why is white smoke coming out of my muffler on my 2001 cavalier?

honeybutt1965 asked:
why is white smoke coming out of my muffler on my 2001 cavalier?

Answered By Justin Cupler, Contributing Writer:
There could be many problems causing this symptom, but the most common cause is that the vehicle is burning oil. There are a few variables I need to clarify to help you out:

A) White smoke all the time: If you see white smoke billowing out of the muffler at all times, you likely have a pretty severe problem. 

B) White smoke only on start-up: This is a fairly common sign of age in any car. Especially inexpensively built cars, such as the Cavalier. 

If you are experiencing symptom "A" you are likely running the vehicle dangerously low on oil as well. The valve seals keeping the oil in the valve train have failed and oil is freely pouring into the combustion chamber. This is likely combined with poor running, as oil does not burn efficiently. 

Symptom "B" is not a severe problem, but still needs repaired. Basically, oil sits on the valve seals overnight and slowly seeps into the combustion chamber. When you fire the car up, this oil quickly burns up and you don't see any more smoke until the next day. 

Both can be fixed, but at a high cost. I would estimate this to be a $1,200+ repair, as the cylinder head would need rebuild to perform the repair correctly. Evaluate the risk/reward of having this repair performed and decide whether to repair it, run it until it dies or sell it.  
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