Why Is My Car Engine Smoking? – Comprehensive Guide

Why Is My Car Engine Smoking? – Comprehensive Guide

Why is the smoke coming from the front of your car? Should you be concerned?

There could be several causes associated with white smoke coming out of your car. For example, It could be when a coolant enters the combustion chambers. It could also be a leak in any of the head gaskets.

Why do I have white smoke coming out of my car engine?

The important thing is to notice whether your engine is overheating or not. Depending on the temperature of your engine, we can judge how serious the issue is. If you find out your engine is overheating, then your car needs immediate professional attention.

Why do I have white smoke coming out of my car engine

Overheating might end up permanently jeopardizing your vehicle. One of the easiest ways to know what is causing the smoke is the smell of the smoke.

Does the smoke smell like a burnt fuel?

If the white smoke from your engine smells like fuel or burnt fuel, there is something wrong with your car’s fuel system. In the case of that scenario, you must get professional assistance for your vehicle.

We would suggest that you do not drive the car until the issue is resolved.

Just ask a professional car technician to take a look at your car. They will be able to assess the situation much better and will be able to get to the bottom of why your engine is overheating.

Oil at the surface

A crankcase is what protects and covers the crankshaft of an engine. There is a possibility that you were not very careful while adding oil to the crankcase.

The oil that was on the surface burned and caused the white smoke

Another possible case for oil spillage is when you are not careful while filling up your gas tank. Either way, there will be white smoke when the fuel burns. There should not be any long-term or permanent damage to your car in both of these scenarios.

But if the oil spills are regular, there might be a possibility of some long-term damage occurring to your car. For example, some parts of the engine, which are made up of rubber or plastic, might fall apart or become obsolete being in contact with oil for a more extended period.

If the oil spillage is recurring, we would advise you to get your car looked at by a professional.

A leak in one of the components:

A leak in any of the components may cause the oil to spill out. Typically, in this case, oil is leaked from the faulty part, causing the smoke as the oil burns.

This oil spillage may occur from a leaky valve cover gasket. To fix this, all you need to do is replace the faulty valve with a fresh one. It is not an expensive or difficult part to replace.

We advise that you do not ignore the oil leaks in your car. It does not take long for a minor leak to turn into a bigger one. This will eventually end up making the matter far worse than it already is.

Oil Filler Cap

Oil filler cap also may cause white smoke to come out of your engine. This is more common in older car engines. The oil filler cap’s job is to protect dust and debris coming inside and mix with the engine oil.

The oil filler cap is made up of rubber; it’s durable, tight, and heat resistant. Usually, the fuel-burning process of an engine is not 100% efficient. The older the car engine gets, the less efficient this process becomes.

Older engines release a lot more smoke as their fuel combustion process is much more inefficient.

In every car engine, oil filler caps release a little bit of smoke, but in the case of older engines, that smoke produced is more so you see a visible amount of smoke coming out.

These primary suspect for this issue is damaged piston rings or blocked PCV tubes. Every time you use your car, the pistons’ job is to burn the fuel to provide enough power to run your vehicle.

In this process, the smoke is created. Piston rings are supposed to keep the pistons airtight, but since they are worn out, the smoke goes through.

After going through the piston rings, the smoke has to face the crankcase ventilation.

The job of the crankcase ventilation is to pull this smoke back. But it’s unable to do that if the PCV tube is blocked or damaged. So, the smoke goes through the oil filler cap, which you see as white smoke coming out of your engine.


Your car is a sophisticated piece of technology and has a lot of wires in it.

What if one of these wires caught fire? This phenomenon of a wire catching fire or burning is known as a hot wire. A hot wire could also be responsible for white smoke coming out of your engine.

If the smoke is coming out of your car engine because of a wire burning, you should be able to notice it just by the smell. A wire burns with a pungent smell.

If the smoke is coming because of the alternator’s burnt copper wires, it has a unique smell. You will have a stronger odor when the copper wires of the alternator have been completely burnt. In that situation, the low voltage and check engine light will also turn on.

Leaking Coolant

We all know three vital fluids are required for our car engines to run smoothly. They are fuel, coolant, and motor oil. The job of the coolant is to keep the temperature of the engine at an optimum level.

In exceptional cases, the tank where the coolant is stored might leak, and that leak may cause the coolant to enter the combustion chamber, which would result in coolant burn.

When a coolant burns, there is a smell along with the smoke. If you find a sweet smell accompanying the white smoke from your hood, then the coolant burning causes the smoke.

What are the risks of car engine smoking?

The risks of a car engine smoking depend on the source that is causing the smoke.

For example: If the smoke is because your engine is overheating, you should not use it as any further use may ruin the car engine.

If the burning of engine oil causes the smoke as it came in contact with a hot exhaust manifold, there could be a possible risk of starting an engine fire.

Smoke coming out of your engine is a severe issue, and you should not continue using your vehicle until you are sure about the smoke source.

Here are some quick car inspection tips that you can use to check your car in case of such emergencies:

  • Take a look under the car. See if there are any leaks that you can catch with your naked eye. If you see a couple of drops of oil dripping, it is okay, but you should get your car checked soon. But if you spot drops of oil dripping at a faster rate, you should find out why and what it is before you use your vehicle again. My suggestion would be to get a professional automotive expert to inspect the car.
  • If you see white smoke coming out of your car, you should pull over and check is the temperature of your engine. If the engine is not overheating, you can drive straight to the nearest car workshop and get it fixed. If you find out the engine is overheating, then there is an emergency. Don’t think of driving your vehicle to the nearest workshop – it can even cause an engine fire! When you find out your engine is overheating, you should wait for a professional to arrive and get your car checked. You can also get your car towed to the nearest workshop.
  • You might see steam coming out. This means that the coolant might be leaking. It is what we talked about earlier in the leaking coolant section. In such a scenario, you should first pull over to check the leakage. If the leakage is minimal, you can drive to the nearest workshop and get it fixed. But if the coolant is leaking at a higher volume, then you should pull over your car and get it fixed. Excessive leaking of coolant may cause your engine to overheat or permanent damages to your engine. So, pull over and check out what’s causing the steam to come out of your car.
  • Temperature and oil lights may come on in case of emergencies. The oil light appears when there is a drop in oil pressure. The decrease in oil pressure means that your engine cannot lubricate itself, halting it from functioning smoothly. If you are driving your car with no oil pressure, it might damage your engine or cause it to overheat. When the temperature light comes on in your vehicle, you need to understand that your engine is overheating, and you must pull over to safety.


When you see smoke coming out of your car, you should start to look for someplace safe on the road where you can park your car.

After you have parked your car on the side, you must check to see the cause of the smoke. If the smoke caused is because of some oil spillage or a wire burning, then you are okay to drive it to the nearest automobile repair shop.

But if you see the oil pressure light come on along with the smoke, you should be able to deduce that your car’s oil pressure is low along with the temperature of the engine rising.

It is best to tow the vehicle to the nearest workshop to get it fixed in these cases.

If it was only the low oil pressure, then another alternative would be to add an extra fuel gallon to the fuel tank and see if the oil pressure light goes off.

This method will only work if you are carrying an extra fuel gallon with you. If not, then you should go ahead and think about towing the car.