Chris R. Asks :Why Does My Car Have Gray Smoke Coming Out Of The Tail Pipe?

Toyota Tercel

Question : Love your book – thanks! I have a 97 Toyota Tercel automatic (my first ever automatic!) it has about 138000 miles. when I drive down a long hill (or sometimes not so long) and stop at the bottom, when I start up again often gray smoke comes out – sometimes a lot! I understand gray smoke is radiator fluid.. but why does it do that? I have one long stretch down 132 from the top of the hill in Strafford VT to Sharon – about 4 miles. not all of that is coasting but much of it is and the last stretch is a lot of braking before I coast on level ground and then turn left onto the on-ramp for the highway. sometimes the engine actually “stalls” – not to die out but as if it is clogged with the smoke and then it finally drives (hesitates for a few seconds) and the worst bout of smoke billows out but then everything is fine. thanks for any ideas! ūüôā


Well Chris if you are indeed sure that it is gray smoke out of the tail pipe and not blue here are some of my thoughts. The first thing I want you to do is check to see if your coolant level is okay in the coolant reservoir. If the smoke smells sweet that is a tell tale sign of ¬†burning coolant. ¬†Also check your engine oil level as well,if your oil level is low top it off as needed. Make sure the engine oil does not have a “milky” appearance to it. This would indicate that coolant is entering the oil from a bad head gasket or cracked cylinder head. If your coolant reservoir is empty make sure that the actual level of the coolant is not low in the radiator when you remove the ¬†radiator cap from the radiator. Careful do not remove the radiator cap when the engine is hot! If the ¬†coolant level in the radiator is low fill it to the top with pre-mixed antifreeze, then re install the radiator cap. Then fill the external coolant reservoir to the max line as indicated on the reservoir bottle. Drive the car and monitor the coolant level, if the coolant disappears or the level in the reservoir drops significantly I suspect that you have an issue with your engines head gasket leaking coolant past it into the combustion chambers. It is also a possibility that your cylinder head could have a crack in it and coolant may be entering the combustion chambers that way as well. I suspect this may be the cause of your issue, check the things that I suggested and give me some feed back as to what you get for results.Hope this helps,and thanks for the question.


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