The engine of your car operates by combustion. That is, a series of small explosions propels pistons up and down to provide motive power for the vehicle. The combustion process creates fumes, which must be vented from the engine through the exhaust. However, if you take a look at your tailpipe, you may notice that there’s more than just exhaust fumes coming out. Water could be dripping from your exhaust, as well. Why is that?
It’s Just Condensation
In 99% of cases, water from your car’s exhaust is absolutely normal and is nothing to worry about. It is just condensation being vented while the engine is running. You’re most likely to notice this when the outside temperature is cold and when the engine has not been running all that long. Here’s how it works:
- You start your car’s engine.
- Hot gases begin to flow through the exhaust system.
- Condensation forms within the exhaust pipe due to the contrast between heat and cold.
- The force of the engine’s exhaust eventually moves that moisture out of the system, causing it to drip from your muffler.
- After the engine has been running for some time and the exhaust system is up to normal temperature, the water will stop.
As you can see, water from your exhaust is usually normal. It is nothing more than natural condensation. You’ll probably also notice that those drips are accompanied by what looks like white smoke, but it is odorless. This is just steam. Note that if your engine is putting out white smoke that has a strong burning smell to it, you should have your vehicle checked, as it is a sign of an oil leak.
When is it Not Normal?
While water coming out of your exhaust will be normal in most cases, there are situations where it is not. For instance, if your car’s engine is discharging a lot of water, such as a cup of water per minute, it is gas a good sign that you’ve got a deeper problem. If you notice that the water isn’t clear, it could be antifreeze that’s leaking out, and is a sign of a damaged gasket in the engine (usually a head gasket). It could also be a sign of a cracked head. Both of these can allow engine coolant to leak in.
Lubricant mixed with coolant
In this case, turn off the engine of your car and pop the hood. Remove the oil filler cap and look underneath it. Do you see a whitish/green material? This is what happens when motor oil mixes with water or antifreeze. If you spot this, you need to have your engine repaired immediately. Operating it can lead to serious damage, as oil that has been mixed with coolant cannot do a good job of lubricating engine components.
In most cases, water coming from your exhaust pipe is completely normal. However, keep an eye on your car’s oil to make sure that you don’t have a cracked head or blown head gasket.