RepairPal is your advocate for car care advice and guidance

Q: What could be causing giant clouds of white tailpipe smoke on cold start ups. on 2004 Jeep Liberty

Help please!!!!!!
We have a 2004' Jeep Liberty 3.7, automatic, with 70,000 miles and it has a new problem with HUGE, GIANT, clouds of white smoke from tailpipe on cold start up. So much smoke the entire black Jeep disappears in it. As the Jeep runs, the smoke clears, but does not go away. There is no visible water in the oil, the ATF on the stick is clear and clean, the idle is smooth, but coolant level is dropping in the reservoir. The smoke is white, not gray, not blue, but it really does not have any anti-freeze odor; not a sweet burning smell etc. It is showing P0400 and P0401 codes which may or may not be related as those are evaporative codes, often associated with gas cap leakage etc.
Did all the lifters a few months ago after having the traditional rocker arms flying off of three of 6 cyl. At that time, it was throwing P0300 codes. I replaced the water pump at that time, new coolant, synthetic oil, and used Seafoam. Every valve slack adjuster, (lifter)was seized up and the engine quit running. No overheat has been known.
I have read this could be a cracked intake manifold, but in all the photos I have looked at, I cannot see any coolant passage ways in the manifold, so how could coolant be getting into a combustion chamber? I will pull the plugs this weekend for a visual inspection for water and/or rust.
Any chance this could be ATF from some kind of modulator valve? I cannot find an EGR valve on the engine, so thinking there isn't one.
Get a Repair Estimate
Guaranteed by certified locations nationwide. Learn more
RepairPal estimates are guaranteed at over 1,700 quality certified locations nationwide. Learn more
Continuous 'foggy weather' in the bay area?......Lol! Bigtime listen to answer #1!!! Headgasket
LOL, I'm in Klamath Falls and never get fog here! But that is what it looks like.... You should see it.
Hi, and thanks for your replies. So, are you thinking like a cylinder leak down test or more like a radiator pressure test? How about a radiator pressure test with the spark plugs out and see if I get coolant into any one of the cylinders? Is this a good idea or not? Have not tried this yet.... just thinking here out loud
hey rraypo, I'm having the same issue on my '04 3.7L liberty, and just turned over 71k miles. Looks like this happens like clockwork... Symptoms:
-white smoke (burning coolant) at start-up, then drives normally and smoke goes away
-gradual coolant loss with no apparent external leaks
-misfire codes on cylinders 5 and 3

I had the same observation as you, in that the intake manifold on this engine doesn't appear to have coolant channels based on pictures.

Did you ever find out what was wrong? I am wondering if it is worth it to remove the intake manifold to take a look at those cylinder head seals.
Good morning. In the year and a half we owned the Liberty we discovered a few things:
1. Far and away the worst gas mileage of any vehicle it's size.
2. They rip out cam followers (lifters) like popping popcorn, This causing the engine to through diagnostic codes for ignition problems, although this problem is NOT ignition. About once a month I had both valve covers off changing out ALL of the followers; they just get stuck in the down position. (From Jeep, they are about $25 each, 12 in total, adding another $50 in gaskets, I went to NAPA for some, Autozone for others, never finding a difference. I cut some of the stuck ones up to see what was wrong, and nothing, just any tiny dirt or varnish and they get stuck. Always use synthetic oil with an additive like Seafoam, Marvel Mystery Oil etc., this is the only help.
Jeep Liberty heads on the 3.7 V6 are garbage, (the Magnum V8 used in pickups is the exact same design by the way, using the very same parts, cam followers, pistons and all, so do not buy one of those either). I went through three of them, set of rebuilt heads, in the year and a half. Look even on Ebay at the price of rebuilt heads for the 3.7 compared to heads on other vehicles, they are VERY expensive, because there are so few good ones available to rebuild. They have very narrow gasket surfaces in a few places, and cannot hold head gaskets with the tiniest warp, but they also crack there, and are then scrap aluminum.
4. Lastly, now put a bunch of stop leak for radiators into your jeep and drive quickly to your nearest car dealer that will even take your Liberty, (we went to 6 dealers before one would take ours in trade, at any value, the first 5 laughed at us when we said we wanted to trade a Jeep Liberty) and trade that thing off, at any cost, right now, today, Saturday.
They cannot be fixed.
The problems in the 3.7 are all design issues which are out of our control. Buy a Toyota, Honda etc. and go back to trouble free. We traded ours off for a Toyota RAV4 V6 Limted, GPS, back up cam and all, after getting more white smoke out of the Liberty just 3,000 miles after the last set of heads, (3rd set remember). We got 12 - 16 MPG in the Jeep, and 24 MPG in the RAV with twice the power. The V6 RAV has a higher towing capacity, and is so much nicer to own and drive. The RAV is now at 75,000 miles, and not even a tune-up yet, just oil changes (synthetic of course now, I learned). In total, during the entire time we have now owned the RAV, we have paid less in car payments, 3-years, for the RAV than the Jeep cost just in replacing heads. DUMP the Liberty, and never, never, never look back or even think about buying anything ever again with the Jeep name, (Now Fiat-Jeep).
5. Finally, I promise you the owner of our LIberty had done the exact same thing. Ours was driven down from Alaska, to Salt Lake City, and traded in on a new Subaru, (we live in Oregon). I love to do research, and cars typically leave a good paper trail.
I even found the name and address of the people who had owned it, but I never did contact them.

Good luck to you.
Didn't find what you were looking for?