Interesting experience this afternoon.

On the way home from a day out and only a few hundred yards from home
today, I noticed a small hatch back by the side of the road with smoke
spewing out of the bonnet. The lady driver as looking somewhat worried
so I pulled over.
I checked for flames, none as far as I could tell, bonnet wasn't unduly
warm, so I decided there was no fire. I asked if she was happy for me to
open the bonnet and did so, making sure she was clear and keeping clear
myself.
There was engine oil all over what seemed to be the exhaust manifold (or
at least its cover). My best guess was the head gasket had gone-
allowing oil to leak out.
While I didn't note the age of the car, it didn't look that old-
certainly under 10 years.
I've not heard of a head gasket going like this in many a year.
Is is something that happens in modern engines?
(She was calling the RAC as I left, I made sure she was OK etc. and the
car wasn't going to ignite- at least as far as I could. )
Reply to
Brian Reay
There was no evidence of flames, the bonnet wasn't unduly warm, etc I'd started to suspect the 'smoke' may be steam (there was no obvious smell),.... so I'd no reason to suspect it would flare up but not standing in front as I (carefully) lifted the bonnet still seemed wise.
Reply to
Brian Reay
Not really. Fire has to get fresh air, with the bonnet shut it can smoother itself, if not completely enough to slow it down. When overheated oil/plastic gets fresh air instead of CO2 laden smoke it can re-ignite. So if you suspect an under bonnet fire have a fire extinguisher to hand.
I had a car written off by the car parked next to it catching fire, due to an electrical fault. The guy opened the bonnet and left it open. The engine bay acted like a hearth, open to draw fresh air in at the bottom, big 6ft high column of flame to create a draught. The fire spread, though the loom into the dash the whole dash went up. It melted all rubber and plastic on side of my car, the wing mirror fell off. If he had shut the bonnet it wouldn't have progressed as quickly and my car might have been OK or it might have been safe enough for me to move my car.
Cortina MKIII 2L was liable to cough and catch fire when starting hot. A rep had been visiting the lab I worked in and his did it. One of the lab machinists/fitters heard it and was straight out the back door with the fire extinguisher. Had the rep out the car, bonnet open and fire out before the rep knew that it was on fire. One of the very few that this happened to that would have been repairable.
Reply to
Peter Hill
There is usually only one oil feed across the head gasket. If it fails the oil will be sprayed under the manifold and not over it. The other oil-ways in the head gasket are drains and not under pressure. Camshaft won't last very long without oil.
The most common source of engine oil is Rocker cover gasket. Failing to refit the filler cap properly. Failed turbo oil feed pipe. Failed oil/water cooler braze, or it's worked loose and unscrewed. Poorly routed breather hose that has either burnt on hot surface or chaffed though.
Reply to
Peter Hill
I didn't take much notice of the car make/model- just a small hatch back. I didn't get the impression it was anything 'flash'- eg with a turbo (I noticed it had spark plugs, or a least leads, so was petrol.)
Other than the oil sprayed and smoking, the engine looked clean so I assume it wasn't that old but, again, when I pulled over my main concern was checking for fire. Then, when was as sure as I could be, trying to see what was going on. Once I was pretty sure it wasn't fire, I thought it was steam and expected to see a burst hose etc. (Remember, there was no smell.)
Reply to
Brian Reay
In article ,
Could just have been a leak from the valve cover whatsit - sort of rocker cover.
Some BMW were notorious for this - rubber gasket which got hard with age. Leaked onto the exhaust manifold. So lots of smoke and smell. But OK to drive home with. Keeping an eye on the low oil level warning.
Reply to
Dave Plowman (News)
I had a Toyota Celica oil pressure sender can leak at the crimped joint.
But as the oil pressure port is usually low down on the side of the block near the sump joint it won't spew oil on the manifold.
Reply to
Peter Hill

Quite!
The first time it went (that we knew of) they were on their way back from Scotland (to London) and had got about half way when they got an oil pressure light. They stopped and checked and found oil all over the front of the engine and bay. They limed to the next services, bought some more oil and topped it up. I suggested they 1) took it easy and 2) stopped every services and re-check / top ... but I'm not sure they did either, judging how little oil there was in there when they got here. ;-(
Same with driving it around with no water (and when topping it up it pours out of the water pump as fast as you can fill it up).
However, they seem to be tough little engines (1.2, 16V) and she's getting closer to her 200K miles target now. ;-)
Cheers, T i m
Reply to
T i m

As you say, it's as easy to get at as the oil filter (that is on the top right). ;-)
Cheers, T i m
Reply to
T i m
If you own a corsa it would be worth carrying a spare oil pressure switch and a spanner to suit (a bit like the old days of having a spare set of points, petrol, water and a fan belt on board)
Reply to
MrCheerful

I think that could be sage advice (and reminds me she may already have an oil pressure switch in the glovebox). ;-)
She generally carries oil and water (foot pump, jump leads, emergency light, tow rope) but has used them more for others than herself (luckily).
Cheers, T i m
Reply to
T i m
In article ,
Ages ago I bought a BMW at auction for a very good price. Was leaking oil badly, and the oil pressure light on. A new switch sorted both. Odd the trade buyers didn't know about this and stayed clear of it.
Reply to
Dave Plowman (News)
I don't doubt what you say but there was visible oil on the exhaust shield, smoke from it- enough that I checked the bonnet for warmth / heat etc before even 'cracking' it, let alone opening fully, but no obvious smell.
I ASSUME it was the smoke that caused the lady to pull over but I can't be sure. She was visibly distressed, which is why I stopped. I hate to think I'd left her in a pickle. Once I'd checked all was safe and she was contacting the RAC and calm, I continued my (short) journey home- having told her not to start the car etc. It was in a safe place.
Reply to
Brian Reay
True but I'd hate to think of my wife or daughters in such a situation. Others had driven by- there was a stream of traffic. We were returning from a day out (we had some visitors staying we'd taken out for the day) and it wasn't a big deal to stop for a few minutes.
Reply to
Brian Reay

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