By October 15, 2007 0 Comments Read More →

Smoke and Overheating Problems

I have a concern. I attempted to start my car yesterday after having driven it for about 30 min. It didn’t catch so I turned the key back and tried again, still wouldn’t catch.

I tried it a third time and tapped the gas(I know I’m not supposed to) because it sounded like it was on the edge of starting, and it did. However at that moment I noticed grey smoke (I think it was grey) issuing from the area of the steering column…I was in a parking garage so it was a bit too dark to see exactly where.

I, as you can imagine, was freaked. I turned off the car and noticed that the smoke decreased and then stopped. I felt the collum and the area to see if anything was getting hot and didn’t feel anything out of the ordinary heat wise. So I walked away to have a minute to think and to decide what to do. Approximately ten minutes or so later I went back and attempted to start it again. It turned over right away and there was no smoke.

This morning after the car sat for approx. 12 hours I got in and started it and it turned over right away, but the same smoke issue occured. I was in another parking garage so again was limited by lack of light to see where it was issuing from and what color. I turned the car off, waited about five min. and started it again. It hesitated once, then turned over the second time I tried. No smoke.

This is a used car I bought through private sales. I was looking for a crap car to last a little while but I don’t want to have it burst into flames on me. The smoke doesn’t smell like burning, but it’s smoke all the same. Can you suggest what my be wrong? It’s not worth going to the dealer to fix, especially the amount of money they’re going to want to do it. Obviously I wouldn’t have bought the car if I thought the repairs would cost more than what I paid or what it’s worth. What are your thoughts?




Hello there Yvette,


Hummmmmmm, I concerned by the fact that you visibly see smoke coming from the steering column either and I suggest you take it in for service and have it looked at. I have seen a few vehicles catch fire from a similar situation. It could be something simple, but since you can’t see it….it is a concern for me.

You can look in your phone book to find a mobile steering column repair company and see what they would charge you to come and take a look at this for you. I use a mobile steering column guy at my Houston shop, he is faster and has more experience with steering columns than we do and can save us and our customer’s time and money than if we tried to take the column apart ourselves.

If you cant find a mobile steering column guy, I would probably suggest the dealership for this repair….steering column repair can be complicated and if the mechanic is not experienced with dealing with it, you will just spend more money and time.


Austin Davis


Reader Follow Up

Hi again Austin,

THanks for your response about the grey smoke. I figured out it was a connection basically frying-I taped in the switch that makes the ding when the driver side door is open because I think there was a short in it already. Even with the key in and turned to the accessory mode it wouldn’t stop and it was driving me batty! Apparently the car didn’t appreciate my need for quiet and I’m guessing the wire shorted itself out cause even after I took the tape off it doesn’t ding anymore. Oops. Well it’s quiet and it stopped with the smoke so I’m happy.

My next question regards the coolant/radiator. When I bought the car I was told there was a slight coolant leak. Of course the adjective ‘slight’ can be taken in lots of different ways. I’m finding that I have to put water in like every other day and I can actually smell it when it’s leaking out so it’s pretty significant I’d say.

I bought some of that stop leak from the store. Saturn annoys me in the fact that you can’t directly access the radiator so I poured it into the resevoir. That seemed to work. Then yesterday I got home and parked. As soon as I turned off the engine I could hear bubbling/boiling sounds coming from under the hood. I popped the hood and cautiously looked under and just as I suspected, the coolant was bubbling out of the resevoir.

I closed the hood and walked away because I know better than to mess with that. However, that confirmed my suspicion that coolant was leaking out that way…I’d noticed it wet around the cap. I was told that the radiator had recently been replaced but that the it didn’t fix the problem, ohviously.

My question is, what/why would the fluid be coming out of there and how can I fix it? Thankfully I can scrap this car if it’s going to cost real money, but I’d rather sell it and make s few dollars off of it. I only bought it for two hundred so I guess it’s not that big of a loss.

Sorry for the dissertation, I just wanted to explain everything as best as I could.




Hello again Yvette,

I would first get a cooling system pressure test done by your local mechanic or fast lube place to see if there really is a coolant leak in the first place. The boiling sound and the bubbling of coolant out of the reservoir could be due to the engine overheating and not from a loss of coolant in the system. Things that could cause the engine to overheat are:

Electric cooling fan motor up near the radiator is not working

  1. Restriction or dirty radiator
  2. Bad thermostat
  3. Water pump failure
  4. Internal engine damage like a blown head gasket (probably not YOUR cause but could happen)


Austin Davis

About the Author:

Austin Davis, consumer car repair advocate. "Hi there! I love to help people solve their car repair problems and I hope my site was helpful to you today. Thank you for stopping by."