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1992 Tercel...SSSmokin'
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February 19, 2007, 12:41 PM
I have a 92 Tercel that just recently, when starting up, it would run rough (sputter) for about a couple of minutes and then eventually smooth out. Even when the engine has smoothed out somewhat, the exhaust smoke comes out the back like I was sending smoke signals. When idoling the smoke is constant, but at a lower level. When the car is put into drive, it stalls. I have to keep the brake and the gas going at the same time when sitting still to keep it from stalling.
Before this happened, I have to refill the coolant once a week. Now it needs to be filled after I go about 15 to 20 miles. The steam leaks out from the front hood cracks.
Recently, the engine would also get hot like it was going to overheat. I fill the coolant and it starts to steam from under the exhaust manifold and slowly drips down the engine block to the ground.
I'm hoping to at least be able to drive it to my mechanic without it overheating.

Any input would be greatly appreciated.


February 19, 2007, 6:21 PM
What color is the smoke coming out of the exhaust? Does it have a peculiar odor? Have you check the level of motor oil? How does the motor oil look, does it look like dark motor oil or something a bit more viscous - like mayonnaise?

If the smoke is very dense and white in color, sometimes has a sweet smell or just smells odd. Chances are good that you have a blown headgasket or even a cracked cylinder head or block. From your description - could be terminal for the car. Hard to say for sure - but if you have to refill the coolant that often and there isnt any puddle of coolant on the ground when you park - looks like a blown hose (minimum) or cracked cylinder head (eventually equal a dead engine).

The sputtering on startup is probably water/coolant getting into the cylinder and fouling the spark plug(s). This will make the engine run very poorly until the pkugs clean themselves. By that time, enough heat has been generated to ensure a steady stream of water/coolant into the affected cylinders - giving you that smoke show.

With most cars - you generally never have to add coolant, as that is what the recovery tank is for. This probably indicated that there was a serious problem with the engine and only a matter of time before something like this happened.

Hopefully the damage is not too extensive - but be prepared for the worst (blown engine). Even if you fix the cylinder or headgasket - much damage has already been done to the internal bearing surfaces and valvetrain. Eventually, those will fail as well. Even for the headgasket repair (best case) - just the labor charges involved alone can run into the hundreds of dollars.

Good Luck.

February 19, 2007, 10:28 PM
The smoke is a whitish to light gray in color and is thick when coming out, but somewhat disapates shortly after emission. It does have the odor that you describe.
The oil looks no different than usual, but it didnt look mayonaisy in viscosity.
I hope its not as bad as you describe, but your explanation sounds very close to the problem.

February 20, 2007, 11:53 AM
Sure sounds like coolant leasked into the combustion - signs are thick white to off-white smoke that, like you said, dissipates quickly (most of it is just water vapor, steam). If it was burning oil - then it would have more of a bluish tint to the exhaust and persists for some time. Good sign is that it may not have contaminated the crankcase (water/coolant mixed with the oil would look like mayonnaise). You can have oil analysis done to see if water/coolant has penetrated the crankcase. Even a small quantity mixed in there could mean more expensive repairs down the road. Best case you can hope for is a blown headgasket - hope that this is the case. Good luck.

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