White smoke from my Honda Civic 94

Hello,
I have a Honda Civic 94. For the past two days, when I drive 10 miles from college back to my home and start the car after 15 or 20 minutes, my car shudders a lot and I see lots of white smoke from my
exhaust. After this when I drive, the smoke gradually goes away after one minute of driving. If I leave the car and start it the next morning (a gap of 12hours) or start from college back home (a gap of 10 hours), there is no smoke but the car shudder very very lightly. It is not cold here now in San Francisco.
Can I know the reason why there is smoke only when I start the car after letting it cool for some minutes after driving for 10 miles and not leaving it off for a very long time. I am a student and on a very tight budget to spend on the car for repairs. So I need this groups help to know what the problem is so that I do not get ripped of at the garage. Can I also know what to check in my car.
Matthew
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I would start by checking the level of coolant in the reservoir right now, then before and after every trip. Monitor over several trips. If you see it going down, right away start carrying extra coolant in a jug in your trunk, preferably Honda OEM. If it continues to go down, stop driving the car, because the likelihood is high that the head gasket is failing, and your engine is not getting enough cooling. The engine can be seriously damaged. Watch your dashboard's temperature gage very closely. Do not drive this car if it's high.
With a failed head gasket, you're looking at a $600 to $1000 repair or so.
Keep checking back, as there might be other causes. But with a lowering coolant level, this one is pretty likely.
Google for {"white smoke" civic} for more discussion. Then google for {"head gasket" symptoms} for other things you can check to see if the head gasket is failing, like coolant in the oil system, and oil in the coolant system, and the white smoke smells sweet, like anti-freeze.
If it's a failed head gasket, then I believe the white smoke is steam. I would expect it to be more plentiful after the car is fully warmed up, since it takes high temperatures to convert coolant to steam.
Updates welcome.

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On 4 Feb 2006 09:27:59 -0800, matthew snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com wrote:

This sure sounds like water in the system. I agree with everything the other poster said. I would add to pull the dipstick and look at the oil when the engine is cold, or at least cool. If the oil is milky looking, that is an indication of water in the oil. The water-oil mixture gets emulsified and looks milky.
If the oil is not milky, then a head gasket leak is the likely culprit. if the oil is milky, then it could still be a head gasket, but that also raises the possibility of a cracked block or cracked head.
If you confirm it is a coolant leak by following the instructions in the pther post, and a repair is out of the question, then a can of leak stop is always a possibility. I have had, over many years, good success with Bars Leak.
Hope one of the replies helps.
Elliot Richmond Freelance Science Writer and Editor
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On Sat, 04 Feb 2006 20:22:18 GMT, Elliot Richmond

excessive white smoke from the exhaust is a classic symptom of a head gasket issue or something along the lines of a cracked head.
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Hello,
I am sorry I missed the reference to Bars Leak you had mentioned as I thought it was some sort of term when I first read it. It became clear when I read Elle's reference to your posting. Also I went and googled Bars Leak. An interesting product. There are several products from Bars to stop the leak like Radiator Stop Leak, Block Seal Liquid Copper Sealer, etc. Can you please tell me which one will be effective in my case. I understand that it might or might not fix the issue but I am willing to give it a try incase the mechanic diagnose the car and estimates a big bill.
Matthew
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On 5 Feb 2006 15:46:46 -0800, matthew snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com wrote:

Bar's Leaks Original Stop Leak is the only one with which I have any experience. I have seen it work in many extraordinary situations and as far as I know, it will not harm your engine. However, even under the best circumstances I would only consider it a temporary repair.
When you open the bottle, you will see the contents are a black liquid with many lumps of stuff. That's how it is supposed to look. Make sure there is room in the radiator for it and just dump it in, lumps and all.
Hope this helps.
Elliot Richmond Freelance Science Writer and Editor
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Thanks for all your reply. It really helped a lot and will watch for the coolant and take coolant with me till this issue is fixed.
I looked at the coolant level and it has decreased around 2 inches since the past 15 days. When I noticed the level 15 days back the engine was very very hot (see below). After I saw Elle's post, I looked at the coolant level (the engine was not driven since 11 hours) and noticed the decrease in coolant. Will the coolant level will increase when the engine is very very hot? If yes, the decrease of 2 inches noticed might not be a correct observation.
To give a little history: 16 days back, while driving with the heater on at level "1", I felt unusually warm after driving for 8 or 9 miles and noticed the dashboard temperature going high. I immediately stopped the car and had it towed. The mechanic showed me coolant on the entire width of the top and over the radiator and mentioned that the top of the radiator had cracked. He also showed me that there is no white smoke from the exhaust and also opened the oil cap (he mentioned he was looking for milky white formation inside the oil cap to see signs of water inside the engine) and mentioned the engine has not been affected. The whole radiator was replaced and the coolant filled up. When driving back (again 10 miles), the dashboard temperature went very high. I called up the mechanic. He asked me to look at the level of the coolant and it was full (as mentioned above). He asked me to drive back to the garage with the heater fully on. At the garage, he found and showed me that the fan for the radiator was not spinning and the dashboard was still showing high temperature. He shorted the temperature sensor and the fan spun. So he replaced the temperature sensor. I have been driving with no problem till two days back.
Last week as part of my car maintenance I had the Air Filter replaced, Transmission fluid flushed and filled up, Fuel System cleaned, put in new oil and replace the oil filter.
And now this....
Matthew
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The coolant level definitely rises in proportion to the engine temperature. If one checks a properly functioning Honda with the engine stone cold (after 10 hours of sitting, engine off, say), the level in the reservoir will be X. Drive the car until the temperature gage reads normal (like for 20 minutes, assuming the outside temperature is not super low), and the rise in the level should be noticeable. Two inches above X is not all that unusual.

