1995 Toyota Grey Smoke AFTER new head gasket, rings, radiator, thermastat


#1

When I start up my 95 Camry I get a billow of light grey and then it’s good. Notice not so much heat from the heater also. Had a guy do the repairs and now I’m wondering what I got myself into and what can be done … spent a grand on this.


#2

What did the repairman say when you asked him about these problems?


#3

Smoke upon startup is usually a sign of badly-worn valve guide seals, but this isn’t really a serious issue. It certainly isn’t something on which I would spend any repair money for a car that is two decades old.

As to the minimal heat from the heater, it is possible that there is an air pocket trapped in the heater core, and that this is impeding coolant flow to the heater. If I am correct about the cause, a competent mechanic should be able to rectify the problem fairly easily, and to add some additional coolant.

Was the “guy” who did the repairs a professional, or is he a “shade tree mechanic” without a shop?


#4

Can’t speak to the grey smoke, but the lack of heat could be caused by an obstruction in the heater core. First, though, make sure your radiator is full. If so, back-flushing might cure that. It did for me when my heater stopped working. A Prestone Flush 'N Fill Kit* will enable you do it yourself if you are so inclined. It’s an easy DIY project, or it was for me, your mileage may vary.


#5

I tend to agree with VDCdriver about the valve seals; something that should have been replaced (assuming they were not) while the engine was apart.

A piston ring issue could also cause this. Does the guy who did this own any micrometers? If not, then the question arises about the installation of brand new perfectly round piston rings into oval shaped cylinders. That seldom works out well; all depending.


#6

Make mine another vote for the valve stem seals. I don’t see anything in the OP’s post that includes valve work, and perhaps they left the head as-is except to adjust the valve lash.

For the OP’s info, the valve stem seals are rubber seals that prevent the oil that lubricates the rocker arms etc. from running down into the cylinders after it does its job. It’s supposed to just run down into the oil pan. If the seals get old, and all rubbery bits do, they can allow oil to seep past them after the engine is shut down for the night and sit on the back of the valves… or in the cylinder if the valve is open. Then when you start the engine in the morning, that oil burns and comes out as a puff of blue/gray smoke.

If you have this condition, you’re probably also drawing oil into the cylinders and burning it when you accelerate. When you do so, the vacuum in the cylinders spikes. The pistons are still trying to draw the same amount of air in, but the throttle plate blocks the passage when it closes. That can draw oil down past the seals and it gets burned. You probably won’t see it, cause (a) it dissipate with the passing air, and (b) much of it is getting captured by your cat converter.

(a) isn’t a major problem as long as you maintain your oil level.
(b) can lead to premature cat converter failure. They don’t work with their insides coated with oil residue.

I hope I’m right. OK4450 definitely knows his stuff, but his other suggestion can get nasty to resolve. The only way to fix it is with the block disassembled and in a machine shop to be bored out. $$$$$$


#7

Nobody has asked or mentioned what or who did the work on the car. In my opinion, it has to be a DIY or off the books job. There’s no way that a competent reputable shop could do a quality job on head gasket, piston rings, radiator, etc. for only a thousand bucks.


#8

Getting some grey smoke out the exhaust first start the morning, esp if it is cold outside, that’s pretty normal. It’s just water vapor, a normal product of combusting gasoline, condensing in the cold air. If it mostly stops after 5 minutes, once the engine is warmed up, that’s not something I’d worry about. Here’s a test you could do. Once the engine is warmed up, does the exhaust look pretty much like all the other cars parked in front of you at the stoplight? If it seems worse than the other cars, there are several tests a shop can do to see if coolant is escaping into the cylinders. There’s one you can do too, check to see if the engine coolant level is dropping over time. Same with the engine oil level.

If the heater worked ok before, I expect the problem is as mentioned above, there’s some air trapped in the cooling system. You could try this: With the engine completely cold, and off, open the radiator cap, turn on the heater to max, and start and let the engine warm up in the driveway for 5-10 minutes. If you can, get the front of the car up higher a little, like driving it up on car ramps. That will help any gas bubbles escape. While doing this, keep an eye on the coolant level in the radiator, you don’t want it to go down much or overflow out the radiator during this test. After 10 minutes replace the radiator cap and see if that helped with the heater.


#9

It all depends on whether we’re talking about blue or gray (white ) smoke. If it’s gray (white) smoke I would agree with @GeorgeSanJose . If it’s blue I would agree with the others that it would be valve stem seals.


#10

Radiator, head gasket and rings for $1000 ? If it runs ok and only smokes a little, you got much more than you paid for.
Check your radiator level (not recovery tank) level when cold and keep refilling until it doesn’t go down.
If it never stops going down, I am guessing the head gasket job didn’t go so well.


#11

For a grand I can’t see this being much more than a hone job with rings, replace the head gasket, maybe replace the rod bearings since the pistons are out, and sending it down the road.

Whether it’s “good” could be debateable as the driver may not see much while in motion. Oil consumption should be very carefully monitored.

Just a short story but some years ago a friend of mine had a valve job done on his 6 cylinder Chevy pickup while he was in Indiana. After he got the truck back he loaded it up and headed back to OK.
Between southern IN and OK he used 24 full quarts of motor oil because the halfwits who did the valve job forgot to install the valve seals.


#12

“Nobody has asked or mentioned what or who did the work on the car. In my opinion, it has to be a DIY or off the books job. There’s no way that a competent reputable shop could do a quality job on head gasket, piston rings, radiator, etc. for only a thousand bucks.”

I thought that I posed that exact question when I asked, “Was the guy who did the repairs a professional, or is he a ‘shade tree mechanic’ without a shop?”, in the second response in this thread.


#13

Car runs. U got a running car that smokes slightly at startup. It’s 20 yrs old. I would say it’s worth less than u paid for repair but that’s an opinion.


#14

The color of the smoke is significant, IMO. I have had valve stem seal problems on high mileage vehicles before and the smoke upon start-up is not grey, it’s bluish.Could you describe the color again? Greyish to white is looking like the head gasket fix didn’t work. Did you check to see if you had oil in your coolant or coolant in your oil? Also, the “not so much heat from the heater” seems to be a heater core issue, unrelated to the smoke. One thing I might try before tearing it apart (it’s a 20 year old car) is some high mileage oil, which is supposed to soften seals (valve stem seals) in the engine. This might swell the valve stems seals enough to decrease your start-up smoke (and oil use) to a tolerable level. With respect to the heat issue, again before tearing anything apart it would be worth a good flush of your cooling system, with one of those chemical cleaners, and then re-fill with new coolant and try it. Both fixes could be done for about $50, oil change and coolant flush/refill. Hope that works for you, good luck! Rocketman


#15

@OK >>Between southern IN and OK he used 24 full quarts of motor oil because the halfwits who did the valve job forgot to install the valve seals.

A curiosity question only. In 1964 I had a 1953 Chevrolet which I drove hard. When I went in the Army, it was using a quart of oil every 30 miles. At the time someone suggested it was main seals. it did not put out a bad cloud of smoke. Would that have been possible to be damaged valve seals as you mention? I think it was the 235 c.i. motor, not the 216.

I drove it rather high rpm, up to 30 in first; up to over 60 in second.

Clearly, 50 years later, and I did put in a rebuilt motor and drove it several more years, it is not a major issue. Just curiosity, I guess.