"Smoking badly"

Just for my own peace of mind, could somebody clarify whether or not I should be worried about my car?

This past Saturday, my wife and I went to my local Midas to get my 2013 Kia Soul inspected. When they were finished, the manager said we passed both inspections but our car was “smoking badly” (which (a) he wrote in huge lettering in the notes on our inspection sheet and (b) we did not actually witness firsthand) and should get a fuel system cleaning soon. This was very confusing because my car had never done anything like that prior to the inspection. But, sure enough, we were treated to a catastrophic cavalcade of acrid white smoke on the drive back. However, the car hasn’t done this ever since that drive home. Not even a little poof of the smoke nor a tiny twinge of the odor has even once occurred.

Perplexed, I went online to get a sense of what might be going on and I’ve gotten different answers as wide ranging as a blown head gasket (which I didn’t buy because that’s probably something I would have heard about right away from the mechanics) and the exhaust system just burning off excess stuff in the system. Could the people at Midas have simply put something in my car to create smoke and make it seem like there was a problem we needed to spend extra money on to fix? And if it were really as much of a problem as they made it out to be, why did I still pass the emissions inspection? It seems like a problem of this magnitude would need immediate fixing in order for me to pass a state-mandated emissions test, yet they said the fuel system cleaning wasn’t required for me to pass.

Where is the smoke coming from, exhaust, engine compartment? What kind of inspection did you have done?

Just the exhaust pipe. I had both a PA state and emissions inspection done.

a small amount of white smoke upon engine start can be normal. but it should stop after the engine heats up. If the smoking does not stop as you drive it maybe an indication of serious problems, like blown head gasket. Check your coolant level also. A low level could indicate serious engine problems coming up.

It might be co-incident that it happened while at the Midas place. Did they offer a solution? You might want to research the shop for customer satisfaction and see if there are negative comments reflecting issues you are looking at.

I haven’t had any smoke at all since the initial drive and even the initial drive didn’t have smoke the entire way home. The mechanics didn’t mention anything about gasket, coolant or engine problems after the inspection either.

They recommended a fuel system clean-out. And yes, I did look at the Midas’s reviews and a common theme I noticed was their “money hungry” nature and their proclivity for over-upselling unnecessary services.

At this point I would keep an eye on it, and if I saw it happen again I’d take it to a real mechanic, not a muffler shop.

If I were a crooked chain-shop manager who wanted to dupe people into giving me money for stuff they didn’t need, I might squirt some smoke oil into the tail pipe and then tell the customer that they’re smoking badly, and hope they’d turn around and have me “fix” it before the oil ran out.

That’s exactly what I’m thinking all this is, honestly… especially since other forums have posited the same solution for other people’s similar problems. Like I said, this smoking problem did not exist until I took it to the mechanic and only lasted for a few minute of a 15-minute ride home. I’ve been very closely monitoring how my car has been performing these past few days and it’s been running just as smoothly as ever with nothing out of the ordinary and still no strange smoke or smell of any type from any automotive orifice.

Keep a close check on fluids at least once a week for a while.

That would not cause a sudden and dramatic increase in white smoke. I think you are OK, but keep a close eye on oil and coolant levels.

That’s comforting to hear! And yes, I’ll definitely keep a watch on that. I’m due for an oil change anyway, so I’ll deffo get that taken care of. Thanks for your advice! :slight_smile:

Sounds like a plan! Thank you!

Like other mentioned, it could be condensation coming out of the tail pipe when you start the engine in a cool morning and its normal. I will be worried if the smoke was there all the time as you drive.

That’s what I was thinking as I was reading along too. @daa5114 I also live in PA…if you were really blowing out massive amounts of smoke for a long period of time, I don’t think you would even pass our emissions inspection. I would think it would’ve either plugged the cat, blown an O2 sensor, and/or thrown a code. Also, you would’ve noticed such a large amount of smoke if it had been happening long term.

It just sounds like an attempted fraud to me. Pour a tad of some sort of liquid like Seafoam cleaner into the intake after running all the State tests, and it’ll smoke a lot for a short while, and then be OK. Enough to scare someone less cautious than @daa5114.


Two ounces of top engine cleaner in the intake manifold will cause smoke from the tail pipe for about ten minutes.

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+1 to both comments!
Years ago, when I was dealing with carbureted cars, whenever I introduced carb cleaner directly into the carburetor, the effect included enough white smoke to eliminate all mosquitoes in the vicinity. Then, after 10 minutes or so, I had a smooth-running engine and NO smoke.

I believe that the “mechanics” at Midas used some sort of chemical fuel system cleaner in order to produce a large volume of smoke, with the intent of scaring the OP into paying for work that wasn’t actually necessary. And some people wonder why we warn newbies to this forum to avoid Midas, Meineke, Monro, Sears, Pep Boys, and–most of all–AAMCO…


I also believe it was an attempted scam and not even a good one because if you needed a fuel system cleaning, the symptoms would be a poor running engine that you would have noticed long before you got o the shop and not the sudden onset of smoke.

Either the shop manager thinks you don’t know much about cars, or he doesn’t know much about cars. Since he was nice enough to write his scheme on your work order, I think you should report him to whoever regulates inspection stations in PA. In NY the state police would handle it but I have no idea about PA.

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I wholeheartedly agree with @wentwest ! I think you’ve been the victim of a bit of a scam. Midas was trying to scam a bit more business from you. If the car was smoking ALL the time , it likely would not have passed emissions inspection.

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I believe each county has a quality assurance official. The PennDOT website PennDOT Home might have more information (or alternatively call another mechanic, they would probably have the correct number to call)

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Just curious…
Approximately how many miles do you have on this Kia?
How long have you owned it?