By October 20, 2008 Read More →

2001 Toyota Avalon White Smoke Out Exhaust After Oil Sludge Repair

Reader Question

We recently had our 2001 Toyota Avalon serviced by our local Toyota dealership for Engine sludge. 96,000 miles, and we had all necessary service and oil changes over the course of 7 years.

This $3,000-$4,000 service was covered by Toyota due to a Class action suit back in 200-2001. They did everything that was recommend to clean the engine of the sludge build up and replaced parts that couldn’t be cleaned. The vehicle was in the shop for 7 days.

When I picked up my car I drove to dinner. After coming out to my car hour later and started the engine a huge amount of white smoke came out of the tail pipes and encompassed the entire rear end of the car. I immediately called the Toyota service shop.

I was advised this was normal. After it continued to happen for several days I called the Toyota Service rep, he advised me to drive the car for 200 miles and then call him back if it continued to smoke. It doesn’t happen with every cold start, but does happen at least every day or two. Not sure if that has to do with the amount of miles the vehicle is actually being driven in that time frame?

It’s not a small amount of smoke, and to make matters worse, it always happens right when someone in the grocery store of work parking lot, that they are in isn’t path of unloading all this smoke, quite embarrassing to say in the least. I took the vehicle back to Toyota yesterday. They just called me this morning as stated that when they started it, there was no smoke, no oil residue on tailpipes and nothing is wrong with the vehicle.

They said all they saw was condensation. This is crazy, I know I’m not nuts. If your vehicle is creating that much smoke something has to be out of kilter. Shops dealing with women I understand they think we will trust anything we are told, however something is wrong.

I read your question on white smoke, and that all makes sense to me, but why wouldn’t this be something the service shop would check. All they did was a visual at the exhaust? Shouldn’t they be checking the gaskets they replaced to make sure, #1 all were replaced? I’m very frustrated and appreciate any insight you may be able to provide.

Thank you,


Hi Kim,

Wow….I am not real sure what is going on, but ANY amount of smoke coming from the exhaust is NOT good. This could be white some, which would be from coolant/antifreeze leaking into the engine or this could be a very light blue colored smoke which would be from engine oil leaking inside the engine where it should not be.

If this smoke seems to happen more when the engine has been sitting for awhile…like overnight or an hour or so in a parking lot but seems to calm down when after the engine has been running a few minutes…I would suspect you have a coolant leak or there is a problem with the valve stem seals in the top of the engine.

A simple cooling system pressure test would rule out the possibility of an internal coolant leak…I would would do this if you were in my shop.

The problem with removing engine oil sludge is that once you remove the excess sludge, it allows more engine oil pressure to flow inside the engine. That old sludge has slowed the flow of internal engine oil, and has acted like a seal/gasket itself. Engine oil sludge is like a paste and it finds its way into the small cracks inside the engine. Once that sludge has been removed….there is nothing left to plug up the small holes in gaskets and oil seals. Think of sludge as cholesterol in your arteries. Depending on how bad the sludge was, and how much of it is left….replacing the engine is probably the only real option here.

If you did not have smoke before this repair…I would highly suggest you go back to the dealership and talk to the general manager. I would as to talk to the district manager for Toyota if you dont get some REAL answers from the dealer GM. Toyota really values customer loyalty and I would bet the district GM would go the extra mile to keep you as a long term Toyota customer.

Worst case scenario you might want to think about buying a used engine from a local junk yard and have the dealership install it. Toyota wont warranty the used engine obviously, but they might install it no charge if you purchased it. You could probably find a used engine for $750 or less from a junk yard.

Of course…making a deal with Toyota to sell this car to them and get you in a new 08 or 09 Toyota at a drastically reduced price would be my highest recommendation.


Austin Davis


Reader Follow Up

Thanks for the great information! When Toyota called me after they started the vehicle for the second time and no smoke appeared, they said you need to come pick up your car and return our rental. As if they were doing me a favor. I spoke with the GM of service and he felt his shop did what they needed to do since they witnessed no smoke while they had the car parked.

I felt as though their shop was busy and I was being rushed out. He did agree to keep the car an extra day drive it the 11 miles like I do each day to work,then start it up, and he would authorize the rental ONE more day. It appears they cannot authorize any work unless they themselves can see something is going on.

I believed that since they were the ones who cleaned my engine sludge they would attempt to see what was going on. All they said was it was condensation, and no smoke! I got the feeling like they were not willing to find out what was going on, so I said forget it I will pick up my car that night and find someone else to work on it!

This is the best part of my story………..
I turned in their rental and they said they would have my car pulled around to the pick up area, where all the other customers were also waiting for their “Repaired” cars. Wow! low and behold here comes my Avalon, thick white smoke shooting out the back under the front and leaving a big cloud behind!

The valet got out of the car and said you wouldn’t believe all the smoke coming out when I started the car in the back yard. And guess what all the services reps came running to see what was going on. The customers behind my car were all trying to get away from the smoke! My service rep appeared and said “Oh looks like we misdiagnosed your problem, we should of driven the car. DUH?

Do they work on cars much or what? Anyway he said we can now better determine what might be wrong since “WE” saw the smoke come from your car. They were much to busy to keep the car, and told me to bring it back on Tuesday. So we will see what happens now. It was a pretty embarassing moment for Toyota Service Department for sure……..

My concern is, at one point prior to working on the engine, they stated the engine sludge was BAD, then after opening it up said it wasn’t as bad?? Is this the main office saying just do what you can to clean it up, with the least amount of cost to Toyota?

What was actually replaced was Valve guide seals, valve cover gaskets. Planum gaskets, cam seals, oil pan gasket…… Looking at pictures of engine sludge, it looks pretty bad, and not sure how all that can get cleaned out without tearing the engine apart, which I was told by the GM they didn’t do that.

I want to make sure they did everything they should of done, as it’s been a great vehicle for 7 years now. I would love a new Toyota, but not the car payment for sure. So I will see what they come back with at this point.

I appreciate all the information you have provided. I know something has to be wrong with a vehicle that smokes for 3 weeks.



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