You can learn a lot about the health of your car from the color of its exhaust-smoke.

If it’s operating in tip-top shape, tailpipe emissions should be nearly undetectable.

If smoking-exhaust is visible, you likely have a real problem, and one that will require a skilled auto technician to remedy.

While the presence of exhaust smoke can indicate a serious car malady, there is a silver lining: the color of that tailpipe plume can give an indication of what might be wrong, which helps to generate a quick and efficient diagnosis.

If the smoking is black:

Black exhaust doesn’t always indicate impending doom. If your car emits a little black smoke at startup, but it clears up as the engine warms to operating temperature, don’t worry – that’s normal for some cars. If it continues after the car warms up, there’s cause for concern.

When the smoking is white:

Does the exhaust smoke quickly dissipate after leaving the tailpipe? If so, it is probably the result of condensation building up within your car’s exhaust system. This is a common sight when cars, even modern ones, are first started in the morning. If it continues well after start-up, then you may have serious trouble. White exhaust smoke often happens when an engine burns coolant that has leaked into the combustion chamber.

If the smoking is blue or gray:

Thick blue or gray smoke is an indication of the vehicle burning oil, which means that oil is somehow leaking into your engine’s combustion chamber. Burning oil like this can cause a wide range of issues from reduced fuel economy to less-than-stellar acceleration. There may also be an increase in hydrocarbon emissions, as well as damage to the catalytic converter.


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It depends on the source and cause of the smoke. Given the number of variables outlined above, costs can vary quite a bit. By taking care of the issue expeditiously, you may save yourself a bundle down the road before whatever issue is at the root of the smoke worsens.