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Discussion Starter #1
First post so please don't hate if I say something wrong.

Okay... my fiancé took her 2012 Maxima to the local XPress Lube to get an oil change and they talked her into an engine flush before I could stop her.

We take a 6 hour trip to the coast... drive around there for a week... take a 6 hour trip back and the day after we noticed a huge cloud of white/blue smoke blow out of the back of the car when she took off from a stop light. We were almost done with the 30 minute drive home from work when this happened. Ever since then the car blows out a blue smoke plume every time she starts it.

General consensus is that the valve seals are most likely bad now.

Could that engine flush have caused this? Is this XPress Lube responsible?

The reason I ask is these places do not employ "real" mechanics and a personal experience with one myself on my Dodge truck and the manual transmission makes me highly suspicious.

Thank you in advance for any input anyone has.
 

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Sup Mod keeping the peace
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Did you check the oil level right after the oil change which is something that's very important. Make sure that it's not overfull with oil. A lot of these express lub places either put too much oil in or not enough and then sometimes no oil at all; bone dry when driving away. I've even heard stories of drain plugs falling out after driving so many miles; they put the drain plug back on finger tight and forget to torque it down.

When they did this so-called engine flush, did they use any type of flush additive. If so, the additive could have attacked the valve stem seals or scuffed up the piston rings. We always advise people to NEVER ADD ADDITIVES to the engine oil!!

It's going to be very difficult or altogether impossible to prove it was Xpress lub's fault because you've already driven the car for more then 12 hours and then an extra week of local driving.

A good way to test for oil burning is to first fully warm up the engine. Stand behind the car. Have someone rev the motor to 4,000 RPM and hold at that RPM for about 15 seconds. If you see a lot of blue smoke come out of the tailpipe, the engine is burning excessive oil. If it's only white smoke, then there may be a blown head gasket causing the coolant to vaporize and blow out as white smoke. Determine if you're losing coolant in the radiator.
 

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NF Mod/Nissan Master Tech
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Most engine flush machines use a heated, light-weight oil with detergents that reverse-fills the engine with oil through the oil filter adapter and then lets it drain through the oil pan via a hose connected to the drain pan oil plug. It'll usually do this process twice. It usually doesn't hurt valve seals nor the rings...but, of course, anything's possible. It was likely a waste of money if you change your oil on a regular basis, but it sounds like you already know that.
First thing I would do is check the oil level with the engine cold and make sure it's not overfilled, like already suggested. If you feel the quick-lube caused damage to your engine, I would notify them immediately. They have insurance to cover such incidents, but you'll have to have proof, which means you'll have to have a dealer or a certified auto repair shop diagnose the cause of your oil burning and get a copy of the estimate to repair the problem. If it is a large chain, they'll probably have a web site that may have information regarding damage claims and liabilities.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Update

So... further information.

My fiancé sat in a parking lot for about 15 minutes with the engine idling and then when she left and took off from the light she said it belched out a massive cloud of smoke (so much the drivers behind here were pulling over) and the motor started making a chattering noise. The smoke and chattering quickly stopped and it didn't do it again for the rest of her 30 minute trip home.

After reading many forums and posts it was said the most likely culprit is the PCV valve being clogged up... if that doesn't fix it then the next most likely culprit was the baffles in the valve covers being clogged up and one poster claimed he changed his valve covers and the problem went away.

I changed the PCV valve since it was indeed totally clogged up but still had the white/blue smoke on startup after driving it a while then letting it sit all night.

@ rogoman - We did check the oil levels and I am aware of never doing engine flushes and she had done it before I knew and could stop her.

Does this information regarding the valve covers hold weight?
 

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Sup Mod keeping the peace
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If the PCV valve has been totally plugged up for a long time, it won't hurt to remove the valve cover and see if there is a lot sludge build up.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
If the PCV valve has been totally plugged up for a long time, it won't hurt to remove the valve cover and see if there is a lot sludge build up.
I can't say if it was clogged for a long time or not... this only started coincidentally happening after the engine flush episode.

I do believe there is sludge buildup under there since looking inside the oil filler cap showed sludge in there that didn't get cleaned out during the flush.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
So let's try to narrow this down.

I didn't run seafoam through the valve covers after all because I wanted to try something first.

I installed a catch can on the PCV system between the PCV valve and the intake. I drove it around for 15 minutes and then let it sit in the driveway and run for another 15 minutes. No oil made it into the catch can. After an hour and a half I started the engine... still smoked on startup... less than normal because I didn't let it set overnight.

If it were rings it would smoke all the time right? What is left? Valve guide seals? Did I miss a detail on the catch can system?
 

