Cloud of Smoke

I have a 1985 Toyota Tercel Hatchback, 4cyl, with 196,900 miles.

Three months ago I started seeing white smoke coming out of the exhaust, and every time I drove her, it got worse, until I couldn’t drive any more because it has become a hazard for drivers behind me! It is like an Octopus deploying an ink cloud, only this cloud is white. There is also an associated smell.

I have: changed the oil and spark plugs; re-torqued the cylinder head bolts to make sure they are torqued to spec; noticed the coolant reservoir was empty and filled the radiator with coolant and the reservoir with water. The Tercel smoked less for a day, but then started again with the same gusto.

My boyfriend thinks it may be a coolant leak, but I have stopped driving the car and so have not noticed any more coolant depletion.

Has anyone experienced a similar problem, and do you have any suggestions about what to do next? I love this car, and would like to get her back on the road.

Remove the head, have it inspected, (you might as well do a valve job) and reinstall the head. These are the classic symptoms of a blown head gasket…Before you start tearing things apart, have the cooling system pressure tested…

You could also have a CRACKED HEAD (less likely), where coolant from the inside the head works its way into the engine and causes the white smoke.

My son had a Tercel also and it was a head gasket, the most likely cause. As Caddyman says, you might as well do a thorough job and do a valve job while the engine is apart.

Sadly, my sons car was totaled in a accident 6 months after it was repaired.

Tercels are tough little cars and relatively simple to fix.

I agree with the diagnosis of my friends . . . I’d be inclined to just do the head gasket and maybe check the head for cracks or warping, and pick up a salvage yard head if yours is bad. This is almost 26 years old and it is after all, a Tercel. I think the valve job would cost more than the car is worth. Machine shops are expensive. How many miles on this car . . . almost 200,000? Do the gasket and check the head, pressure test the cooling system too. Rocketman

Other than agreeing this is likely a head gasket problem you should also consider the possibility of additional damage due to your continuing to drive it in this condition.

Coolant is not a good lubricant and this constant coolant bath into the cylinder(s) can wash out piston rings. Repair the head gasket and you may still have have an oil burner.

Hot coolant in the cylinders is also corrosive and can eat up valve heads. At that age and mileage a valve job should also be performed if the head gasket is changed and don’t be surprised if the cylinder head needs some work; as in some valve replacement and/or valve seats.

If the engine oil is being heavily diluted with coolant this can wash out the engine’s lower end; meaning crankshaft bearings, etc.
It could be nearing time to throw in the towel.