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Old 12-17-2013, 01:44 PM   #1
kevster0522
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Question engine running rough, loss of power, white smoke.

Hey friends I really need your help this time. I took my car to school so I could drive it home after my finals but I'm afraid I might not make it home. I was driving around campus last night and everything was fine until I pulled into the parking lot and the rpms just dropped. It struggled to raise them but the engine just died. It started back up but still ran rough. I got into a parking spot and revved the engine a little. It sounded unhealthy and was spewing white smoke. I did have something like this happen on the freeway coming up to school but all I did to fix it was pull off and turn off the car. When I turned it back on it ran perfectly.

I've looked around a little and people have said it could be the ects but I changed mine just last year. For some reason I get the feeling it could be spark plugs. I'm gonna check my emergency tool kit in my trunk to see if I have a socket for the sparkplugs. What do you guys think it could be?

...
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Old 12-17-2013, 01:57 PM   #2
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Default Re: engine running rough, loss of power, white smoke.

No service light sensors?

White smoke is usually burning coolant.

You may have a blown head gasket or cracked head. Is it losing coolant as well as oil? Is there any oil visible in the coolant reservoir? Oil in the coolant reservoir will likely mean a headgasket, but run a compression test to see what's up. Also check the oil: is it milky brown?


(quick check the transmission fluid level too)

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Old 12-17-2013, 02:06 PM   #3
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Default Re: engine running rough, loss of power, white smoke.

There were no lights. I really hope it wasn't the head. We recently just changed the thermostat and the coolant too so I have been watching coolant levels and it doesn't look like its going down. Also didn't notice any oil in the coolant but I'll check today or tomorrow. I won't be able to check compression cause I'm at school. I'll check the trans too but why did the have to make checking the trans fluid such a pain?

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Old 12-17-2013, 04:45 PM   #4
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Default Re: engine running rough, loss of power, white smoke.

Does the car sit for long periods of time ? How full is the gas tank, and how old is the gas ? Just thinking it might be water in the tank although not as common nowadays with 10% ethanol fuel.

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Old 12-17-2013, 04:48 PM   #5
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Default Re: engine running rough, loss of power, white smoke.

I usually get home about once a month to drive it. Never thought of that. It does sit in a garage for that time if that makes a difference. My problem is I drove it around for an hour perfectly fine. Then I pull into the parking lot and it started having issues.

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Old 12-17-2013, 06:38 PM   #6
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Default Re: engine running rough, loss of power, white smoke.

Any suspicion of water in the tank, just keep it filled and use HEET to help absorb any moisture condensation. One per tank. White smoke is usually associated with overnight moisture condensation in the exhaust system that turns to steam once the exhaust system heats up to boil out moisture. Another possibility for sudden steam might be a thoroughly worn out catalytic converter that's disintegrating as time passes from non use of a car. As the temperature forces expansion and contraction of the exhaust system, the catcon does the same until it wears out and falls apart. Once it falls apart internally, the normal swiss cheese design to allow free exhaust flow becomes restricted as cat guts block off exhaust flow. Choke off exhaust flow and the engine suffers from constipation. An easy test for catcon blockage; remove the O2 sensor and drive; an immediate power improvement would indicate a blocked exhaust system. Mileage is good yard stick to determining age related problems.

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Old 12-18-2013, 08:06 PM   #7
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Default Re: engine running rough, loss of power, white smoke.

Update: I just took the car out for a drive tonight. There was no evidence of a problem at all. I think it can make it home but I will do some tests when I get home with my tools.

...
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Old 01-24-2014, 08:25 PM   #8
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Default Re: engine running rough, loss of power, white smoke.

Solved! Thanks everyone for your input. I hadn't had an issue this entire winter break until today when I was driving home and starting getting the symptoms of losing power and rough engine. This time I was able to pull it into the garage and popped the hood. The engine idling fine at the moment but once I shook plug wire #2 the engine immediately started to die and was obviously only running on 3 cylinders. Ran over to O'Reilleys and put fresh plug wires in this evening and now all is well.

...
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Last edited by kevster0522; 01-24-2014 at 08:39 PM..

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Old 01-24-2014, 09:44 PM   #9
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Default Re: engine running rough, loss of power, white smoke.

Way to go - always good to hear about a nice easy fix, and thanks for finishing the thread.

...
97 sl2 a/t 104 K
1989 GMC 3500 454 129 K, 1969 442 455 rat rod

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