Okay guys...here's one for ya....just got back from driving my '20 Roadster to the voting place, about an 8 mile round trip, I come to a stop sign about a mile from home, and happened to glance over my right shoulder only to notice a puff of mostly whitish, but maybe a slight hint of blue, smoke from the exhaust. While underway, seems clean. Next stop same thing. Come home, put her in the garage, left it running, right now the exhaust is clean, raised hood, but noticed quite a bit of the same whitish smoke coming out from under the breather cap on the oil fill pipe. I did notice a bit of this smoke last fall and on the rare occasions over the winter when it was warm enough to at least start the engine and warm it up sitting still, but blew it off as maybe condensation from the crankcase and/or transmission. Now I think there's something major going on. Maybe the headgasket? It doesn't seem to leak a drop all around the outside. Engine is probably still fairly low mileage on a rebuild from '08 as I don't think the previous owners drove it much. When it cools I'll check the water level and see if it's gone down appreciably yet, or may be too soon to tell.
White smoke on start-up is the water vapor turning to steam. The air has moisture in it and at slow engine speeds you can see the steam but there is so little of it that you will not see it while driving. In the morning if you are following another car you will see steam coming from their tail pipe as you wait for the signal to change.
You also mentioned blue smoke, and that is oil from combustion gasses sneaking past the cylinder walls and valve guides. It is normal on a worn engine or one of very simple design such as a Model T and if it goes away after it warms up I wouldn't worry about it.
When it gets bad, you will leave a cloud of smoke at a stop sign when you depart and that is when it is time to rebuild.
Sounds like you need to pull the head and get a better grasp of what's happening. I think you just have a spot leaking somewhere on your head gasket. It doesn't sound like it's a big deal or a crazy obvious leak. If you do pull the head, FIRST thing is take pictures to post on the board and DON'T wipe anything off. Several folks have immediately started cleaning and then realized it would have been easier to tell what was happening if they hadn't done that first.
Black smoke indicates a rich fuel mixture, blue smoke is oil consumption. Blue smoke is usually heaviest after descending a hill or slowing down with the throttle closed, then when the throttle is opened, a cloud of blue smoke comes out the exhaust. White smoke is a sign of coolant. This is most noticeable after the car has been parked and the engine started up. It will decrease as the engine warms up.
Water can seep into the cylinders from a very tiny leak in the gasket or a crack in either head or block. If only a few drops of water get in, it will steam and cause the white "smoke" after starting. If a lot of water gets in it could "lock" the engine. The lock is caused because water does not compress when the piston comes up.
In any case, the cause of the leak needs to be found and repaired. Coolant will seep past the rings into the crankcase and cause damage. If you are lucky, it is only a gasket.
The usual reason for white smoke is anti freeze cooking. That is if you're running it in the rad. Blue is generally associated with oil. Perhaps some blow-by and a head gasket goin' south is your problem. The water level might not be an indication because a leak like that won't take much to smoke. Pull the plugs and look for one that looks different. If your pulling water into one cylinder that plug will show some evidence.
Tim, you can sometimes stop the excessive white/blue smoke by going to a heavier weight oil such as 10w40 or 20w50. It is an inexpensive fix until you can get into it.My 26 smokes badly on 10w30 brand new rings ,pistons etc.i went to 10w40 and no more smoke,this would happen when coasting down long hills or backing off a long way from a stop it looked like the bug fogging truck.
Thanks to all you great guys for the pointers. Rick, I've already got the 10W40 in her now, and to be sure, I would only guess what I saw might have been 2% blue, the rest white. More I kept thinking about it all day, it probably was more white than not. What I forgot to mention too, was there suddenly showed up about 3 or 4 droplets of water on the windshield, it was a mostly sunny day, and yes, the cloud or two out there could've pee'd on me. I do run anti-freeze, but then, that small amount may not have shown any color either. Could be a tiny leak coming out the back of the head too, being blown up through the joint of the hood laying on the shroud. Who knows. I'll know Thurs. when I pull the head. Got a gasket already on the way. I'll keep y'all posted!
