Colored Exhaust from your Car: What does it mean?

In our everyday lives, we often come across cars on the street that release smoke from their exhaust pipes. Even though it is a normal sight for most, no one thinks about what the color and consistency have to say about the condition of the car. Not only does the appearance of the smoke give us details on the state of the car, but it can also determine how it affects our health.

If your car is healthy, you should barely notice any of the exhaust released from the combustion process. However, during unfortunate events, different colors of smoke, such as grey with a tinge of blue to it, thick and black or white smoke from exhaust pipe can indicate a fault in the car in most cases. On the brighter side, faulty cars are not always the answer.

So what does the difference in smoke determine? To figure that out, we need to observe the circumstances surrounding the car. Is it stationary or accelerating, and after all of the sleuthing, we need to figure out the condition of the car – is it old or new, or has it been reconditioned? 

White Smoke 

Out of all, white smoke occurs most often as it is faced by most people on a cold winter day. White smoke is simply water vapor from the rear end of the car as the cold engine of the car is being heated up once it’s started. As the temperature rises with the engine, condensation occurs, and steam is produced, we see white smoke being released. Although this occurrence is not something to be worried about, for short trips, the exhaust pipe may not warm up to the exhaust tip, meaning not all of the condensing water turns into water vapor and might get trapped inside to form rust and cause long-term problems.

On the other hand, if you observe continual thick white or grey smoke, it is not normal and could be a serious problem. When you see this sort of smoke, it means that the coolant is being heated up and coming out of the exhaust. 

This, especially in summer, would cause your engine to overheat. This smoke could also be a result of a cracked cylinder block, which can be extremely dangerous and needs immediate attention.

Are you a car enthusiast? Keep your car up-to-date with these tips. 

Blue Smoke

The best time to check if your car is giving blue smoke is to observe the exhaust the first time of the day you start your car. Blue smoke usually indicates the oil has entered the cars’ set up and is usually followed up by a burning smell. The sole purpose of engine oil is to help the system run smoothly, and if there is no complication with the car, it should not interfere with the fuel system. If blue smoke comes out of a car with high mileage, it indicates the car’s valve system or piston rings have been worn out, resulting in oil entering the fuel system, and it can cost a fortune to fix. 

However, if the car was serviced recently, blue smoke can be an aftermath of excess oil being put back into the system. Blue smokes are more often seen in older cars, but lack of maintenance can also make new cars give out blue smokes.

What you need to do first is check your dipstick. Add oil if the oil is under the “add” mark, and drain the excess if the level exceeds the “full” mark. If you still see the problem after this, a mechanic can solve your problem by fixing any leaky parts. 

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Grey Smoke

Since grey is a wide range of colors, identifying grey smoke correctly can be a bit tricky. Is the smoke light grey, which is almost whitish, or does it have a blue tint to it? If it is a dusty grey, that is what we are looking for. Similar to blue smoke, grey smoke may also indicate too much oil being burned. 

Other than that, a malfunctioning Positive Crankcase Ventilation may also be the cause which can be very expensive to fix. Not only that, if the car is an automatic gearbox, grey smoke can also be released. In this case, what you need to do is check your transmission fluid for any burning smell. If found positive, simply changing the fluid will solve your problem. If the problem persists even after changing the fluid, take it to the mechanic as soon as possible because transmission failure while driving can be dangerous!

Black Smoke

Last but not least, black smoke can be produced because of various reasons. For example, in a diesel-powered car, it could be unburnt diesel from built-up soot even though the diesel particulate filter is made for the sole purpose of trapping the soot from unburnt diesel, but if the car is driven slowly, the soot can build up slowly and cause black smoke. To solve this, accelerating the car at a higher speed will result in soot being deposited on the road. However, in a petrol car, black smoke can indicate that too much fuel is being used up, and the solution to this could be as simple as changing the car’s air filter or taking it to a workshop to clean the fuel pressure regulator or to check if there is a clog in the fuel injectors.

Final Thoughts

Smokes can indicate a lot about the car. Similar to the human body, some issues may be more serious than they seem, and it is best if we leave them to trained professionals instead of trying to take matters into our own hands. However, if we take proper care of our cars and have regular check-ups, problems should not arise, and one car can last for years, if not centuries.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of


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