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Smokey Start

My husband has a 2004 Chevy Silverado Z71. Lately it when you start it, it gives off a big puff of white smoke. We’ve been keeping an eye on the oil level and it is using oil. What would make it do this? Is it an must fix? Or would it be ok to keep driving it as long as we keep an eye on the oil level?

If it is pure white and thick you have a cracked head. If it has some blue in it, it is oil. Either way is not good. With blue means you need a ring job. Either way you are looking and some major engine work. With the cracked head you have coolant gettting in the oil so the smoke is condensation burning off. This will blow the engine quicker. Usually running out of coolant and seizing the engine, with oil you will eventually run out and break the wrist pin. You should get it fixed much sooner rather than later

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news

Mileage? Check engine light on? How much oil are you loosing? (1 quart in how many miles)

White smoke could be coolant or just moisture. Bluish-grey smoke is probably oil. It can be hard to tell the difference. Check your coolant level and check for oil in the coolant. You might also want to take out the spark plugs and look at them. A mechanic can tell whether you are getting coolant in the cylinders or burning excessive oil. You can probably also find example pictures on the internet.

If it’s burning oil, there’s not much to do until it gets so bad that you can’t stand it. An engine rebuild will cost the same whenever you do it. Just be really careful about not driving it more than one quart low. Oil additives that are supposed to stop oil leaks probably won’t help but they’re cheap to try.

If you are leaking coolant into the engine that is a more serious problem. It could overheat and fail in a more catastrophic manner, as opposed to simply burning more and more oil. Plus, getting coolant into the oil is not good either.

A compromised head gasket is more likely than a cracked head. Burning oil isn’t always from bad rings, it can be, more likely with symptoms on start up, from leaky valve guides as well. The white smoke caused by leaking head gaskets is from coolant being burnt off inside the cylinder, not coolant in the oil. Coolant can certainly get into the oil, but it isn’t the cause of irregular tailpipe emissions.

Does it take a while cranking it for it to start? The puff could be unburnt fuel too.