White smoke is coming out of Jim's Honda: new pope or something else?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Aug 01, 1992

Dear Tom and Ray:

I own a 1985 Honda Accord five speed with 132,000 miles. I change the oil every 3,000 miles and monitor all other vital fluids. The car gets good gas mileage and runs fairly well, but I have a problem with white smoke that comes out of the tailpipe when I start the car, and when I accelerate after idling in traffic. I've had the engine looked at, but no one seems to have a clue. Any ideas?

TOM: Well, Jim, a good mechanic can often diagnose a problem simply by looking at the color of the exhaust that comes out of the tailpipe. For instance, black smoke means that the fuel/air mixture is too rich.

RAY: Blue smoke, on the other hand, means that oil is getting burned in at least one of the cylinders.

TOM: And white smoke generally means that a new pope has been elected.

RAY: Actually, Jim, white smoke means that coolant is getting into one of the combustion chambers. The white smoke you see is vaporized antifreeze coming out the tailpipe. And antifreeze is probably getting into the combustion chamber because you have a cracked head gasket.

TOM: A new head gasket is going to cost you about $400 bucks. So if you don't mind spending $400 bucks on a car with 132,000 miles on it, go ahead and do it. But on the other hand, if you're not losing very much coolant, another option is to just keep driving. Just make sure you keep an eye on the coolant level, and don't let it run out. That's what I would do.

RAY: That's what we're doing with my brother, too. He's got high mileage and he's falling apart. So we just keep giving him plenty of fluids, and an occasional jump start in the morning.

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