What Does It Mean When My Car Is Smoking?

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It’s never a good sign to see your car smoking, but there are ways to tell if you need to pull over immediately or if you can keep driving your vehicle to a mechanic. If you’re asking, “What does it mean when my car is smoking?” you’ll almost certainly need to get some repairs. Learn what the different types of smoke mean and what you should do if this happens to you.

What Makes a Car Smoke?

The most common cause for a smoking car is oil or another fluid that leaked from a seal or a gasket and is burning on your hot engine or exhaust. Some of these can be coolant, brake, transmission, or even power steering fluids. Any small puff of clear smoke when starting a car is typically harmless. But if you see large plumes of smoke emitting from either your hood or exhaust pipe, they can mean you have a serious failure somewhere.

Different Colors of Car Smoke

Different colors of smoke coming from your car point to several causes. A small amount of white transparent smoke is normal and comes from condensation. But an opaque white smoke is often due to a problem with leaking coolant.

Oil leaks or problems with the turbocharger cause blue or gray smoke. The reasons can vary from a leaky valve seal and worn piston rings or a turbo with broken shaft seals. You should know the types of shaft seals, piston rings, and valve seals to better diagnose the issue. Problems with transmission fluid will create thick gray smoke emitting from the tailpipe. And black smoke means your vehicle is burning raw fuel, usually from a leaking fuel injector, failed engine sensor, or another malfunctioning engine component. It can also point to an electrical problem.

What To Do if Your Car Is Smoking?

Understanding what it means when your car is smoking will help you know what to do if this happens while you’re driving. You’ll want to find a safe place to pull over to check for visual clues. Warning lights on the dashboard are reliable indicators of an issue. However, a quick inspection of the exterior and engine may also be necessary. Take note of the color of smoke or if there’s any fluid dripping from your vehicle.

If you feel confident it can safely drive, immediately drive to the nearest mechanic, and if you don’t, call a tow truck to be on the safe side.

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