car emitting smoke

Holy Smokes: Why is My Car Emitting Smoke?

car emitting smokeOne of the most obvious, telltale signs your car, truck, or SUV is in need of serious repair or service is smoke. Unless you’re 100-percent sure as to why your vehicle is emitting smoke and whether it is safe to operate, you should get it off the road as soon as possible. Driving a smoking automobile can further exacerbate any damage, leading to costly breakdowns, repairs, and even extremely dangerous engine fires. The type of smoke your car or truck is discharging helps identify the underlying mechanical issue causing your vehicle to smoke. The first thing you should do if you notice your car emitting smoke is bring it into a reputable automotive repair center like Carolina Auto Service and have it checked out by a certified mechanic.


In terms of dealing with a car emitting smoke, the best-case scenario is coming across vapor. Often mistaken for white smoke, the vapor is actually condensation or steam naturally released from the engine’s exhaust. It is completely normal for even brand new cars to release vapor from their exhaust when starting their engines. This especially true in colder climates or in vehicles that haven’t been driven in a while. If it isn’t clear whether your automobile is emitting smoke or vapor, or if you feel your car is releasing an excessive amount of condensation, you should definitely have it inspected by a quality mechanic right away. Here at Carolina Auto Service, our ASE-certified automotive technicians will ensure the vapor coming out of your car’s exhaust is simply normal condensation and not something more serious like burning coolant, which is a sign of major engine trouble.

White Smoke

If thick white smoke is consistently pouring out of your automobile’s exhaust or from under the hood, it usually signals your vehicle is burning coolant and is most likely suffering from one of these significant engine issues:

  • Coolant Leak
  • Blown Head Gasket
  • Cracked Engine Block
  • Damaged Cylinder Head

If you suspect your car or truck is experiencing any of the above problems, do not drive it in to get repaired. Driving an automobile that is burning coolant will inevitably overheat causing even further irreparable engine damage. It may even trigger an engine fire. Rather than risking a high-priced engine replacement as well as your own safety. The automotive professionals at Carolina Auto Service recommend towing any car emitting smoke in for repairs, even if it is “technically” capable of starting and driving.

Black Smoke

Thick black smoke billowing out of your car or truck’s tailpipe typically indicates your vehicle is burning an excessive amount of fuel. While normally not as serious as white smoke. The presence of black smoke probably means your automobile is experiencing one of the following problems:

  • Clogged or Dirty Air Filter
  • Clogged or Leaking Fuel Injectors
  • Damaged Sensors or Regulators
  • Damaged Carburetor (in carbureted vehicles)
  • Poor Air to Fuel Ratio Mixture (in diesel vehicles)

Sometimes older vehicles will send out a cloud of black sooty smoke when starting up. This is fairly normal as long as all of its engine components are in working order. The smoke quickly dissipates. While some of the causes of black smoke emissions only require simple, do-it-yourself fixes, the auto experts at Carolina Auto Service strongly advise bringing your vehicle into a reliable mechanic anytime you’re dealing with a car emitting smoke.

Blue or Gray Smoke

The most common reason for an automobile to be spewing out blue or gray smoke is burning oil. Blue or gray smoke is commonly associated with the unmistakable smell of burning oil as well as significant drops in a vehicle’s oil level, without any noticeable leaks. Blue or gray smoke emissions due to burning oil can stem from a variety of mechanical difficulties such as:

  • Too Much Oil or Overfilled Oil
  • Spilled Oil During a Recent Oil Change
  • Oil Leak in Combustion Chamber
  • Clogged Oil Lines
  • Damaged Valve Seals
  • Damaged Piston Rings
  • Transmission Fluid Leak
  • Damaged Transmission Modulator Vacuum
  • Damaged Turbocharger (for turbocharged vehicles)

You will definitely want to bring your vehicle in to an automotive expert if you notice any persistent blue or gray smoke emitted from its exhaust. While the presence of blue or gray smoke can be caused by something as minor as spilling a little oil on the engine during your last oil change, it can also signify something major like worn out seals and rings, a faulty transmission or a failing turbocharger (for turbocharged vehicles).

Hybrid & EV Electric Vehicles

Hybrid automobiles are subject to the same smoke-related mechanical issues as traditional gas and diesel, cars and trucks. Also, hybrid cars along with EV electric vehicles must also contend with the potential for smoke. Even fire stemming from their battery or other damaged electrical components overheating. It is especially alarming to see any type of smoke emitted from a fully electric EV, since they don’t burn fuel. Aren’t constructed with any type of exhaust system. If you’re in need of high quality, hybrid auto service in the Winston-Salem, North Carolina area. Look no further than Carolina Auto Service, we’re conveniently located on South Stratford Road near Interstate 40.

Here at Carolina Auto Service our team of friendly, ASE-certified automotive technicians can quickly. Accurately, diagnose the root mechanical issue(s) of any car emitting smoke, while promptly providing honest, reliable, service and repair. Not only do we specialize in servicing and repairing smoking cars, trucks and SUVs, we’re also a North Carolina State authorized automotive emissions testing center. For more information regarding a car emitting smoke. To set up an obligation-free appointment. Contact us today or drop in for a visit.

Carolina Auto Service