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Old 04-02-2010, 13:17   #1 (permalink)
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White Smoke and Brown Coolant

Hey -- white smoke out from under the hood of a 2.3L 1994 Ranger. The gauge isn't showing overheating (but the gauges are sketchy), but the coolant is brown and was at the level for "cool" when the engine was hot. Any thoughts?

Thanks a bunch! New on this forum and thankful for any help!
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Old 04-02-2010, 13:24   #2 (permalink)
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Re: White Smoke and Brown Coolant

BTW, we're thinking a coolant drain (done that a bunch on my Toyota) and then flush and refill and see if that helps. Not my vehicle and may have not had the coolant done in a long while. Hoping it's not oil mixing with the coolant....
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Old 04-02-2010, 13:44   #3 (permalink)
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Re: White Smoke and Brown Coolant

How long have they had the truck? Flushing the coolant is a good idea. It'll take a few flushes with water to get it clean before putting coolant in. If there's lot's of white smoke from the exhaust, it could be too late. There could be other problems than just dirty coolant.
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Old 04-02-2010, 14:37   #4 (permalink)
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Re: White Smoke and Brown Coolant

Thanks a bunch! It's a truck that's on loan such that we don't know the exact maintenance history, but do want to keep it in good shape. We'll try flushing tomorrow and see how it goes!
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Old 04-03-2010, 13:32   #5 (permalink)
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Re: White Smoke and Brown Coolant

Did a bunch of flushes of the radiator today and still coming out kinda brown -- I figure there's just a ton of rust in there (there was rust under the radiator cap, which may be indicitive). Looks like it was water in there, not coolant.
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Old 04-03-2010, 13:48   #6 (permalink)
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Re: White Smoke and Brown Coolant

Are you getting white smoke from the exhaust? Hopefuly, all it needs is a thorough flush and the smoke was just lots of condensation.
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Old 04-04-2010, 12:03   #7 (permalink)
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Re: White Smoke and Brown Coolant

Worst case is a new head gasket. If your engine oil resembles chocolate milk, then it's likely a head gasket for sure. As rtg said, with any luck it's just rust buildup from bad coolant. A good flush should bring it back to the proper colour. If you still get white smoke, you can try seafoam.
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Old 04-05-2010, 20:28   #8 (permalink)
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Re: White Smoke and Brown Coolant

I have to agree with 360 ci. You are most likely burning coolant in the cylinder and introducing oil into the cooling system. I must say, checking the oil should always be one of the first things you do when looking into engine problems.

My one point of contention with the head gasket thought would be that it is not the worst possible cause of this problem. It is quite possible (especially as we come out of a hard winter) is that you may have cracked block. All of the same symptoms would apply. I simply say this because you wouldn't want to replace a head gasket (which can be easy enough on the 2.3) and then still have issues. I suppose a cracked head could also get this to happen as well.

No matter how you cut it, if there is coolant in the oil (milky), you are going to be taking this thing apart at which point you can see how bad things really are.
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