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2005 Subaru Outback 3.0R
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I recently bought a 2005 Outback 3.0R, and now it blows a cloud of white smoke upon cold start, and cold start only. Any ideas what might be wrong?
 

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OBW H6 VDC, Tribeca, XT6
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I think we can rule out indiscrete topology so we're left with an accumulation of a constant volume flowing substance.

In other words - it's probably condensation and normal.
 

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To be sure monitor:
1. how long it lasts
2. oil and coolant (in the radiator) levels over 1,000 and 3,000 miles (smart with any new-to-you vehicle)
3. temp gauge - make sure the needle isn't rising or fluctuating
 

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congrats on the new vehicle.

Be sure to replace your serpentine tensioner and idler pulley bearings. They routinely fail on that engine, but fortunately they're super cheap and easy to replace. I consider them 60,000 mile maintenance. Change the oil, those bearings and the belt and those engines make 200,000 miles without blinking.
 

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I think we can rule out indiscrete topology so we're left with an accumulation of a constant volume flowing substance.

In other words - it's probably condensation and normal.
Or coolant in the combustion chamber.

Check the dip stick and make sure the oil isn't looking like a chocolate milkshake. Look inside the radiator and make sure there isn't an oil slick on top the coolant.
 

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Or coolant in the combustion chamber.
That's one of the possibilities to be narrowed down with the tests and information already given:

To be sure monitor:
1. how long it lasts
2. oil and coolant (in the radiator) levels over 1,000 and 3,000 miles (smart with any new-to-you vehicle)
3. temp gauge - make sure the needle isn't rising or fluctuating
Check the dip stick and make sure the oil isn't looking like a chocolate milkshake. Look inside the radiator and make sure there isn't an oil slick on top the coolant.
To the OP - unless it's had a very poor head job, those are not typical failure mode symptoms for that engine, and thus not a very helpful diagnostic tool. in the other rare cases where it happens - it's almost always caused by a catastrophic failure, namely rod bearings which throw pistons through the block walls or allow them to pound the heads to oblivion. While they do cause oil and coolant to mix - that's a very minor symptom compared to the noise, spewing fluids like old faithful, or an engine that doesn't turn over at all.
 

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Master Caster
2005 XT, Mildly Modified...2006 XT Limited, Highly Modifed
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16,223 Posts
How many miles on this car?

I am going to throw valve seals into the mix.

There is a guy on the XRT chat that had his head redone, new high performance valves. (a bit larger) Anyway, he gets a small puff at cold starts. Valve seals are his issue, and not an issue. Just something to deal with on his engine. It's pretty common.
 

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(formerly) 03 H6 OBW , (presently) 06 WRX Sportwagon & 2021 Honda CR-V
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if the smoke/vapor smells like oil, could be valve seals, if it smells like toasted marshmallows, coolant, if like exhaust, condensation.

has it done this since day 1 ? or, did it begin after a service, wreck or overheat event?

where are you located?
 

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2005 Subaru Outback 3.0R
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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks for all the replies!
The car has driven 144000 km/90000 miles. There is no more smoke coming out after 15 seconds ish, but the smoke stays in the air for at least another minute.
So far I've only driven 250 miles with the car and plan on doing a coolant flush this weekend.
 

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Thanks for all the replies!
The car has driven 144000 km/90000 miles. There is no more smoke coming out after 15 seconds ish, but the smoke stays in the air for at least another minute.
So far I've only driven 250 miles with the car and plan on doing a coolant flush this weekend.
Before you spend money on the coolant flush confirm there is no coolant in the oil or oil in the coolant.

On the suggestion of valve seals, those typically cause blue smoke on cold starts and not white.

Hopefully just condensation.
 

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2002 3.0 VDC Wag + 2018 2.5 Leg Ltd
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NSW Australia. (40F at night to 65 F in the day, = 8c -17c if you like metric)..
. = plenty of opportunity for a hot engine/ exhaust to suck up the evening dampness, and then dump it out on the first start of the morning.

and when I have seen a subaru dump coolant through the exhaust. it starts up fine, and that happens as soon as the engine coolant temp gets to operating temp.
 
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Master Caster
2005 XT, Mildly Modified...2006 XT Limited, Highly Modifed
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Before you spend money on the coolant flush confirm there is no coolant in the oil or oil in the coolant.

On the suggestion of valve seals, those typically cause blue smoke on cold starts and not white.

Hopefully just condensation.
Light Blue and White look might awful close in the Australian light. (I expect)

As 1LT said, its the smell of that "vapor" that can give you a clue.

As far as condensation goes, I have seen the constant low emitting white condensation burn off out of tail pipes before. You see that all the time. I have never seen a puff of white smoke at start up, and chocked that up to condensation.

