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    Thread: Rabbit Diesel spewing white smoke on cold starts

    1. 11-16-2019 10:53 PM #1
      Hello vortex,
      Iím a new member and just got into the Volkswagen world with the purchase of a 1982 diesel rabbit. The reason Iím posting today is that even though the engine in this rabbit has under 10k miles on it, when I start it cold (around 40 degrees not arctic temps) it starts spewing white smoke about 10 seconds after it gets turning. (See the attached video). The engine runs really rough and doesnít stop smoking if let idle. It takes giving the engine Gas and smoking out the neighborhood before I can get it to idle right and stop.

      Video link:

      https://youtu.be/j5o01AnocB0

      This is how far Iíve got on testing attempted fixes:

      -Replaced all fuel lines in the engine bay with clear lines (no bubbles seen on feed or return when left for days without starting, prime holds fine)
      -Replaced glow plugs with matched Bosch plugs and replaced glow plug bus bar with 10 gauge wire, checked all plug currents with a DC current clamp to ensure they were all drawing the specified amperage.
      -Pulled the injectors and pop tested them. All were within pressure spec and didnít leak but some showed pitting around the nozzle.

      The next step is to check compression but before I head out to spend more money on a tester I wanted to see if anyone has some ideas to chime in. Perhaps thereís something I have missed? I wonít rule out a head gasket issue but it seems unlikely due to the low miles on the engine.

      Thanks for any help you can give.





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    3. Member vwrabbit's Avatar
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      11-17-2019 12:39 AM #2
      Did you check the timing on the diesel pump? The white smoke is lots of unburnt fuel. Probably dumping fuel after the compression stroke.

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      11-17-2019 12:46 AM #3
      That's what I was thinking too.
      It might be a little retarded, so mark it and move it toward the head.

      You can tell compression by putting a socket on the crank and turning the engine over by hand.

      If it tries to go backwards when you let off it's good.

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    6. 11-17-2019 01:04 AM #4
      Thanks for the replies. Iíll give that a shot tomorrow and report back.


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    7. 11-18-2019 12:09 PM #5
      So I was able to get the pump to move about a 16th of an inch towards the engine and thought it helped yesterday but on this mornings cold start smoke was still building up in the yard as a cloud. How much advance are we talking about testing here? Should I have moved the pump a considerable amount towards the engine?


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    8. Senior Member briano1234's Avatar
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      11-18-2019 03:23 PM #6
      Also one should mention that on Diesels since they do burn oily smoke per nature, that condensate that occurs after last shutdown prior to restarting in the colder days. The exhaust systems on these critters will collect moisture, as the oily nature of the exhaust covers the hot metal bits with oil it is like seasoning a cast iron skillet, water takes a while to burn off... I noticed that on occasionally frosty mornings that my Diesel when new and later on would smoke whitish smoke longer as it took a while for the moisture to get to temp to burn off. I can remember once taking the muffler off and quite a bit of water was in it, and once during the winter I knocked the muffler on the side and noticed Ice cubes falling out....

      While White non-smelly smoke is condensate, the fuel smeely stuff needs to be addressed.

    9. 11-18-2019 03:26 PM #7
      Quote Originally Posted by briano1234 View Post
      Also one should mention that on Diesels since they do burn oily smoke per nature, that condensate that occurs after last shutdown prior to restarting in the colder days. The exhaust systems on these critters will collect moisture, as the oily nature of the exhaust covers the hot metal bits with oil it is like seasoning a cast iron skillet, water takes a while to burn off... I noticed that on occasionally frosty mornings that my Diesel when new and later on would smoke whitish smoke longer as it took a while for the moisture to get to temp to burn off. I can remember once taking the muffler off and quite a bit of water was in it, and once during the winter I knocked the muffler on the side and noticed Ice cubes falling out....

      While White non-smelly smoke is condensate, the fuel smeely stuff needs to be addressed.
      This is the Fuel smelly stuff. The kind that you come in from starting the car and the wife says you need to change before heading out to work. It also doesnít dissipate like the water vapor but just sits around unless the wind takes it.


