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When I was driving home, there were tons of white smoke coming from the rear. The car already failed smog test and about to retire. Engine oil level is normal, coolant was below minimum so I added some water and tried to start the engine today, it won't start.

I can hear starter spinning, but engine won't start.

I was thinking to sell this car to the state for $1000, since they buy cars that failed smog test. But I need to be able to drive the car to a dismantler to get cash. (The car needs to be operational.)

What should I check and what can I do?

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It sounds like you have a blown head gasket. More than likely you've got some significant amounts of coolant in one or more of your cylinders and this would be the reason it doesn't want to start.

You may be able to get it to start, but it's not going to be easy. You'd need to evacuate all of the coolant which is in the cylinder already (dry it out), then you might get lucky. The real problem is, the only way to get the coolant out of the cylinders is to suck it out of the spark plug hole (only way you'd have access to the cylinder). You might be able to reach a slim tube down through the spark plug hole, then put a suction on the other end of the tube, which would then pull any fluid out of the cylinder. The other issue is, as long as you have coolant in your system which is above the level of the head gasket, you're going to continue to leak coolant into the cylinder, which would replace whatever you've pulled out. To alleviate this, you'd need to drain the coolant.

Another thing which may be going wrong is the spark plugs may have been fouled out by the coolant which is in the cylinders. You'd need to take a look at them and see if they are wet. If they are, you'd need to dry them out while you have them out of the head. They should continue to work after dry, most likely.

  • I would also add that if the head gasket is the issue, then that must be handled before the car would be in a “healthy” running state. Maybe you can get it to start without repairing that, but there will continue to be considerable issues until that is also handled. – kyle_engineer Mar 17 '18 at 19:47
  • @kyle_engineer - Good point, though I think the OP is just looking to get it started and moving. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Mar 17 '18 at 19:52
  • fair enough. :) – kyle_engineer Mar 17 '18 at 20:24
  • Thanks, it seems the case. I googled and found this thing called Pour-n-go head gasket sealer from BlueDevil. Drying out coolant from cylinder and draining it from radiator reservoir tank, then using this might work, would you say? Worth trying? I only need to be able to drive like 20 - 30 min, avoiding freeway. – johnsmithartanddesign Mar 18 '18 at 6:40
  • @johnsmithartanddesign - Anything is worth a try. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Mar 18 '18 at 12:33

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