Blown head gasket... but??

Hi all,
I'm the owner of a 1994 Honda Civic DX. Well anyhoo, I was driving to work the other day, and all of a sudden my engine started missing. Pulled up to a stop sign, and as I'm idling I look out my rear window
and I notice a plume of white smoke coming from my tailpipe... I sputtered away from the stop sign and drove the rest of the way to work (I was about 2 or 3 miles away by this point) leaving a contrail of white smoke behind me...
Got there, checked the oil, and there was no unusual milky residue or anything. The coolant was low so I topped that off... after work I brought it to the nearest garage, with the same symptoms on the way (sputtering at idle, THICK cloud of smoke that, from as best I could tell was steaming antifreeze)
Haven't heard back yet, but it seems fairly obvious that it's the head gasket. Unless there's something I'm missing?
That being said, I have a couple of questions -
1. Two days prior I picked up a bottle of injector cleaner and added it to my fuel. Is it possible that this somehow worsened the condition, and made it manifest itself now?
2. Wouldn't there be residue in the oil if it's steaming this badly? Or is it possible that the anti-freeze is steaming and being blown out of the engine via the tailpipe without falling into the oil pan?
3. Is there anything else that could cause symptoms like this, or is it pretty much guaranteed that my own assumption is correct?
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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

=============================== Burning brake fluid makes a ton of white smoke. Had any problems with the system using brake fluid mysteriously?
It could just be a valve sticking open, which will allow lots of oil to migrate into the hot exhaust manifold.
'Curly'
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wrote:

how does BRAKE fluid get into the engine? Bad vacuum booster? It would have to be quite a bit of brake fluid,and the brakes would act strange.

--
Jim Yanik
jyanik
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Nope, that seems fine! Only thing it's been using is antifreeze...

...
I wish that were the case. I let it sit all day (the shop had no time to look at it), and when I went back (to move it to a shop that's actually competent with this sort of thing) there weren't any puddles under the car and the coolant level seemed about where it was when I last filled it.

Didn't run it for too long after the problem manifested itself (tried driving a Cavalier home after blowing a headgasket -- one new head later and I'm never trying that again!). However today (after I posted the above message) I went back to the garage and moved the vehicle about two blocks down the street. Checked the coolant -- smelled like exhaust/gas; exhaust plume that the car was emitting was white and reeked of burning antifreeze (again I know that smell well from my experience with the Cavy, just like maple syrup). Seems like an open and shut case, but the oil looked fine?? If it's the head gasket as it seems, perhaps I didn't run the engine long enough after it went to foul the oil. or I guess it could be the intake manifold gasket? I think my mother's buick had similar symptoms when that went. As I examined the vehicle more closely I seem more confident in my original conclusion. I don't know though, these things mystify me, but I guess I'll find out tomorrow.

147k here -- guess I can't complain too hard! By and large, the car's been wonderful. This is just a pain in the a$$...

- Will, Still wondering about that injector cleaner...
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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote in

Whether the coolant ends up in the oil or in the combustion chamber is entirely dependent on WHERE the gasket failed.
The most common failure is that of the fire ring that seals the combustion chamber from the water jacket. This is probably what you've got.
By noodling around in here you're causing more damage to your engine. Go get a "pressure test" done. Quickly. Water is a terrible lubricant.

She had the infamous 3.8 V6 then. Honda has no such issues; different design.

Got nothing to do with it.
Get your head gasket checked ("pressure test") as soon as you can, and don't drive the car in the meantime..
--
Tegger

The Unofficial Honda/Acura FAQ
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It sounds more like you have a busted hose pouring antifreeze over the exhaust.

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Does she overheat?
Look at the coolant overflow tank when it's hot, is it bubbling? Blown Head gasket!
I had a 94 DX, did the same thing at onlu 80k
Sucks!
G-Man

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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

you haven't experienced significant coolant loss, all you really have is a misfire. head gaskets on hondas are usually accompanied by coolant loss and bubbling into the expansion bottle. injector cleaner has nothing to do with it. suggest you do a pressure test for leakage or a chemical test to see if you have hydrocarbons in the coolant. and you won't usually get water in the oil in hondas because the wet liners mean coolant has no access to oil passages unless the block and/or head is cracked.
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When the problem first surfaced, I lost about half of my coolent. Once I stopped the car I topped it off and drove it to the garage. Didn't seem to run THAT hot (maybe a bit warmer than usual, but arrow didn't reach halfway mark, fairly cold day though). Also as noted I didn't really examine the coolant in the expansion bubble with the vehicle running, but it certainly didn't smell right...
Glad to hear the observation on not having water in my oil, seems to corroborate everything else. Good design choice on Honda's part I guess!
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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

you can't rely on the gauge for relative temps - it's non-linear. the only readings that mean anything are cold, normal and hot. because that's all it's designed for.
make sure the coolant is full in the radiator as well as the expansion bottle, and monitor in use. if the gasket is leaking, you will almost certainly get bubbles.

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My own preference for a field test for a bad head gasket (especially with those symptoms) is to start with a cold engine and remove the radiator cap. Start the engine, pinch off the hose to the coolant reservoir and put the palm of your hand over the radiator cap opening for 10-15 seconds. If you feel steadily rising pressure, or worse, pulsations from the engine, it's bad news. I don't recall ever seeing a false positive from this test, but there are occasional false negatives. Bubbles can come from trapped air, but pressure that quickly has to come from the combustion chambers. Pulsations are pretty much a certainty for a bad head gasket or warped head - no crack is that bad!
I agree that the sudden misfire accompanied by clouds of white smoke points strongly to coolant in a combustion chamber. Add the disappearance of the coolant and the mystery is not much of a mystery any more.
Mike
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Just heard back from the shop and they tell me that it's definitely a blown gasket and/or cracked head. They haven't pulled the head yet though.
I'm just wondering how common is it to crack the head on these engines, when the head gasket goes? Even if they have to mill the head they told me I'm looking at a ~$700 repair, which seems reasonable. If the head's cracked... not sure I even want to think about that.
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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

don't repair, replace. you can buy a replacement jdm engine for substantially less. - ~$300. only reason to repair is if it's new or rare. your motor is neither.
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Agreed. Also, the folks doing swaps to the DOHC B series are pretty much giving the old motors away; only, of course, you have to get a guarantee that the new motor doesn't have a cracked head.
Although an drivetrain swap sounds more drastic, in fact there are a lot more things that can go seriously wrong with replacing a head, let alone rebuilding/resurfacing it, than with a simple power trains swap. Including long term problems like when it turns out the new head wasn't torqued down right and blows the gasket again a year or two later...
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look at the spark plugs. if ones real clean then its a head gasket or a crack in the head.lucas
http://www.minibite.com/america/malone.htm
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