My 94 Dodge Spirit runs great, except when it.

Tiny
EVANJAMES2109
  • MEMBER
  • 1994 DODGE SPIRIT
  • 203,755 MILES
My 94 dodge spirit runs great, except when it idles for more than a minute or so it smokes out of the tail pipe when I accelerate. How can I stop the smoking and what is causing it? Also, what is the best oil to use?
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Monday, April 8th, 2013 AT 9:18 PM

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Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
What color is the smoke, black, white, or blue? Are any fluid levels going down as you drive?
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Monday, April 8th, 2013 AT 9:24 PM
Tiny
EVANJAMES2109
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Its white smoke, not to thick, and it doesn't do it all the time. It runs greats and thats the only place it smokes, out the tail pipe when idleing and taking off from idleing. None of the fluid levels go down to fast, except maybe the oil and antifreez. Oh, the white smoke does kind of smell sweet. But like I said, it doesn't smoke all the time. I bought it 7 months ago used of course, and it doesn't have an ac unit at all.
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Monday, April 8th, 2013 AT 9:37 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
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White smoke is a sign of burning coolant due to a leaking cylinder head gasket. That's why the coolant level in the reservoir is going down. You can verify that by adding a small bottle of dark purple dye to the coolant, then you search later with a black light. The dye will show up as a bright yellow stain that you can follow back to the source. You'll see that dye inside the tail pipe.

The Shadow / Sundance and Spirit / Acclaim are really nice cars. They're tough and they are not filled with inappropriate technology. My daily driver is a rusty trusty '88 Grand Caravan for the same reasons. I trust it more than my newer cars.
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Monday, April 8th, 2013 AT 9:44 PM
Tiny
EVANJAMES2109
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So is it a big problem I should be worried about? And is there anything I can do to fix it? And whats the best oil to use? Its a v6 3.0
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Monday, April 8th, 2013 AT 9:49 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
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It will only get worse if you ignore it. I have to add coolant about once every other year. If yours is going down that slowly it may take a while to really get worse.

Ten different people will give you ten different answers to which oil is best. I have the 3.0L in my Caravan. The oil has not been changed in over ten years but I have to add a quart about every 1,000 miles. That's enough to replenish the additives that wear out. Understand that what I'm doing is abuse, not simple neglect, but that engine has over 401,000 miles. I do it to prove to my students what Chrysler's engines are capable of. I also use the cheapest oil I can find from a local farm and home supply store. I stock up when it goes on sale. The stuff is made by a national company to the same specs, it just has the store's name on it.

Look on the oil containers for the markings "SD" or "CD", or something like that. "SD" means spark ignition which is what your engine has and the "D" just means it's improved over the older "C". The last I looked we're up to "SG". That means it's much better than what was needed for your engine. The "C" in "CD"-rated oil is the rating for compression-ignition engines. That means diesels. Oil for those engine has to be much tougher.

The biggest thing we've found in the past is to pick an oil and stick with it. Different brands have different formulations for their detergents, rust inhibitors, seal conditioners, and friction modifiers. When you change the oil in your engine it is going to take 4.5 quarts to refill it, but there's another two quarts in the passages that never drains out. The additives remaining in the old oil may not be compatible with the additives in the new oil. Most commonly when a problem occurs when switching brands it is an external leak or blue smoke from the tail pipe.
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Monday, April 8th, 2013 AT 10:18 PM
Tiny
EVANJAMES2109
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Should I be worried? And is there something I can do to help or fix it? And what is the best oil to use for it?
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Monday, April 8th, 2013 AT 10:31 PM
Tiny
EVANJAMES2109
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Oh, sorry for asking same question but thanks. I was wondering if 10w40, or 30 or 20? Which is best? And is there anything I can do to help the leaking seal u said was the cause of smoke. The car runs perfect for being almost 20 years old, and has a pretty new transmission in it. So I drive and depend on it daily and need it to last as long as possible. Thanks again for ur help
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Monday, April 8th, 2013 AT 10:41 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
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I believe mine called for 10W-30 but I only use 10W-40 year round. Temperatures can get down to -30F which would make for hard starting for the van and for me. The lowest it has gotten the last few years is around -10F and it still cranks and starts just fine. Your owner's manual will show the oil to use in different temperature ranges but you might want to go up to one weight heavier with a high-mileage engine.

I just found a '94 service manual. The chart in it lists 5W-30 for temperatures below 100F including less than -20F, and it lists 10W-30 for temperatures above 0 degrees including past 100 degrees. The "API", (American Petroleum Institute) rating at that time was already up to "SG". I don't know what the current ratings are but anything you find on the store shelves today will meet or exceed what your engine was designed for.

5W-30 stays thinner when it's cold so the engine will crank easier. Also, since it flows easier, the engine doesn't have to work so hard to push it through the passages, and there's supposed to be less friction so the fuel mileage will be better. That "less friction" is misleading. The goal of the oil is to eliminate friction so metal parts don't grind on each other. The friction they're referring to here is the force needed to get the oil to move to those places. Lighter oil moves easier so it robs less horsepower from the engine but thicker oil stays in the critical places longer and does a better job of isolating those moving parts. As you can see, it's a tradeoff. Better fuel mileage and possibly easier cranking in cold weather vs. Better protection from wear, and potentially longer engine life.

I prefer the thicker oil because of the reduced engine wear but also because I regularly drag around a tandem axle enclosed trailer that's bigger than the van. The engine already gets nice and toasty on hot summer days but with that trailer on the highway there is so much wind resistance I can't even hit 70 mph going down a long steep hill. The engine has to work really hard and at those temperatures the thicker oil will lubricate better.

There really isn't anything permanent you can do about the leaking head gasket. That's a pretty big job but it can happen on any engine and brand. In the future the best way to avoid a repeat failure is to replace the engine coolant every two years. The antifreeze is a type of alcohol and that won't change, but what changes is the additives wear out in about two years. Those are mainly water pump lubricant and corrosion inhibitors. It is normal for some combustion gases to sneak into the cooling system, then it forms acids that corrode metal parts including the edges of the head gaskets. Replacing the coolant gets those acids out and new additives in. Here again you have "do as I say, not as I do". May original radiator rusted out too badly to keep on patching holes about 12 years ago. At that time I installed a new radiator and that's the last time I flushed the cooling system and put in all new antifreeze. It's a miracle nothing has leaked so far, but that's why I love this van so much. It just refuses to break down.
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Monday, April 8th, 2013 AT 11:54 PM
Tiny
EVANJAMES2109
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Thanks for ur help.
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Tuesday, April 9th, 2013 AT 2:47 AM

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