Moisture all over under the hood

1995 Buick Regal 3.8L Series 1

This is my first car and I got it at 100k and I am up to 162k. She has been good to me. A week ago I noticed that my car was shuddering and having real issues getting up to 55 (misfire). These were intermittent and seemed to go away when I put new sparks in it.

Tonight I started it and heard a good sounding pop. The car would not idle right at all. Press the gas, up to 3k rpm, and let go … stall. I got under the hood, heard a strange sucking noise, with some cell phone light found out the vacuum hose fell off??? Put that sucker back on. Idled way better. Driveable (the brakes worked again).

Took a look around the car and noticed that some smoke was coming out of the exhaust. Not a lot, but I havent really seen exhaust from it before. My buddy followed me home and said he could smell me the entire way.

It is was dark and I lifted the hood and noticed moisture all over. I mean everywhere. Spark wires, airbox, frame, and ect…

I have been looking through my books and then online. I cant find anything.

Does anyone know what I can be looking at for a root cause?
Does anyone know what is messed up with this car?

Sounds like it was a cold, dark night…
Condensation is the process of warmer. moisture-laden air coming in contact with a cooler surface and depositing its moisture on the cooler surface as the boundary layer of the air cools and can no longer hold its moisture. It happens more readily on surfaces that conduct heat more readily, such as metal.

I’ve seen exactly what you describe happening in unusual (to NH) weather conditions where the engine compartment is cool and the ambient air warm and at very high relative humidity levels. RH is a measurement of air’s moisture content as compared to its moisture holding capability.

Moisture from the exhaust is moisture in the exhaust gases being deposited on still-cool metal exhaust components. One of the byproducts of combustion is water vapor formed as the hydrogen in the hydrocarbon (the gas) separates from the carbon and bonds to the oxygen, forming H2O… water. It deposits itself as condensation in the cool pipes and the exhaust stream pulls it out the tailpipe. It’s normal. The “smoke” was probably a cloud of water vapor coming out the exhaust, a common sight here in NH in the winter. The warmer exhaust condenses in the cooler air as it comes out the pipe. The cloud may have been carrying things that caused the smell, which would not be uncommon.

My recommendation is, since you apparently have dried vacuum lines as a minimum, to buy a roll of vacuum line and… during the daylight when you have plenty of time… replace all the vacuum lines ONE BY ONE so you don’t accidently misconnect them. From there you may want to give the engine a good look-see and tuneup.

I don’t think you have a serious problem, but I do think you might be overdue for some maintenance.

The fact that your friend could smell you all the way home ( I hope he was referring to your car )makes me think you may have a coolant leak, or even a head gasket. If you start losing coolant, you have one or the other.

The vacuum line that came off is the one to the power brake booster. You may need to replace that hose, but I say maybe, because I had one pop off once and not a thing was wrong with the hose. I just put it back on and it never came back off.
What could cause this…I never figured out. Maybe someone here can explain that.

As far as the moisture goes. Be sure that you check your coolant level before starting the car.
Whatever you do, be sure to watch the temperature gauge while you are searching for a leak. If you let it overheat, you could blow a head gasket and wind up with a major repair. Far more expensive than just replacing a hose or radiator.

If it was coolant it will have a sweet smell and it will not have dried over night, at least not on the air cleaner, hood, and other parts that were not hot last night
When you do start it and let it get to proper operating temperature… check around for a leak in the radiator hoses, heater hoses, water pump, and radiator.

The only other source of that much moisture would be washer fluid. I did have a car once that the washer pump…in the washer fluid tank…came out and the fluid pouring out was thrown all over by the fan. In my case the retainer that held the pump in, rotted away through the years and the pump just vibrated out from the side of the tank.

I doubt that it is moisture from condensation. I have seen this, but normally it is not on everything.


Did you happen to drive through a large rain puddle by any chance?

Check your coolant level. Another potential source of liquid all over would be if you lost a seal on the supercharger…

It’s possible you have sprung a coolant leak somewhere in the engine compartment, and that coolant spray is shorting out the high voltage wiring, causing the misfiring. The misfiring could cause smoking out the exhaust too. So finding out if there’s a coolant leak is first priority.

If the moisture is caused by coolant, that’s usually pretty easy to smell. It has a noticeably sweet odor to it. Do you smell anything like that when you pop the hood and notice the engine compartment is wet all over? This is assuming the fluid filling your car’s cooling system is what it should be, a 50/50 mixture of coolant and water. Good idea as posted above to check the cooling system, both at the plastic tank and the radiator if your car uses a radiator cap. It’s possible on most cars for the plastic tank to appear full, but the radiator near empty.

Pin size whole in my radiator hose … ugh

I’m glad that’s all it was. Even I can do that repair!

Yup, I had a pin hole leak on a Crown Vic that only leaked under the high pressure generated shortly after it was shut off. It was on the bottom side of the hose, and spewed directly onto the exhaust manifold several inches away.

My pin sized hole is spraying straight up into the coil pack … well the bottom of the mounting bracket. This might be causing the misfire.

Time will tell.


I advise you to get a radiator from one of those mom and pop shops that only sell radiators and condensers

They tend to have the lowest prices, and they usually have radiators for anything common in stock

If you’re trying to get off cheap, that’s the way I would go

After you replace the hose, flush everything wet under the hood with water ( Not a high pressure stream ) The water will dry, the antifreeze won’t.