How to Diagnose Engine Oil Smoke

Written by cameron burry
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How to Diagnose Engine Oil Smoke
Smoke usually indicates a problem with your engine. (Classic Car Engine Refurbished image by Janet Wall from

Car engines may smoke for many reasons. In most cases, you can diagnose engine smoke simply by observing the colour of the smoke coming from your exhaust pipe. The key is knowing what the colours mean.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Watch for white smoke. You may have a crack in your coolant pipe that's causing coolant to leak into the combustion chamber. You may also have a crack in the cylinder head or the exhaust port facility. This serious problem requires extensive work and is usually expensive.

  2. 2

    Watch out for grey smoke. Though usually not as serious as white smoke, grey smoke can still mean an engine problem. Grey smoke usually indicates that some oil has leaked into the combustion chamber or on the cylinder head, indicating an oil leak. This is usually easy to find, but can be very expensive to fix. The best case scenario, however, is that your oil has simply run too thin and you need an oil change.

  3. 3

    Watch out for black smoke. Black smoke often signifies the most serious problems. Black smoke may indicate that your engine is burning oil. Sometimes this means you have a blocked air filter, or your injection system is malfunctioning.

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