What Causes White Smoke on an ATV and How To Fix It

Any color of smoke coming from your ATV can be worrying for an ATV rider, no matter how experienced you are. It’s normal to see puffs of exhaust coming out, but when you start to notice more and more smoke making an appearance, you might need to look for the source. There are a lot of differently colored smokes that you need to look out for, so it’s important to know the differences.

White smoke is commonly found coming out of your exhaust and it means that you have water or coolant somewhere in your engine that is getting burnt off. This is common to see when you first start up your machine, simply from condensation, but should lessen over time. If you’re having consistent white smoke, you’ll need to look for more signs and then determine how to fix the problem.

In most situations, white smoke is harmless. However, you need to be on top of the issue because it could potentially be a much larger issue. Here’s how to look around and see what exactly you’re dealing with to answer the question, “how do I fix white smoke from my exhaust?”

 atv tie rods are bad in mud
Photo credit: Derek Gardner

White smoke likely means a coolant leak

White smoke is often a sign of coolant leaking onto hot parts of your engine. Especially if you’re having white smoke continue after you’ve warmed up your ATV and have been riding. Once you notice white smoke while riding, it’s important to stop riding immediately. If you don’t, it’s highly possible that your entire engine will overheat which can lead to far more serious issues.

Coolant leaks can come from a variety of different reasons. You’ll know if it’s coolant when you have a sickly sweet smell coming from the radiator. Start by checking your coolant levels. If they’re low, it’s most likely coolant. Once you know that you’re looking for a coolant leak, you can move to the most common perpetrators.

A damaged radiator or hose is a likely cause of your coolant leak. You might not be able to determine the exact issue with the radiator without more mechanical experience, but a leaky hose is easy to find and replace.

You may be looking at a busted head gasket or a damaged water pump as well. Both of these issues will require more extensive fixes that are far more difficult than replacing a single hose. If you’re certain that this is one of the issues, you may want to take the machine to an expert.

If you’re ready to try and make the fix on your own, start by looking at the head gaskets for any signs of cracking and leaking. If you see anything, this will need to be replaced immediately, which is doable at home, but more difficult than most other maintenance tasks.

The most serious of all issues causing white smoke in your ATV would be a cracked engine block. This is the most difficult fix of all, as it requires extensive welding skills or a full replacement of the engine.

No matter the source of the problem, it needs to be fixed as soon as possible. Your ATV will thank you for it and you can keep on riding without any huge fog trailing behind you.

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