting up... so it still looks
    like it's OK. The full cold mark is the thing in the reservoir where there's
    a little plastic line that crosses the opening, about an inch below the top,
    right? It's just about that little piece of plastic.

    And indeed, I started the car again recently, in a garage that was a little
    warmer than the outside, say about 8 to 10 degrees Celcius (a little above
    freezing in Farenheit terms) and I let it sit for about three minutes in the
    garage... The exhaust was visible from the muffler, but it was only minimal,
    and wasn't 'floating' in the air as the other kind was. I think it was just
    normal for starting up the car.

    I'm thinking it could be a rich mixture that occurred, and that it burned
    off too much gas... I'm guessing that because of the colour and the smell
    and the way it 'floated' in the air. What wuold be the signs of it benig too
    much gas, versus coolant burning off?

    Thanks a lot guys... starting to get somewhere here. You guys on
    r.a.m.saturn are the best! I have done so much because of you.
    Mark 2000, Dec 31, 2003
  10. Bad coolant temperature sensors are somewhat common on the S-series cars,
    and can cause an overly rich A/F mixture. If the exhaust smelled gassy,
    that's probably what it is. If it was burning coolant, from my experience
    the smell is distinctly unlike any normal exhaust, rich-running or
    Robert Hancock, Dec 31, 2003
  11. Mark 2000

    Dan Hicks Guest

    The way exhaust moisture behaves is highly variable, depending on
    the precise conditions of temperature, humidity, and wind. If
    humidity is relatively low the fog dissipates fairly rapidly,
    whereas if the humidity is fairly high it will hang around. The
    slightest bit of wind will dissipate the fog, but if it's perfectly
    still it will tend to hang around.

    The fact that you CAN'T reproduce the fog suggests that it's
    ordinary exhaust moisture, vs something like a coolant leak. But in
    any event, watching the coolant level won't hurt.
    Dan Hicks, Jan 1, 2004
  12. Mark 2000

    BANDIT2941 Guest

    Generally it goes like this. Black smoke is fuel (ie, too rich). Blue smoke is
    oil burning. White smoke is coolant burning. Each has a smell associated with
    BANDIT2941, Jan 1, 2004
  13. Mark 2000

    B C Guest

    there is nothing wrong with your car. the smoke is condensation, water,
    in the muffler, in the gasoline, in the air, my jaguar always does that
    oncold days too. so do all cars, just some more then others, this is
    typical of european cars on cold days. you can buy a gasoline dryer at
    a boating facility or marina. might try to lean the air misture screws
    to 1 1/2 turns out. make sure the choke KICKS OFF after about a 3
    minute warm up Slam it to the floor and release then wait for slow
    idle. your carburator is simply TOO RICH in gas. always use the lowest
    octane fuel. if you can afford champion gold platinum plus spark plugs
    use them. also use STP oil treatment, won't hurt. change the air
    cleaner, it might be wet with water, condensation, moisture in the fuel
    system. this problem is
    embarassing for you AND THE FUZZ
    B C, Jan 4, 2004
  14. Mark 2000

    BANDIT2941 Guest

    might try to lean the air misture screws
    Ummmm, yeah..........
    This car doesn't even have a carburetor.........
    And I've never heard of anybody ever liking champion spark plugs other than in
    the lawn mower......and spark plugs don't make a performance difference
    BANDIT2941, Jan 4, 2004
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