smoke on the camry
July 23, 2005 10:04 AM   Subscribe

After my friend put 5030 oil into his 1990 Toyota Camry Wagon, it began belching white smoke and the engine's overheating. What's going on, what can be done and how serious is this? He fears he destroyed his car through bad oil choices.
posted by johngoren to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total)
Are you sure it's white smoke and not steam?
posted by fatbobsmith at 10:35 AM on July 23, 2005

What's "5030" oil? Google turns up a lot of oil places with a street address of 5030, but I've never heard of 5030 oil.

Engine oil is typically identified by a weight, such as 10W40 or 20W50. The higher the number, the thicker the oil. 10W40 or 20W50 are common weights to use, although you should check the owner's manual to be sure.

If he put in oil that's too heavy, it might cause overheating. However, I think that white smoke indicates water (from radiator) getting into the cylinders and burning/turning to steam. He might have a cracked head gasket.

Did he just add some of this "5030" oil because the engine was running low, or did he do a complete oil change? How long did it run after adding/changing the oil until white smoke started coming out? How far did he drive it after it started smoking/overheating?

This sounds like a job for a real mechanic.
posted by spacewrench at 10:36 AM on July 23, 2005

Sez it's not steam. Yeah, I was dubious about the "5030" myself.
posted by johngoren at 10:44 AM on July 23, 2005

Is it possible he meant 5W30?

It sounds like a cracked head gasket, though. My car had a similar problem and that was the diagnosis.
posted by synecdoche at 11:17 AM on July 23, 2005

"5030 oil lubricant" into google yielded this website. Click on Petromin Hydraulic Oil AW (first one in the java menu), and you have the oil your friend put in his car, if it was in fact 5030 and not 5W30. This hydraulic machinery oil has less than half the viscosity rating of 10W40 or any other oil you would use in your car, so that would be very bad. Hopefully, you meant 5W30.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 11:26 AM on July 23, 2005

Actually, the 5030 for that oil is a product code, and not the rating printed on the container. You can probably safely disregard my previous post.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 11:31 AM on July 23, 2005

Bluish-white smoke is burning oil, no question about it.

If the car's got a lot of miles on it, and the cylinder wear has made those piston rings rattle around like a belly dancer's castanets, a cheap way to sort of tide the problem over is to use very heavy oil - like straight 50 weight. It's not great, but it stops the smoke problem long enough to sell the car. 5/30 is about as light as oil gets, these days, and it'll sneak right past those piston rings to get into the cylinder.

However, the above will make the engine smoke, but not overheat appreciably. I wonder if your friend didn't use something that isn't meant to be used as motor oil; or maybe he poured the oil into the wrong spout; or he forgot to put the stopcock back in after he drained the old oil, and so all the new oil drained out too. (or if he didn't tighten it enough, and all the new oil ran out over night.) This is pretty easily checked into; in particular, the dipstick will tell you that the oil pan is full or empty, so I kind of doubt someone savvy enough to change their own oil would overlook it.

Ah, something else occurs to me as I reread the above. If your oil pan has a 4 quart capacity, and you just pour in a 5th quart, where's that extra oil going to go? Yep - right into the cylinders, where it burns. This is extremely bad for your engine, because the combustion products of motor oil include soots, varnishes, and other stuff that totally gunks up your engine. If no oil was removed before the new oil was added, it's suddenly become time to do an oil CHANGE.
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:07 PM on July 23, 2005

Since the problem didn't start until the new oil was added, by the way, Occam's Razor tends to suggest it's not a thrown rod or a cracked head gasket or a water leak into the oil system or some similiar, coincidental, unrelated thing.
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:09 PM on July 23, 2005

I thought what ikkyu2 thought. Sounds like TOO MUCH oil more than anything else.
posted by peep at 2:24 PM on July 23, 2005

ikkyu2's got it, I think: too thin or too much (or both too thin or too much), or oil where oil should not go. If there's a garage within a few blocks, go there with the oil container and tell them what happened; otherwise, get a tow to the garage of choice, again taking the oil container along.
posted by mendel at 2:58 PM on July 23, 2005

i agree ... tow the car to the garage and have them look at it ... any more stress on that engine could be bad news
posted by pyramid termite at 5:25 PM on July 23, 2005

Wouldn't the sensible thing be to change the oil and filter, and put in a normal oil like 10-W-40?
posted by Ken McE at 9:04 PM on July 23, 2005

The car is ancient, don't bother with a garage. If he used the wrong oil, or too much of it, just drain it and put the right amount of the right oil in. If it continues to smoke after doing this, open up the hood and look to see where the oil is leaking.

The car is 15 years old, so it's probably at the point where he should just keep a few thousand dollars handy to buy a replacement car if it dies.
posted by mosch at 1:32 AM on July 24, 2005

Logic says ikkyu2 is on target, and I thought "too much oil," also. If the only thing that happened was putting in the oil (or an oil change), the problem isn't that the car is suddenly worn out, or leaking, or whatever. Something about the oil change caused the situation.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:18 AM on July 24, 2005

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