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Rastafarian Smoker

Why does my 1997 Ford Escort blow gobs of white smoke when first started up - but ONLY on a cold morning and never in warm weather? I dumped a can of SeaFoam in the crank-case but it still smokes like Cheech & Chong.

It isn’t smoke. It’s water vapor. It’s harmless, and it is always there. You just don’t see it in warm weather.

The fact that you see the water vapor on cold days means your catalytic converter is working.

White smoke is either water vapor or coolant. Perhaps your trips after start up are short any you have water condensing in your exhaust system. This is benign and no problem. Or, you could have coolant leaking internally in the engine. Coolant that gets into the combustion chambers will burn off as white smoke.

Check and keep an eye on your level of coolant in the car. If the coolant level is low you may have a bad head gasket which means a significant repair.

Um, does it seem to be doing it any more than any other car on the road?

One of the products of the combustion reaction that makes your car go is water. Usually it comes out as invisible water vapor, but if it’s cold enough out it will condensate and form clouds until the exhaust system warms up enough. If it only does it on start up, it’s completely normal.

Also, if you put the Seafoam in the crank case, you need to change the oil immediately.

When I say its smoking I mean its enough smoke to leave a white cloud in the parking lot 50 feet across or more that hangs there for 10 minutes. It looks like a house is on fire somewhere. This is not vapor. This is a massive amount of smoke.

If it truly is like that AND it is white then you need be looking for signs of coolant in your oil (milky looking oil) and vice versa. Does it smell sweet? Like antifreeze? Suspect a head or intake manifold gasket problem. Most any shop can check for these kinds of problems.

Or is it really more like gray, blue, or black smoke?

Thanks Greasy Jack but other forums told me that SeaFoam was a good quick fix. I dont want to put any real money into this turd but I wouldn’t mind getting another season out of it. If it IS coolant in the combustion chambers, is there anything I can do to stop it until the weather warms up?

White as John McCain

The seafoam can perhaps help (well, probably not this issue), but the procedure for running it in the crankcase is to do it a few miles before an oil change. It thins the oil so you don’t want to be driving around with it in the engine for very long.

One other issue is that burning oil can look white, so it could also be a valve stem seal issue, and having thinner oil could actually make it worse. Does the car burn any oil?

I agree with all of the previous responses, but I want to repeat and emphasize one of Greasy Jack’s points:

You may need to change your oil right away.

Seafoam is very good for removal of old oil sludge in the crankcase and for freeing up sticky lifters. However, once sludge is removed from certain areas, you don’t want it circulating for long, otherwise you wind up with those deposits in other citical areas–including very narrow oil passages.

The company that makes Seafoam recommends that when their product is used for sludge removal, the oil be changed within a maximum of 100 miles.

It doesnt seem to be burning much oil. However -about 60-70 miles after putting in the SeaFoam, it stopped blowing smoke (only a tiny bit -I was thinking it may have actually worked)) for just one day and then the next day it was even worse than before. Is this evidence of the deposits you mentioned being burned?

No, the sludge in your oil will not be “burned”. It will be kept in suspension by your old motor oil for a brief period of time before it gets redeposited in other areas.

Between the fact that Seafoam is not a lubricant and that it loosens those old deposits, if you don’t change your oil shortly after putting it in the crankcase, you will wind up with much bigger engine problems than may already exist.

I’ll get the oil changed today. Any other suggestion on how I might get it to stop smoking until the weather warms up?

FYI everyone -it appears the Seafoam worked!!

I changed the oil and now there is almost no smoke at all.

Thanks for all your help.

What kind of oil??

Seafoam IS a lubricant. One of it’s ingredients is a highly refined oil.