Maybe a video would help.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
NSW Australia. (40F at night to 65 F in the day, = 8c -17c if you like metric)..
. = plenty of opportunity for a hot engine/ exhaust to suck up the evening dampness, and then dump it out on the first start of the morning.

and when I have seen a subaru dump coolant through the exhaust. it starts up fine, and that happens as soon as the engine coolant temp gets to operating temp.
That could make sense :) I'm going to try cold start it once in the morning and once in the evening and see if its gone by then.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Light Blue and White look might awful close in the Australian light. (I expect)

As 1LT said, its the smell of that "vapor" that can give you a clue.

As far as condensation goes, I have seen the constant low emitting white condensation burn off out of tail pipes before. You see that all the time. I have never seen a puff of white smoke at start up, and chocked that up to condensation.

Maybe a video would help.
I'll film it tomorrow morning
 

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2002 3.0 VDC Wag + 2018 2.5 Leg Ltd
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Light Blue and White look might awful close in the Australian light. (I expect)

As 1LT said, its the smell of that "vapor" that can give you a clue.

As far as condensation goes, I have seen the constant low emitting white condensation burn off out of tail pipes before. You see that all the time. I have never seen a puff of white smoke at start up, and chocked that up to condensation.

Maybe a video would help.


I kind of live in between brooks and rivers, rather damp every morning.


almost 30 years ago, with my first car, a 80 VW with a 1600 gas, it would pump out white mist in a huge cloud some mornings....
....seen it a little here before here on other cars, but that one was unique. (the cloud of plain water mist could be as big as the car).


I would think it atmospheric dampness vs. what the actual muffler is doing at the time plays into the game. (maybe some mufflers let more back in).
but on spring and fall days, anything left outside here will dump some water or mist when I start it up, ...particularly if it was shut down hot in the evening and the heat of the cooling engine / exhaust may pull a little more in. (my mechanic friends discuss this on cars with lots of exhaust rust,... if the cars are parked outside near a brook or pond, vs. ones that are parked in a dry location or inside a dry garage).
 

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(formerly) 03 H6 OBW , (presently) 06 WRX Sportwagon & 2021 Honda CR-V
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that's why I asked about location - antipodean-types are experiencing winter right now so - as said above, plenty of opportunity for water vapor to present itself.

if you elect to replace any parts with the coolant flush, the thermostat is different enough that a Subaru part should be used. Here in the States we have 1 oe 2 aftermarkets parts that seem OK, not sure about Oz.


 

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2008 OB Limited 2.5i, Portland OR USA
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if the smoke/vapor smells like oil, could be valve seals, if it smells like toasted marshmallows, coolant, if like exhaust, condensation.
And one more quick test to add to this excellent list: If the exhaust blows out blue or white on trailing throttle, then it could be valve seals again.

Note you might have this happening when you are warmed up and moving, but you just haven't noticed - it's harder to see moving than at a cold start. Have a friend follow you and watch out for this symptom.
 

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2005 Subaru Outback 3.0R
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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I started my car yesterday and had my phone ready to film it, but nothing came. After about 1/4 mile I got two thin lines of white smoke, both lasting for about 5 seconds.
 

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2005 Subaru Outback 3.0R
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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
if the smoke/vapor smells like oil, could be valve seals, if it smells like toasted marshmallows, coolant, if like exhaust, condensation.

has it done this since day 1 ? or, did it begin after a service, wreck or overheat event?

where are you located?
And one more quick test to add to this excellent list: If the exhaust blows out blue or white on trailing throttle, then it could be valve seals again.

Note you might have this happening when you are warmed up and moving, but you just haven't noticed - it's harder to see moving than at a cold start. Have a friend follow you and watch out for this symptom.
Light Blue and White look might awful close in the Australian light. (I expect)

As 1LT said, its the smell of that "vapor" that can give you a clue.

As far as condensation goes, I have seen the constant low emitting white condensation burn off out of tail pipes before. You see that all the time. I have never seen a puff of white smoke at start up, and chocked that up to condensation.

Maybe a video would help.
Yesterday smoke came out after being parked for 5 hours at the beach. I assume this means some smoke comes out while driving(?). That said its now less smoke than before. Its not a cloud anymore, just smoke. And the smoke smells like rubber for the first 15 ish seconds after startup.
 

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2002 3.0 VDC Wag + 2018 2.5 Leg Ltd
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Yesterday smoke came out after being parked for 5 hours at the beach. I assume this means some smoke comes out while driving(?). That said its now less smoke than before. Its not a cloud anymore, just smoke. And the smoke smells like rubber for the first 15 ish seconds after startup.
on cold start up my own H6 exhaust smells like hydrocarbons until the cats heat up and take care of them.

(subaru's ecu program races the engine a bit to make them heat up faster. I have to remind mechanics and anyone that moves that car cold to be aware it will roll a lot faster then they think it will ...."keep foot on brake, or hit garage doors / other cars")
 
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