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My never ending nightmare...Please help!

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New User

Aug 2, 2014, 5:01 PM

Post #1 of 6 (1273 views)
post icon My never ending nightmare...Please help! Sign In

I have a 1999 Buick Century Limited 3.1 with 149,000 miles on it.


So in the last 2 months or so I have replaced the engine mounts/transmission mount and front end suspension as well as the return hose on the power steering (longer hose still leaking), put in some Lucas Rack/Pinion Stop Leak but my Rack and Pinion is leaking, a new brake line and a rear driver side linkage (because the towing company broke it when it got towed)....about $1500 in repairs on a car that has 149k miles on it...I don't have $$ to keep pouring in this (credit card limits are reaching max) but I don't have $$ to purchase a new car...

I mean where does it end...

Well it doesn't.

Recently my car has been running warmer than normal, not quite overheating, but running warmer than normal. I also have been getting a strong fuel/exhaust smell from the tail pipe. I took it to get looked over and was told it was my fuel lines, another place told me it was my fuel filler neck, and another place told me that it is likely due to my Air to Fuel ratio is off. I was also told I need a coolant flush and thermostat replacement. The same place told me that they would put in BG 44K fuel system cleaner and then some Ethanol protectant as well totalling $420. Owner told me it would be $350 for flush and thermostat change and then $70-80 to put the cleaner in my fuel system. Get out of here with that crap.

So I went to Advanced Auto, got a new air filter, CRC MAF Sensor Cleaner, a new radiator cap because my old one was not staying put correctly, and some Techron fuel system cleaner because it almost has the same ingredients as the BG 44K which I can't find anywhere.

So I put the Techron fuel cleaner in, filled my gas tank up and came home. I took apart the MAF housing unit and sprayed it with the CRC Cleaner as directed and let it dry for an hour. I then changed the radiator cap which I realized had some black thick sludge on the top.

I reassembled the MAF unit. Started the car up. Went to go smell my exhaust. What do I see?

White smoke coming from the tail pipe and condensation on the black top. Are you freaking kidding me?

So I thought maybe I didn't put the MAF sensor assembly back correctly. I took it apart and put it back together. I did this 3 times.

Start the car. Still getting white smoke. I sit in the car while it is running and press down the gas. More white smoke comes out of the tail pipe when I hit the gas pedal. Great.

I am thinking maybe a blown head gasket? I let the car run for a while and still noticed a strong fuel/exhaust smell from the tailpipe along with the smoke. I checked my oil level on the dip stick....not milky. I took off the oil filler cap and did notice a little steam coming out.

I checked the coolant reservoir and it doesn't smell like exhaust.

Car still running warmer than usual.

Any ideas what is going on? Is the MAF sensor causing this? I don't have a CEL.

Maybe I have had a blown head gasket this entire time and that has been what is causing the car to run rich and warmer than normal??

I guess I will just try and drive it a mile down the road (I don't feel safe driving it further than that) to the mechanic and Monday but I really can't take it anymore. This is one never ending nightmare.

TL;DR - Tried to do clean my MAF, change radiator cap and put Techron fuel system cleaner in as well as air filter and now my car is blowing white smoke with strong gas/fuel smell coming from tailpipe. Big wet mark under tailpipe. Smoke get's worse when I hit the gas pedal. What is going on?

Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator
Discretesignals profile image

Aug 3, 2014, 8:07 AM

Post #2 of 6 (1245 views)
Re: My never ending nightmare...Please help! Sign In

How does the engine run while the smoke show is going on? You should still scan the engine computer to see if any trouble codes are stored.

White smoke can be a few things.

(1) steam from condensation in the exhaust being burned off. You may notice water dripping from the exhaust. More common in cold humid conditions.

(2) coolant leaking into combustion chambers. The exhaust will have a sweet smell to it and you may notice a loss of coolant. If it severe enough, the engine may misfire.

(3) raw fuel. This is rare but if you have an injector stuck open or enough raw fuel getting into the exhaust from misfiring or some other means, you may see white smoke. The white smoke is actually fuel vapor. It will burn your eyes and will definitely have the smell of fuel.

Since we volunteer our time and knowledge, we ask for you to please follow up when a problem is resolved.

(This post was edited by Discretesignals on Aug 3, 2014, 8:09 AM)

New User

Aug 3, 2014, 10:32 AM

Post #3 of 6 (1234 views)
Re: My never ending nightmare...Please help! Sign In

Thank you for taking time to answer my question.

1. I would hope this to be the case, but unfortunately it is about 75-80 degrees here now with little to no humidity

2. This is what I am fearing. Coolant in the combustion chamber is a BIG problem.

3. This is interesting to me because the white smoke started after I put the Techron in as well as filling up my gas tank. I very rarely put more than 5 gallons at a time in my car (broke college student) so maybe I have had an injector stuck open and that could be what is causing the strong exhaust/fuel smell out of the tail pipe, and now the white smoke.

Is it common for fuel additives to create white smoke out of tailpipe?

Is there a test I can do myself or ask a mechanic to do?

Here is a picture of something I saw when I was doing some inspection. This was under the coolant tank..looks pretty milky. Also there is a great amount of wetness now under the tailpipe that dampens the blacktop.

What does that look like to you?

