Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!
Rob writes: After almost a year of waiting for my local mechanic to replace a head gasket, my subject pickup is just now home but upon start-up is belching thick white smoke. The thick white smoke stops after a minute or two but my question is could this appearance of water in the exhaust be a result of the gas sitting for so long in the tank? I’m afraid the sweetish smell is going to confirm the inadequacy of the machine work and that the head gasket replacement probably didn’t work but I thought I would ask your thoughts. I suspect water in the gas would not smell so sweet.
My reply: My question to you – or rather, your mechanic – is, why did it take a year to do a simple head gasket replacement? A frame-up restoration could have been done in that time!
As regards the rest: I suspect the job was botched. Thick white smoke should not be coming out of the tailpipe and if it is, it indicates what you indicated. A few simple tests can confirm. Look for bubbles in the coolant as well as coolant loss (without any puddles under the car). Check compression in all four cylinders; a vacuum test may show erratic readings.
The water in the gas thing is even easier to confirm or deny; simply burn up what’s in the tank and add fresh gas and see whether the white smoke goes away. I suspect that your Miata wouldn’t be running at all if there was that much water in the tank…
Very sorry about this. And hopefully, we’re both wrong.
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