Table of Contents
By Jack Bulko, AutoAid
Imagine this scenario: You’re driving down the street when suddenly you notice smoke billowing out from under the hood of your car. Panic sets in, and you’re left wondering what to do next. Don’t worry, I’ve got your back. As an experienced auto specialist, I’ve dealt with countless cases like this before, and I’m here to guide you through it.
Assessing the Situation
When it comes to diagnosing what’s happening under the hood, it’s crucial to rely on your senses. I advised the distressed customer to pull over to the side of the road immediately if they hadn’t done so already. Safety always comes first. I also asked them to check their dashboard for any warning lights, like temperature or oil indicators, that could point to a problem. Additionally, I inquired about the smell, density, distance from the car, and whether they had an auto club membership.
In this particular situation, it turned out the customer had a membership with a road service company that offered towing assistance. I suggested they call them for a tow to our shop. If they didn’t have that service, we would have dispatched a tow truck to them. Safety is paramount.
Decoding the Smoke Signals
Now, let’s talk about the smoke itself. When you see smoke under the hood, it’s likely to be white in color. White smoke or steam can stem from various issues, all of which require immediate attention. A ruptured cooling system hose, a cracked radiator, or overheating due to cylinder head or gasket failure can all cause white steam. On the other hand, white smoke, which differs in density and odor, is often the result of leaking engine oil, transmission fluid, steering fluid, or brake fluid coming into contact with a hot exhaust pipe. This type of smoke can potentially ignite a fire.
It’s important to note that the color and odor of exhaust pipe smoke can also provide valuable clues. White, black, or bluish smoke indicates fuel, oil, or water consumption.
Our Diagnostic Process
Once the distraught driver arrived at our shop, we took every precautionary measure before opening the hood. Safety always comes first, so we wanted to ensure there were no hazardous steam or fluid eruptions. After that, we conducted a visual inspection to identify any leaks from the coolant, oil, brake fluid, or steering fluid. Even though I had a hunch based on the high temperature gauge and the sweet smell the customer mentioned, I wanted to confirm my theory through diagnostics.
After completing the visual inspection and running some tests, my suspicions were confirmed. The coolant level in their car was dangerously low. There were likely warning signs, such as white smoke from the tailpipe, which the driver had chosen to ignore. By the time they reached out to us and brought their car in, the coolant was almost completely depleted.
Preventive Measures for Future Safety
I took the opportunity to educate the driver on the importance of regularly checking their coolant, oil, and transmission fluid levels to avoid such problems. Additionally, I suggested setting up a standard maintenance program to keep their vehicle in top shape and prevent future issues. I assured them that each time they brought their car in for a “healthy checkup,” we would perform a courtesy inspection. This incident was a wake-up call, and the driver was fortunate to have avoided costly and time-consuming repairs.
AutoAid: Your Trusted Automotive Partner
AutoAid has been proudly serving the San Fernando Valley community since 1979. Located in Van Nuys, we provide exceptional service for a wide range of car brands, including domestic, Asian, and European models. Our commitment to quality has been recognized by AAA, who awarded us with the Approved Auto Repair and Customer Service Award. Whether you need an oil change or find your car smoking under the hood, bring it to our expert technicians who will diagnose and fix the issue efficiently and effectively. Contact us today at 818-305-6632 or schedule an appointment online to experience our top-notch service firsthand. We’re here to serve you and keep you safe on the road.