White smoke coming from the tail pipe

I have a 2003 Toyota Camry, XL-E, 4 cylinder vehicle with 156,200 miles on it. The car has been serviced regularly since buying it new and is in excellent condition. My problem is that when starting it for the first time every morning, quite a bit of white/bluish smoke comes out from the tail pipe. It then clears and I don’t have the problem for the rest of the day no matter how many times I start the vehicle. The next morning the same thing occurs on the first start and first start only. This problem has been occurring for the past six months. The vehicle seems to be running good. I recently put 1500 miles on a vacation trip and it ran fine. I have discussed this problem with several mechanics and they cannot provide a definite analysis or solution. I have been told that it is possibly a cracked head gasket, cracked gaskets or oil leak being burned off the engine when started for the first time. What do you think might be the problem and what course of action would you recommend I take ? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks. Bob S.

Is the cooling system losing coolant? If not then it’s not a head gasket problem.

What you might be seeing is oil burn-off from leaking valve guide seals. The next time you have the oil/filter changed, have a high mileage oil installed. Such as Valvoline MaxLife. If you see a reduction in the smoke at start-up, the valve guide seals are hardened and leaking oil as the vehicle sits.



I agree with @Tester

Sounds like it might be worn valve stem seals

Another thing to consider: your valves may be out of adjustment

In your particular case, if the valves are out of adjustment, you have to remove the cams and replace the buckets (there are several different thicknesses)

Check your coolant level and also your oil level. Might want to post a picture of your dipstick here so we can learn a little more about your problem. (obviously I mean the dipstick with oil on it). Be careful and exact when checking these fluids. Rocketman

My 2000 Camry CE 5-speed stick, has been doing the same thing since about 2002. I have driven it myself all these years, and taken excellent care of it. It now has 275k miles and still runs great. But, whenever I start it in the morning, that puff of smoke comes out. When I first started seeing it years ago, I was concerned, of course. But, every mechanic I have ever had (I’ve moved 4 times since I bought the car) all Toyota certified mechanics, has said there is nothing wrong with the vehicle. They have checked all the items noted above over the years, but never found anything wrong. I have just gotten used to it. I use high mileage oil now, change it every 3k miles, and it runs like a dream. Just bought new tires all round - Michelin Defenders, so I expect it to give me another 80k miles! Happy touring!

There is an extended warranty on 4 cyl motors for oil consumption. New pistons and rings. Unfortunately, with your mileage, you’re out of extended warranty. You need to boroscope the cylinders to make sure that the walls still have a nice cross hatch. It shouldn’t have any vertical lines as you’re looking through the scope. If it does, short block time or new pustons/rings. If it doesn’t, you need valve stem seals. Common when they get old and brittle. If you’re not using coolant, and don’t have a history of over heating the motor, there should be no issues with the heads or head gaskets. Toyota master tech with over 15 years at Toyota. Take it to a dealer , a trusted one, and make sure they have a scope. It’s not rocket surgery. ;). Good luck.

If you are not losing coolant or oil and the plugs are not getting oil fouled, this may be normal. Remember that the chemical reaction that occurs in a running engine is o2 + ch2 == co2 + h20. That h20 is water vapor, and it comes out the exhaust pipe in huge quantities. If water vapor comes out hot from the engine, but hits a cool exhaust pipe, it forms a cloud, condenses, and voila, white smoke out the tailpipe.

If there is any obstruction in the exhaust system, this might be more likely to occur, so ask you mechanic to test for that. But I doubt that is the reason.

It’s unusual in the summer as it usually isn’t cold enough for the tail pipe to condense the water vapor enough to see it, but early in the morning and if the dew point is right, even in the summer this is possible. And totally normal. Again, provided you are not losing any coolant or oil.

Clogged PCV/CCV

My vote is for a valve seal problem or to a lesser extent, maybe the valve train area is sludged up and oil is pooling around the valve guide bosses. Oil pooling can make any valve seal issue appear to be even worse than it is.

The mechanics should have mentioned a possible valve seal problem from the get-go.