Cooked anti frz. is darn near clear. At least coming out of the tail pipe. Looks like water but was a sweet taste (if you dare). A drop on the tongue from a finger.
If it isn't too late, you could check the torque on the headbolts. Don't go over about 50 ft/lbs. If a couple are even a bit loose (like maybe 30ft/lbs?), sometimes you can stop it in time. Usually, once they start leaking (if it is just the gasket), it will require replacing the headgasket. I have been fortunate a couple times and saved them. Hopefully, it isn't something worse.
Now, if there is a crack, it depends upon where it is, and where it is heading to. Most people don't want to admit it to themselves, but many, many, old engines have cracks and run fine with them for many years and lots of miles. Again, depending where a crack is, often the best thing to do is ignore the crack and enjoy the car.
Do let us know what you find. Some of us look forward to updates.
Drive carefully, and enjoy, W2
I've had heads leak at the back and onto the exhaust.
Do a leakdown test and you won't need to pull the head and waste a gasket. It will tell you right away what if anything is going on. I don't know why more people do not do it. If you need info to do it, let me know.
After the car has not run for a day or two I would drain a little oil from the engine oil sump(better have a drain pan in place in case you are unable to get plug re-tightened quickly)to evaluate the water content of the oil. Liquid water separated from the oil in the sample or a grey/milky color to the sample is an indication of trouble. Tell us what you find.
Wayne: Yes, I will definitely re-post updates, either on this same thread, or a new one. Thanks for your advice, interesting approach on "letting it be"...will ponder that as I walk through this.
Doug...yes, I could use the info on a leakdown test, I'm assuming it may have something to do with pressurizing the system, but not sure how....thru the rad cap? Let me know! You can P.M. me via my profile if you wish
William....thanks, I thought about this laying in bed this morning thinking about "Lizzie Belle"....I do plan to drain some oil out, and even send in a sample for evaluation. Hmmm...another thread?
I'll keep ya all posted. May be a day or two. No time today to even look at it.
And thanks guys for all the support!
Tim: If you remove the head I suggest you have it surfaced. Almost all T heads are warped and will cause the head gasket to fail. JP
Thanks Jack! Yep, I agree. I can run it down to Griff's engine shop to have it done.
You should of mentioned that when you where here this eve, I have some already milled, Tim Morsher left with one this eve for one of his toys.
yeah, lame brain me thought of that after I put "Pete" back into the barn! Had so much on my mind, and we picked your brain so much, I guess it just slipped mine! Thanks for the thought.
The hint of blue occurring only at stops leads me to mention something Mike Bender told me recently. He once had a T that smoked only when stopped, and found that one of the pistons was installed with the split toward the wrong side of the engine. Not likely here, but a possibility to check if nothing else proves problematic.
Why don't you change the oil before you do anything beyond tighten the head bolts? If there's no water there then there's likely no major problem. If head bolts are loose, then that could be your problem.
Well, yesterday I took the head off the '20, and lo and behold, here's water laying on the block, between #2 and #3 cylinder. Took spark plugs out first, of course, and they already told the story even before putting the wrench on the headbolts. I drained the oil first, and altho it did seem a bit thinner, it still looked pretty clean from previous change,and not milky. BUT, only getting 2 gals. of water out of the radiator REALLY told the story!(I actually have my chronology a bit backward here-maybe I'm dislexic!) So now the head's at the machine shop to be cleaned and milled, got the pistons all clean and sparkly, and the top of the block all cleaned up as much as can be. Some dark-ishness around the valves that I'll call more like a dark stain. I'm not an expert, but don't think it's any real concern. After all, she ran like a top even while she was burning antifreeze! I took plenty of pics, but once I loaded them on the computer I discovered they were too many KB's to upload here. I'll try later to maybe shrink 'em or something. Tried it once before with no luck.