Q & A #35 With The Auto Specialist
Welcome back to the Auto Specialist. I spent some time recently going through past car-related questions that we’ve addressed in this column. I was surprised to see the breadth of material that we’ve covered. There are questions regarding tires, alternators, engines, radiators, transmissions, and much more. If you’re joining us for the first time and would like to expand your automotive knowledge, take a peek through the past segments.
Last time, we helped a reader named Frank diagnose his vehicle’s sluggish acceleration. We also suggested that another reader, Jennifer, think twice about having her car’s transmission flushed. Today, we’re going to help Delores with her van’s exhaust problem and Stanley’s engine cranking issue. Let’s dive in.
Question: I own a 2000 Oldsmobile Silhouette with 133,240 miles. About a month ago, I noticed blue smoke coming from my tailpipe (actually, my granddaughter pointed it out). I was hoping it would go away, but it seems to have gotten worse. I’m going to visit the dealership next week to have them take a look, but I wanted to ask you first. What makes the smoke coming from the tailpipe blue?
Answer: Thanks for your letter, Delores. If you’re seeing blue smoke, that means your van’s engine is burning oil. The oil is somehow getting past the piston rings and going into the cylinders. During the cylinder’s internal combustion process, the oil is getting burned along with the fuel. That is what is causing the blue smoke. The bad news is that you’ll probably need to have the engine overhauled. Prepare yourself for a hefty repair bill.
Question: I’m driving a Ford Expedition (1998) and it has just under 127,000 miles on it. I’m having a problem turning the engine over consistently. A few weeks ago, it was only happening once in awhile. It was annoying, but I could live with it. Now, it happens more often (but not every time I try to start the thing). Anyway, it’s getting to be a bigger problem and I wanted to ask you about it before seeing the mechanic. What would you say is causing the problem?
Answer: Thanks for writing in, Stanley. It’s hard to say for sure, but I’d start with the battery. The fact that it only happens occasionally (though it’s becoming more prevalent) suggests that it’s not the alternator. Pop the hood and clean the poles and connections on your battery. Then, test it for a charge. If the battery is fine, test your starter solenoid for the right voltage. Then, move to the ignition switch and starter.
These type of problems are often difficult to nail down. But, I would approach it in the order I mentioned.
That’s it for today’s installment. My thanks to Delores and Stanley for writing in with their car problems. Next time, we’ll help Jonathan figure out why his vehicle isn’t starting. We’ll also answer Elaine’s question about how often her car’s air filter needs to be changed. Be sure to join me for those questions next time. Until then, drive safely.