2013 Lexus RX 350 - oil smoke

oil smoke at 98k rx350

Is there a question? See what I did there? I posted questions not statements, after all this is the “ask someone” section.


I presume you want to know if that’s typical. With proper maintenance, No. And since the catalytic converter is probably eliminating a good deal of smoke you must really be burning oil. A good shop can tell you what your options are.


Some visible whitish “smoke” out the tailpipe after first starting the engine is normal, water vapor. Will stop as engine warms. Black smoke out tailpipe (engine warm) could be oil or gasoline. Oil burning smoke out the tailpipe is often blue-ish tinted. Gasoline is more black-ish. If you see smoke out the tailpipe only when first starting the engine (warm or cold starts), then it goes away, faulty valve stem seals likely cause. If so, that’s good news b/c relatively inexpensive fix. Other problems than these cause smoke too of course. One common cause, valve cover leaks oil onto exhaust pipe.

I am thinking $3000 to $4000 to remove 4 camshafts, 24 valve springs and replace the valve seals.


Well, seems maybe not so inexpensive. Replacing valve stem seals on many over-head cam econobox engines just requires a way to prevent the valve from falling long enough to replace the seal. No need to remove the camshafts; but that method of course doesn’t work for every engine design. Could be a good reason to purchase only econoboxes.

On an RX350, screams lack of maintenance.


Are you the original owner?

I am curious about the OP’s driving patterns (mostly local/short-trip; mostly highway; a mixture of the two) and also his/her oil change regimen. How often is the oil changed, in terms of both odometer mileage and elapsed time?

Edited to add:
Six days later, no response to the questions that I posed for the OP.

My ES300 had smoke at startup from valve seals. Used no oil so I lived with it. It also had a valve cover leak that dripped on the exhaust manifold. That I had fixed.

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Post above implies correcting valve stem seals is a big project. Just curious, what is it about the engine configuration that makes the valve stem seal replacement job so time consuming?

It’s a DOHC engine that requires removing the cams, lots of work.

If the smoke appears at the first engine start-up, have someone check if the spark plug wells are filled with oil.

If any are, the valve cover gaskets need replacing.

Which is a major job itself.


It’s six cylinders, four valves per cylinder which means 24 valves total, and two camshafts per bank.

Both ES300 and RX350 have DOHC 24 valve engines. The ES300 has a timing belt, the belt is easy to remove from the cam sprockets. The RX350 has a timing chain, disassembly requires engine removal.

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My 1.6L 4-banger 4AFE Corolla is configured nearly the same, DOHC/16 valves; i.e. 4 valves per cylinder, one camshaft for the intake valves, another for the exhaust. Timing belt rather than chain. Does all this mean I’d have to remove both the camshafts to replace the valve stem seals on my Corolla as well?

Yes, unless you know something no one else does.


Somehow the job must have been easier when the VW dealership did the valve seal replacement job on my 78 Rabbit, they said it took about 2 hours. Didn’t need to remove engine, used compressed air via spark plug hole to prevent valve from falling into engine. But the repair instructions seems to say it takes 8.8 hours to replace the valve stem seals on the 4AFE. Maybe VW needed to remove camshaft also, and the only reason for the repair time difference is there were fewer valves to deal with on the VW. Don’t recall if the VW had one or two camshafts, thinking it was just one.

Academic at this point, not much in the way of indications of valve stem seal problem on the Corolla.

Single cam on the Rabbit but it had to come off. Pretty simple job.

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