I agree.
As your next step, I recommend doing a purge and fill of the cooling system to the precise, proper level. See the www.autozone.com free online manaul for the exact steps. Since you have had problems with the fan, make sure it comes on. Again, it will take at least 30 minutes for the car (sitting and idling, while you read a magazine) to warm up enough to start the fan twice. If it doesn't come on after 60 minutes, I'd be worried about the fan switch yada.
Follow the manual's instructions on checking the level. It should say to check the level after the car has been fully warmed up, engine off. It should read at the "Max" line. Of course you can also check it when it's cool and compare to other readings you do on other days when it's cool. If there's a serious leak, it will be obvious very quickly.
During all these radiator and overheat problems, your car may have overheated and caused a breach between engine cylinders and cooling system. E.g. a failed head gasket or some other breach, like the other posters said.
I can't quite tell when the oil change was done relative to the mechanic taking a look a the oil's condition. If you just did an oil change, then coolant in the oil may not be obvious.
Also, you can check the coolant in the reservoir and look for signs of oil in it.
So far, I still suspect a seriously damaged engine that will limp along but get progressively worse (and possibly increasingly more expensive to repair?). Nothing else occurs to me to explain the white smoke. Sounds like you're being careful, anyway. Let the group know how it goes. It will help others.

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Elle, Thanks for the reply and appreciate your response for the following:
1.If the new radiator was not put back correctly by the mechanic, can the coolant leak into the oil system?
2.If the coolant leaked into the oil system, can I expect to find a milky white oil when I check the inside of the oil cap? I will also check the coolant level and oil in the coolant system as you have mentioned.
3.From all the helpful reply, I strongly suspect the coolant has leaked. The reason for my suspicion is - When I start the engine when it is dead cold, there is no smoke but there is small shudder when I start the car. There is no smoke all the way to college which is 10 miles (it takes 20 minutes drive this 10 miles). When I start the engine 15 minutes after the engine is hot of driving 10 miles, I see white smoke and the car shudders a lot. When I reach the college and instead of starting after 15 minutes but start after 11 hours (the engine is dead cold), there is no smoke. So I see smoke only when the engine is hot and you had mentioned that it take high temperature for coolant to convert to steam. Is my deduction some what correct that coolant has leaked into the oil system?
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Good questions, all.

I too was trying to think of how that coolant could get into the cylinders, and then out the exhaust. I just can't see how replacing the radiator could easily get coolant into the oil system (and then into the cylinders, and then out the exhaust as steam). The two systems are piped completely separately. There's a link at the end of this post that backs this up.
Something far-fetched, though: Your mechanic had the oil fill cap off (or maybe the valve cover?) when replacing the radiator? There is no reason these should be off during a radiator replacement, though. I still think you're looking at a head gasket problem or cracked cylinder head.

From my reading oil contaminated with coolant is not necessarily obvious by just looking inside where the oil fill cap fits.
Others will have to comment here.

That shudder it seems to me results from poor ignition of a fuel, air, and now coolant mixture. Coolant doesn't ignite.

I hear you. Maybe any crack there is, or breach of the gasket, doesn't get serious until metal parts expand and make the crack or breach wider.

The only way I can see coolant and oil mixing is via the engine cylinders: Oil lubricates the cylinder sides, but coolant is getting into the cylinders via a breach of some kind. Some of the coolant mixes with the oil and goes to the crankcase, etc.
Keep monitoring the coolant reservoir level. Constantly check the temperature gage.
http://www.2carpros.com/topics/whitesmk.htm has some interesting commentary on intermittent white smoke, etc. It suggests that the car's overheating shrunk the head gasket.
By the way, if it were my car, I would be investigating further the sealer Elliot suggested. I haven't used such a sealer, but it might work.
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If you have a blown head gasket or a cracked block go to the enclosed link and read about SteelSeal. http://www.steelseal.com/eng/home.html I have used it and it works.
On Sun, 05 Feb 2006 20:43:39 GMT, "Elle"

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