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Thread: Air blowing out of engine cap, white smoke out exhaust

  1. #1
    Forum Newbie
    My Van(s):
    1985 Toyota van
    Join Date
    Jul 2017
    Rep Power

    Air blowing out of engine cap, white smoke out exhaust

    Hi there,

    I've been pretty concerned these past few months on whether or not my van will make it to the next 50,000 mile checkpoint and hit 300,000. She currently has just over 250,000, I have had her for 2 years now. And have done oil changes every 3-5,000 miles. This last time around, about 7,000 miles ago, I put a more expensive oil filter (rated for 10,000) miles in her and have just topped her off every 2000 miles or so with full synthetic 10-30 oil. The color of the oil looks fine everytime. I have noticed more grime on the engine as of late, compared to ever before.

    My radiator light came on about 5 weeks ago. Fluid was low for the first time since i've owned her. Topped her off. Last week, light came back on. I checked and the fluid was low so I topped her off. No signs of overheating. My temperatrue gauge rarely gets past the 90 degree angle. I did this check when she was off and out of curiosity, I opened the radiator cap, and fluid came pushing out.

    Yesterday I couldn't get my car started, I had left the lights on for 30 minutes or so the night before. I typically have to 'feather' the gas pedal when I turn the ignition to get her to start after sitting for a cold night or two. The battery didn't have enough juice to keep pushing while I feathered and she wouldn't start. I had my roommate attach jumper cables from his car to mine and the battery would stay strong but my van just wouldn't turn over, I held the gas pedal down for a couple seconds and she began to pudder, pushing, almost starting, but no go. Took my battery in and got it tested, they said it was bad so I hoped that really was it.

    Today I attached the new battery, and went to start her up. Same thing, I cranked the ignition and feathered, a lot longer than I have every needed to before (excepts when she sat for multiple weeks in a cold mountain home in a cold norcal winter.) Eventually, she started to puddder, blowing a cloud of white smoke out of the exhaust and really shaking the entire van with each wave. I opened the engine oil cap and felt big burps of air pressure pushing out, with each shake of the engine/van. I let her run for a bit and checked oil which was fine. No more smoke clouds out of the exhaust and everything was fine.

    Any ideas? Advice?

  2. #2
    Van Obsessed
    My Van(s):
    88 4WD DLX 5spd
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Ontario, Canada
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    Re: Air blowing out of engine cap, white smoke out exhaust

    DVM - First off, welcome to the club.
    I am sure that everyone is kinda scratching their head, I know I am.
    Not really sure where to start but lets roll some dice....

    As to oil filters, there are quality filters and there are crap filters.
    The 2nd kind should never be used.
    There is no such thing as a "longer life oil filter" that is marketing hype pure and simple.
    Synthetic oil is a great thing, especially when used in an engine specifically designed for it, it can also be great on other engines but the general rule of thumb is the younger, the better.
    I would not personally switch to synthetic oil on an engine that is well worn in unless I lived someplace where extreme cold came into play.
    Now, lots of people do, but as Synthetic is a smaller molecule, it is better able to leak past worn seals, rings, valves.......
    leaks and oil burning are 2 common issues on high mileage engines that get "converted".

    I am confused about your coolant issues.
    Cooling systems are sealed, once full they should require no topping up, unless of course there is a leak somewhere.
    An engine that is low on coolant will run hot, period.
    I am not sure how you can be low on coolant but not overheating.
    If you have to keep adding coolant, it is leaking somewhere and if it isn't leaking externally, then the only other option would be an internal leak.
    As to coolant gushing out when the engine cap is removed, if the engine was hot at the time, that is situation normal.
    Never open that cap when the engine is hot, hospital visits are a common side-effect of ignoring that advice.

    Fuel injected vehicles should not require touching the gas pedal while starting.
    If you can only get it started by working the throttle, something is not functioning correctly.
    But activating the fuel circuit (feathering the pedal) has nothing to do with the engine cranking.
    I am not familiar with the term "puddering", what exactly do you mean by that?

    I would have to guess that you have at least 5 different issues going on and its time to do some detective work.

    Given that the engine is grimier than it used to be, an engine shampoo would be on order to find out if your "grime" is actually oil or coolant leaks.
    Also, check for stored codes.
    Then get real familiar with the search function, all you need to know is already out there.
    Cooling systems have been covered to beyond the nth degree, as has no start/click issues and you'll probably want to get familiar with the TPS thread too.

    Losing coolant without no outward signs of leaks and white exhaust smoke are not good omens.
    White smoke would usually indicate coolant, but given the no start issue and repeated attempts to start, it isn't a "smoking gun", just yet.

  3. #3
    Van Fan VanCo's Avatar
    My Van(s):
    1987 Toyota Van LE 4x4 5spd, on 30x9.50R15s, boosted to 7PSI
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
    Salt Lake City
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    Re: Air blowing out of engine cap, white smoke out exhaust

    Air coming out of the engine oil fill cap while the engine is running is normal. It's called blow by. A lot of blow by is expected on an engine with high millage.

    An engine doesn't use/lose coolant for no reason. It's either leaking it, or burning it. Further diagnosis on the cooling system is in order.

    As stated, fuel injected motors do not need the gas pedal "feathered" when starting. Doing this can confused the computer and actually flood the engine with fuel. Especially if you have multiple attempts at starting with it not starting. These old EFI systems were smart, but think original Nintendo smart. Further diagnosis on the hard start (needing to "feather") is required.

    In your closing you said it runs fine now. If the is the case I wouldn't worry about the hard start you described, if it was a truly isolated incident. I would diagnose the cooling system, and needing to "feather" problems.

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