Oh no... - Nissan Xterra Forum
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#1 Old 02-01-2013, 02:31 PM
ryan_calif
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Exclamation Oh no...

My heart skipped a beat this morning when I drove my '01 Xterra (3.3L) out to go on a hike.

I drove it about 5-10 min or so, parked, looked out my rear view mirror, and what do I see? A tad bit of white vapor coming from the tailpipe. The first thing that popped in my head was... head gasket...

So got out, walked around back and watched the tail pipe for a bit... just a little bit of what looked like water vapor coming out. I revved the car a bit, and it didn't get any more intense, it just stayed about the same. I then got in, drove for a bit longer, came back, and the vapor/smoke was gone. I let it sit a bit longer there idling and then the tailpipe started to drip water (it was dry immediately after I got back from the drive).

I looked under the hood, checked the coolant reservoir - not brown, milky or bubbling; it was green. Looked at the oil dipstick - it looked totally normal. Looked at the oil cap - looked normal too. Engine seems to be running fine.

I haven't driven it around long enough to see if the coolant level is dropping, but I will be doing that. It doesn't appear to be though based on the two times I checked. The car has never been overheated, and the engine is never raced.

So the only things I can come up with are: Excess water in the exhaust turning to steam, water in my fuel tank, or the head gasket. I brought up the first two options because I frequently leave my Xterra parked for long periods of time between drives (~usually a week). I've had the same gas in the tank for over 2 months now.

Any ideas would be welcome! I'm at a fork in the road on whether or not to take a hit and get it fixed, or buy a new car. Thanks!

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Last edited by ryan_calif; 02-01-2013 at 02:35 PM.
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#2 Old 02-01-2013, 02:46 PM
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Water vapor from the exhaust is pretty normal, especially when it is cold and humid outside. I would say if its below about 40 degrees out my x has water dripping from the exhaust. its not always something wrong with the truck, under certain circumstances it is normal.

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#3 Old 02-01-2013, 02:52 PM
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Well, it was 52 degrees this morning, so not very vold. Plus the humidity here is low.

Do you think that is still normal?

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#4 Old 02-01-2013, 04:25 PM
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yep, normal to me.

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#5 Old 02-02-2013, 07:51 AM
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Yeah it is very normal. If you dont believe us watch it everyday. All cars will have white vapor upon start up. When the combustion process happens N, H2o, and Co2. If you look at your exhaust after it starts up you will always see water leaving the tail pipe. That is why they have Weep holes in mufflers. Overnight the internals of the engine "sweat" and that condensation gets burned out upon initial start as well as H2o is a continuous creation from all 6 of your cylinders. The white smoke should disappear within 8-10 minutes. If it does not and it warms up with white smoke then you know you have a problem.

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#6 Old 02-02-2013, 09:00 AM
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Also ethanol in modern gas is an anhydrous form of ethanol that has a very low water content in it. When the fuel sits for any period of time, it will pull moisture out of the air and into the gas. This can also cause you to see some water vapor from the exhaust. It will also make your vehicle run like crap if your truck sets for long periods of time without running.

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#7 Old 02-02-2013, 09:19 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ShiftingSkys View Post
Yeah it is very normal. If you dont believe us watch it everyday. All cars will have white vapor upon start up. When the combustion process happens N, H2o, and Co2. If you look at your exhaust after it starts up you will always see water leaving the tail pipe. That is why they have Weep holes in mufflers. Overnight the internals of the engine "sweat" and that condensation gets burned out upon initial start as well as H2o is a continuous creation from all 6 of your cylinders. The white smoke should disappear within 8-10 minutes. If it does not and it warms up with white smoke then you know you have a problem.
Define "warms up"...

When I think of warmed up, the coolant temp gauge is in its normal steady position.

I've seen other people say warmed up is when you drive it for a while (~15 min or so) since the exhaust system lags behind the engine getting up to temperature.

Anyway, it was still steaming a bit when the engine was warm. Not big large puffs, but little stream of vapor and water dripping out. However, after I took it for a drive, and parked again, it was gone. I revved the engine a bit and let it sit and idle for about 5 minutes. No steam.

Then I turned it off, came back about an hour and a half later, started it up, let it sit for about 2 minutes and there was just a little bit of steam coming out.

We'll see I guess. I was driving around yesterday in our other car and noticed other people's tailpipes steaming at about the same rate... and it was roughly the same temp and humidity out. I'm only concerned because when the coolant temp needle was at its normal position, it was still steaming a bit... but the drive seemed to make it go away.

Sorry if I'm blowing this out of proportion here.

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#8 Old 02-02-2013, 02:28 PM
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Well, I'm beginning to feel like there really is a problem with it.

I started it up again today (around 62 degrees, 40% humidity). Let it idle about 20 minutes until the temperature gauge was in the middle. Truck was running fine, no missing or roughness. However, water was dripping (about 1 every two seconds) out of the tailpipe and there was about a 4 inch radius puddle underneath it.

I got in, brought the engine RPMs up a little, and sure enough, a little bit of steam came out with splatters of water. The steam was very hard to see, as there wasn't a lot of it, but the water seemed excessive given the weather outside. Strangely, coolant level seems stable and there doesn't appear to be any bubbling in the reservoir.... however, I do notice a bit of a coolant smell in the engine compartment.

At this point, I'm going to take it in on Monday to have it checked out. Unfortunately I live about 90 miles from a Nissan dealer, so I'll probably have a local place look at it. If it is in fact the gasket, what should I roughly expect to pay? Is it common to have both head gaskets replaced while they are working on it?

Thanks guys. You've all been great!

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Last edited by ryan_calif; 02-02-2013 at 02:34 PM.
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#9 Old 02-02-2013, 04:01 PM
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Everything you have mention is normal for around here in western North Carolina. Even in the low to mid 60's. If you want to try, take a plate,plastic bag or anything that you can put under your tail pipe in the morning and let the engine idle. You should only catch clear water with soot. If you have a internal coolant loss you will see what ever color of antifreeze you are running along with soot. At most take it and have the coolant system pressured tested to give yourself a little piece of mind. After my 2004 set for 3 weeks and I started it up it was dripping from the muffler and the tail pipe and that was in a 60degree shop.
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#10 Old 02-02-2013, 05:30 PM
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Sound 100% normal. I've had the exhaust on my motorcycle put out vapor in 75 degree weather.
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