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There are several things you've stated that cause concern. A clogged pcv indicates verrrry poor maintenance. That should never happen if the vehicle is receiving oil changes on the correct interval for the user's driving style. The suggestion to flush a dirty (read sludged engine here) is a disaster waiting to happen. Engine flushes are a risky way to increase profits. I never recommended these in my shop. This advice on the part of the oil change store may be your best offence, as the engine was likely too sludged to allow for safe flushing. My motto was always: If the engine is dirty enough to suggest a flush, it is unwise to do so, and if it's clean enough to allow a flush safely, IT DOESN"T NEED IT! I suspect a clogging of the oil return holes in the cylinder heads. You could pull the vave cover(s) to inspect and unclog, or you might try checking the oil level twice. Once after an overnight rest (to determine a start point) and once after 30 minutes of driving. The heads may be storing a volume of oil enough to flood the valve stem seals and allow oil to be drawn into the cylinders past the seals. When shut down, oil runs into the intake ports and is burned at start up with a cloud of blue smoke. Then it may take some time driving to build the pooling in the heads to then show oil being drawn past the seals and burnt. Also, the oil control piston rings could have been stuck and now being loose but worn with a pattern not conforming to the cylinder walls anymore. How many miles has this vehicle been driven to get to this point? CMAT ASE L1
 

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Discussion Starter #11
There are several things you've stated that cause concern. A clogged pcv indicates verrrry poor maintenance. That should never happen if the vehicle is receiving oil changes on the correct interval for the user's driving style.
You are correct and this detail was out of my control as it does not belong to me.

The suggestion to flush a dirty (read sludged engine here) is a disaster waiting to happen. Engine flushes are a risky way to increase profits. I never recommended these in my shop. This advice on the part of the oil change store may be your best offence, as the engine was likely too sludged to allow for safe flushing. My motto was always: If the engine is dirty enough to suggest a flush, it is unwise to do so, and if it's clean enough to allow a flush safely, IT DOESN"T NEED IT!
I once again agree 100% and as I mentioned in the first post it was done before I was told about it and could stop it.

I suspect a clogging of the oil return holes in the cylinder heads. You could pull the vave cover(s) to inspect and unclog, or you might try checking the oil level twice. Once after an overnight rest (to determine a start point) and once after 30 minutes of driving. The heads may be storing a volume of oil enough to flood the valve stem seals and allow oil to be drawn into the cylinders past the seals. When shut down, oil runs into the intake ports and is burned at start up with a cloud of blue smoke. Then it may take some time driving to build the pooling in the heads to then show oil being drawn past the seals and burnt.
You make an interesting point here... I never thought of that scenario. I will certainly remove the front valve cover to look. The rear one is a nightmare so I will do that one if the front shows this clogging.

Also, the oil control piston rings could have been stuck and now being loose but worn with a pattern not conforming to the cylinder walls anymore.
I tend to shy away from thinking it is rings due to if you start it up and oil rings are bad they typically do not "PUFF" a big cloud of smoke but tend to smoke a little or a lot constantly and since oil cannot travel "UP" while sitting, it seems unlikely "to me" (opinion).

How many miles has this vehicle been driven to get to this point?
Typically it is a 30 minute 25 mile drive but when I tried the catch can I drove it maybe just under 10 miles and then let it sit and run for 15 minutes then shut it off for about an hour and a half.... it still smoked... less than when you start it in after 5 or 6 hours... less than when you drive for 30 minutes (25 miles).
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Nothing?

I have determined that this can't be oil related or water related.

Reason #1: The smoke doesn't smell like oil.

The smoke is really not blue as the thread title states.... it is more fluffy white than anything else.

Fluffy white would suggest burning water but there is no antifreeze smell and the "puffy" doesn't dissipate quickly.

Reason #2: The smoke doesn't smell like hot antifreeze and the coolant level doesn't drop.

Oil smoke has a distinct smell of burning oil.
Antifreeze smoke has a distinct smell of burning antifreeze.
Gasoline smoke has a distinct smell of raw fuel.

The smoke smells like none of these.

What the heck? Anybody have ideas on what the root cause is?

We took it to the dealer and they ran another flush through the engine... the problem is worse now. It smokes while driving sometimes now which it didn't before (after the first flush). The engine is making a funny rattly noise when it starts now (but goes away quickly) and my finance tells me it is the same noise it made that time I mentioned earlier about it blew out a big cloud and started chattering.

It is at the dealers again and I asked them to just diagnose the problem but I would really love to have some opinions.
 

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Well... since nobody had any other suggestions... I took it to the dealer and they had to remove the oil pan... the valve covers... use diesel fuel to clean out the top and bottom of the motor since it was severely sludged... put new valve covers on and viola!... success! No more smoking and the funny noises the engine was making is also gone and it is acting like new.
 
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