I have recently run in to trouble with my Vauxhall Corsa 1.2 2013. I broke down the other day after a huge cloud of white smoke out the exhaust followed by a severe loss of power. The AA came had a look and said that the smoke I saw was the oil burning out, this must have been all of it as I topped it up 2-3 weeks prior. They towed me to a garage and they tried replacing the ignition coil and the spark plugs as they believed this to be the solution, it wasn't as the car still had no power and went through the oil again. The mechanics said they didn't know what could be causing it and suggested a new engine to be the solution.

So my question is has anyone come across this sort of issue before and/or does anyone know what the issue/resolution would be?

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    Welcome to the site. How's the coolant level, and can you tell if there is any oil in the coolant?
    – Zaid
    Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 10:02
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    Dont want to be negative but that mechanic sounds like a person that just wants to grab all your money.. As per below, have a compression test done, check the seals around the engine just as a look around to see whats happening and also check the exhaust, does it smell funny ? is there residue inside the pipe? Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 15:07
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    I should add, my friend had a Corsa, 1.2, similar issue to yourself, his was a cracked headgasket, sometimes also if you open the knob on top of the engine (dont do it when its hot) if theres white foam there can also be an indication of this. Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 15:09
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    My money is on a headgasket - the white smoke being water, and all your oil is probably now hiding in the radiator!
    – PeteCon
    Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 15:22
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    Oil burns with a blue or black smoke. If the smoke you saw was entirely white, you weren't seeing burning oil.
    – Mark
    Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 18:16

3 Answers 3


If it is burning it's oil, the oil is getting somewhere it shouldn't do - and changing the plugs and coil will make no difference to that!

As the oil smoke is coming out of the exhaust, that suggests to me that the oil is getting into the cylinders - the most likely causes for this are a blown headgasket, failed valve stem seals, or failed piston rings. A compression test should tell you which cylinders have failed, but it's probably an engine-apart job to fix it...

  • Thanks for your reply Nick. It's going to be an expensive job then either way I suppose. Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 12:03
  • I'm afraid so... Getting a compression test shouldn't be, that's something an average DIYer can comfortably do, which might give you a bit more information to go on
    – Nick C
    Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 12:05
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    Might want to suggest a second opinion: a mechanic that recommends a new engine for what sounds a lot like a blown head gasket is troubling.
    – Bob Cross
    Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 12:12
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    @DanielHumberstone, if this turns out to be a blown head gasket, it's one of those situations where the part isn't all that expensive but the labor could be. It should be significantly cheaper than a "new engine"!
    – Bob Cross
    Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 12:13
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    I assume you are in the UK as the AA recovered you. If so, a second hand engine may be your cheapest option as you can pick these up for the Corsa for less than the price of a gasket set. This is likely why your mechanic suggested a "new" engine. Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 12:59

Since it's a 1.2 I'm betting it's petrol, so you don't have some of the issues that diesels suffer from.

White smoke is often water. Grey/black smoke will be oil. Either way, something is getting into the combustion chambers which really shouldn't be there. My money is on the head gasket, because that can fail in a fairly on/off kind of way, but as other posts have said, there are other options.

Either way, you want to find a better garage!

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    Oil smoke is light grey to white. Never black. Way too much fuel can be black. Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 15:16
  • Smoke from water or coolant dissipates much faster than oil smoke, its one of the better ways to tell the difference because color is not always a good one.
    – Moab
    Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 16:45

it's not the oil my friend. I had the same problem with my diesel 2008 fiesta. A huge white smoke comes from the exhaust and when you see it first, you think that the car is burning!

The problem is with the gas injector in the engine. It costs about 400$ in Turkey, but in your region it depends.

You should immediately bring it to the service otherwise your engines pistons may be damaged and it will cost much more than the injector problem.

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    Where is all the oil going? He's loosing a lot of oil somewhere.
    – JPhi1618
    Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 14:00
  • I believe it is the oil as it was empty when it happened to me then the mechanics tested it and the oil emptied again. Commented May 4, 2016 at 9:01

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