S.O.S. What To Do When Your Car Starts Smoking

It feels like the last few years these summers in Washington State have been characterized by smoke. But besides smokey weather, there’s something else that we all dread even more: when your car starts smoking.

Smoke coming from your car is always alarming. Here’s your quick guide to understanding what’s happening when your car starts smoking and what you can do about it. 

Let’s starting with when you don’t have to worry about smoke coming from your car. 


If you see steam coming out of your tailpipe there’s no need to worry. Condensation builds up in the exhaust system and comes out as water vapor through the tailpipe. 

Note that excess steam coming from your car after you start it up may be a sign of leaky coolant.

What to Look for When Your Car Starts Smoking

exhaust pipe of a luxury car PRAXRTR 1

If it isn’t steam and your car really is smoking, you can learn a lot by paying attention to the color of the smoke. The color your car starts smoking can help you identify what the issue is. In all cases, it’s imperative to bring your car in to a professional mechanic to avoid adverse issues with your vehicle.

White Smoke

If there’s white smoke coming from your engine it’s a sign of engine trouble. There are a few possible culprits. Coolant entering the combustion chamber, leaks, or cracked cylinders can all cause white smoke to come from your engine. 

Like we mentioned in our blog on Identifying Smells Coming from Your A/C, a sweet smell might indicate that you have a leak with your coolant. This could also present as white smoke. 

Black Smoke

Black smoke coming from your tailpipe typically means that your vehicle is burning more fuel than it should. Two possible causes could could be a leaking fuel injector or bad carburetor. Issues with your car’s fuel consumption can and will directly effect your fuel efficiency and fuel economy. If you see black smoke coming from your vehicle bring your car in to Courtesy Auto and Tire Repair of Tacoma.

Blue Smoke

Blue smoke coming from your vehicle typically means that that your car is using more oil than necessary. In some cases there may be no sign of a leak, so it’s important to keep up with your oil maintenance schedule and look our for blue smoke. If this issue persists for too long you could face the possibility of total engine failure and replacement.

Note: When to Pay Attention

If you’re seeing actual smoke coming from your tailpipe and not just steam there may be more reason to worry. Excess smoke of any color coming from your vehicle may point to an underlying issue with your vehicle that should be addressed right away to curb any possible damage to your car’s operating systems.