I am unsure if I should drive it to a mechanic blowing white smoke or call around shops I haven't yet been to and see if they will agree to do diagnostics before they guess what the problem is and then have it towed.

Life has been a mess recently and the timing couldn't be more awful. College is just around the corner and it's a commuter school so transportation is key. As is maintaining my longest distance relationship, and getting rides to doctor's appointments as I have been battling some serious health issues.

Again, many thanks for your time and advice it is much appreciated!

(This post was edited by ihatemycar4 on Aug 3, 2014, 10:58 AM)

Tom Greenleaf
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator
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Aug 3, 2014, 12:13 PM

Post #4 of 6 (1229 views)
Re: My never ending nightmare...Please help! Sign In

OK - It's not condensation and makes noted wetness on asphalt. This has to be loosing coolant (check at radiator not just tank) or as VERY capable DS mentioned the other possible things. Fuel overload would or IMO be more obvious if so much it's dripping engine and more self destructing and you don't need that nor anyone.

I totally understand $$ being an issue but think just ask a pro to take a good look, codes and get a diagnosis so you know what you are dealing with and a guess what it would cost.

Not the place you went before from that read - try another. Rock and hard place, it can't stay like this and getting more expensive without question causing harm now if used too much longer like it is,


New User

Aug 3, 2014, 2:49 PM

Post #5 of 6 (1223 views)
Re: My never ending nightmare...Please help! Sign In

Thanks for your suggestions.

What would make the asphalt wet and white smoke to appear out of the tailpipe? Again, the smoke gets worse when the gas pedal is pressed.

How do I check the radiator for coolant loss?

When my intake manifold gasket was leaking I was bleeding coolant like you wouldn't believe. So far I do not have any external leaks that I can see.

I do not have a CEL light on so I hope that is good.

I would like to use someone's OBDII scanner to see if i can read the fuel trims.

I have lost faith in the last 5-6 shops I have taken my car to get looked at or worked on. There are not many options left to be honest. It is extremely hard to find a good honest shop that will go the extra mile to find out what is wrong with your car and correct it. Again, the timing of all this could not be worse.

Thanks for your answers and time.

(This post was edited by ihatemycar4 on Aug 3, 2014, 3:05 PM)

Tom Greenleaf
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator
Tom Greenleaf profile image

Aug 3, 2014, 3:40 PM

Post #6 of 6 (1216 views)
Re: My never ending nightmare...Please help! Sign In

DS (means Discretesignals) was on this a few posts back but I'm here so will suggest something anyway.
#1 is sorry you've had bad luck with shops finding answers/diagnose it but don't quit - ask around for yet another if need be.

This wetness like water. Try putting some on a paper towel. If you have and should have antifreeze mix in system wet towel and note how fast it dries. Antifreeze mix will not dry so fast at all - that's one answer towards the issue.

It about has to have codes and places like Autozone do this for free but get the #s found not their idea of what to do or buy.

Check if the CEL light even works? Just with key on run without starting it should light as a bulb test function. There can be codes even without it lit when running in wait but you have some clear troubles with this smoke thing which probably is a head gasket job you don't want the expense of. Don't make it worse by trying sealers that claim then can fix that as they both will NOT AND cause more problems!

Take radiator cap off and look in radiator for level. It should be airless and full up. A radiator cap alone can fail such that it might hold pressure but not vacuum to draw back coolant from the tank so could appear fine and be low for real and that's a problem of course.

This smoke coming from something even if colors and odor isn't helping white is usually coolant/water issues. It's not cold enough for the condensation thing with temps you mentioned.

If this is fuel dumping making smoke it's trouble for cylinder washing off oil that lubes it and can make oil level too full all depending.

You said bucks were a huge issue. Understood. Pressure testing you could do if again a place like Autozone will rent you one. Gotta ask. The places do that with 100% deposits for the thing for safe return.

Then you could begin some fact finding yourself. Sorry I can't read this whole thread while replying but can you pull spark plugs and do this pressure test? If a cylinder is soaked or more than one it should show on spark plug especially with pressure test but they could be telling of other as well. They should all look about the same is the idea.

Trying to think up things you can do cheap or free here. After knowing coolant is full at radiator you could or should wash the cap which may be helpful or new if you can't test it. From cold feel pressure in upper radiator hose for pressure before starting. Start it and feel for pressure to build. It's not all that fast so if just a minute and it feels tighter w pressure that isn't good. As system warms it should hold pressure just from expansion of the coolant and needs to.

Unfortunately I still think the issue is head gasket(s) and gets pricey. I just can't think of a way out if that, that isn't going to cost bucks - up there sometimes if done properly and not so DIY friendly.

You need to know somehow so you can make a plan. There's not a lot of faking it depending on the problem but if in fact head gasket the pressure cap isn't helping the consumption so would smoke less with no pressure by way of cutting or disabling a cap to not hold pressure which is hacking it as you need it to hold pressure because normal and needed operating temps are close to the boiling point and the pressure raises the temp coolant will boil - by 3 degrees F. per lb. rating of the pressure cap if working.

Bubbles of boiling don't cool! That's the issue with that.

Again - you've got to know if just to plan on how to deal with this and get to school. Tough to make decent bucks AND college at the same time - I feel for you and trying. You know best what some plan "B" might be if this turns out way too expensive,


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