At one time or another, we’ve all been driving behind a smoking vehicle, and we’re not talking about a Ferrari Testarossa. The kind we are talking about are the vehicles that have visible emissions coming out of the tailpipe. You close your windows and sunroof, you even close the vents, but you can still smell the fumes.
A gasoline-powered vehicle spewing smoke for more than five seconds is not only foul-smelling, it can also makes the air unhealthy to breathe. The color of the smoke can help pinpoint the source of the problem.
White Smoke: Possible diagnosis - anti-freeze may be burning in the piston cylinder. While this may not mean anything to you, a mechanic will find that this has happened because of a cracked head, blown gasket or cylinder block. (Don’t be confused by the visible vapor that vehicles exhaust when cold-started in cold weather. Visible vapor is water and will disappear after a few seconds; smoke, on the other hand, doesn’t dissipate as quickly and leaves both a foul smell and haze.)
Blue/Gray Smoke: Possible diagnosis - Blue smoke, which is a rare and very odd sight to see, is caused by the burning of oil in the combustion chamber. Normal causes of this are weak piston rings, bad valve guides, bad valve seals or plugged up engines usually due to a lack of oil changes.
Black/Gray Smoke: The most common kind. Possible diagnosis - Thick black smoke usually means that there is too much fuel and not enough air in the combustion chamber. In rare cases, this can be caused by weak fuel pressure causing fuel to 'drip' from injectors rather than 'spray'.
The answer to eliminating the smoking vehicle is to keep up with the recommended maintenance of your vehicle to help reduce the emissions of harmful air pollutants. In addition, keeping your vehicle in good repair results in improved engine life, lower fuel and overall maintenance costs. A well maintained vehicle should not emit visible exhaust.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is offering $300 in vehicle maintenance for people that ‘like’ their promotional announcement on their Facebook page. This is a chance for you to save some money on maintenance and/or repairs, and help the environment with one easy click.
If you do see a smoking vehicle, Rest assured, there is an action you can take; the State of Colorado has a Smoking Vehicle Hotline for motorists to report smoking vehicles either on line or by telephone at (303) 692-3211.