Reasons Why Smoke is Coming From the Tailpipe - Subaru Service Questions in Olympia, WA

The 3 Colors of Smoke from your Car and What They Mean | Hanson Subaru Auto Care Tips

Most cars in working order don't make visible tailpipe emissions, except on very cold days. If your car does make smoke or steam from the tailpipe, that can tell us a little bit about what's going on under the hood. In fact, the color of the smoke tells us whether your engine is in good shape, or whether it's burning oil or possibly suffering from a head gasket leak.

On this page from the experts at Hanson Subaru, we'll tell you what the three different types of tailpipe smoke mean, and what you should do when you see them coming from your vehicle.

Why is smoke coming from your Subaru's tailpipe
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White/Grey Smoke: Leaking Head Gasket (Or Nothing at All)

If it's a cold day, or your car's engine is still warming up, it's not at all uncommon to see thin, wispy white or grey smoke coming from the tailpipe. That's water vapor created from condensation that collected in your car's exhaust overnight. As your car warms up, the condensation evaporates and flows out from the tailpipe. This vapor looks like clouds coming out of the tailpipe, and that's because it pretty much is.

However, if you notice a thick, dense greyish-white smoke coming from the tailpipe continuously, even after the engine has warmed up, you may have a head gasket leak or other internal engine damage. When the head gasket fails, coolant can co-mingle with air and fuel in the combustion chambers. When that coolant is burned, the exhaust releases a thick plume of white smoke. The smoke itself isn't harmful -- but the damage an engine can sustain while operating too long with a faulty head gasket is! It can even utterly destroy the engine. Visit your nearest Subaru expert to have the head gasket evaluated by the professionals.

Black Smoke: Too Rich Fuel Mixture

If there's too much gasoline going to the cylinders of your engine, and not enough air, that's called a "rich" fuel mixture. For ideal results, the perfect blend of air and fuel should be burned in each chamber. However, a leaking fuel injector or a bad mass airflow sensor can cause this ratio to come out of whack. The leftover gasoline vapor is wasted, and emerges from the tailpipe as acrid, black smoke.

While it looks a lot more gruesome than it is, you'll want to have a technician evaluate your engine if that's the case. They'll take a close look at your engine and replace bad fuel injectors, a clogged air filter, a faulty fuel pressure regulator, or whatever else is causing an overly rich fuel ratio.

Ask our technicians why smoke is coming from your Subaru's tailpipe

Blue Smoke: Engine Burning Oil

Almost all engines burn a small amount of oil naturally, especially as they age -- but there comes a point when your engine is burning way more oil than it should. You'll know you've reached this point when you car starts spewing bluish-grey smoke into the air. Bad valve seals or piston rings could be allowing oil to seep into the combustion cylinders, where it is burned and the resulting vapor turns a tell-tale blue color. Or, a bad PCV valve could be causing oil to get into the cylinders, rather than doing its primary job of allowing air out of the engine.

Replacing these engine components can be a major undertaking, but it'll keep your engine from burning too much oil and emitting blue smoke. However, a little burning oil in some engines is to be expected -- consult with a factory-trained technician about your vehicle if you're unsure what your car's exhaust fumes are telling you.

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Hanson Subaru

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Directions Olympia, WA 98502

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  1. Hanson Subaru

    2300 Carriage Loop SW
    Olympia, WA 98502

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