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    10. Member mokoosh's Avatar
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      11-18-2019 10:08 PM #8
      Quote Originally Posted by covillo View Post
      So I was able to get the pump to move about a 16th of an inch towards the engine and thought it helped yesterday but on this mornings cold start smoke was still building up in the yard as a cloud. How much advance are we talking about testing here? Should I have moved the pump a considerable amount towards the engine?


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      Only able to move it a 16th? I'm wondering if you loosened all necessary bolts. Three on the sprocket side and one underneath on the other end.

      You also need to loosen all four hard lines at Both ends. Then adjust. Then retighten all.
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    11. 11-19-2019 02:09 AM #9
      So I got a timing kit and ran through the whole check today. I found that the cam was ever so slightly off at TDC (cam lock wouldnít go in when I aligned the TDC mark on the flywheel). I fixed this locked down the cam and checked the pump timing. Pump checked out at 0.92mm which is right within spec.

      I thought I had it but cold started again after this and sure enough 10 seconds later the smoke cloud. I also noticed that my oil was down more than I expected. Iím gonna pick up a compression tester tomorrow but Iím leaning towards the idea that the smoke is blue and Iíve got a head gasket failure. It just seems so unlikely after only 10k miles.

      Any further ideas are welcome. Thank you all for the help.

      Also regarding timing the pump I realized I didnít loosen the lines, but turns out I didnít need to adjust it.


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    12. Senior Member briano1234's Avatar
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      11-19-2019 09:19 AM #10
      Are you seeing a over pressurizing of the radiator hoses after start?
      Have you done the Glove test?
      Cold engine, open the expansion tank and tie a latex glove over the open hole Tight.
      Start the Engine, and from under the hood rev the engine to 3000 rpm for 30 seconds.
      If the Glove inflates bad head gasket. (test is only good for 30-45 seconds as the temp of the
      water pump by-pass will steam inflate it.

      If you are not seeing oily residue in the expansion tank, then I would suspect that you have a ring or valve seal issue over the
      Head Gasket.

      Did you use new bolts or re-use the old ones, as the bolts are not re-usable.
      The only reusable ones are the ARP stud kit which will hold the head down tighter than the bolts as the studs are a tad bit longer and
      Bite further into the head.

      If you are going to check compression be sure that you get a diesel tester, as the 350-400 psi range is needed.

    13. 11-19-2019 11:14 AM #11
      I did the glove test this morning, (Iím sure my neighbors loved it), and the glove didnít inflate so it seems like the head gasket may be intact. Iím going to still check compression. One weird thing I noticed since the engine was cold when I started and then reved it was that if you rev it after starting you get a big cloud of smoke but then when you let off it seems to even out and smoke a lot less. Not sure if this means anything to anyone.



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    14. 11-19-2019 11:20 AM #12
      Also I donít know about the head bolts. Unfortunately I wasnít the one that rebuilt this engine. The guy I bought it from had about 30 diesel rabbits and was into rebuilding the motors. He said he rebuilt this one for his wife 10k miles ago. I would hope he knew the deal with the head bolts but I canít be certain. Iíll make sure to get new ones if I pull the head though.


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      11-19-2019 09:44 PM #13
      So you are going to buy a compression tester before you try turning it over by hand?

      I suppose it's possible he built the engine right then broke it in wrong.
      I did that once.

    16. 11-19-2019 09:46 PM #14
      I turned it over by hand. Felt good. I think that the real problem with this engine might just be in my head. Iím gonna drive it a bit more before digging into anything any more. I think I might have just not waited long enough for it to warm up after I fixed the cam timing.


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    17. 11-20-2019 02:31 AM #15
      A WHOLE lot of posts and yet, none of the experts bothered to ask this guy if he has any idea what the cold-start advance is and if he is using it.

      Here is the deal: in all my years with these cars, I have literally found about a handful of guys who ACTUALLY rebuild one of these as required to be a "rebuild."

      Case in point: 10,000 mile engine with pitted nozzles. Please.

      You supposedly "pop-tested" (an highly overused term) the injectors and they were "within spec." Within spec how? Did you spend time looking to see if they "garden-hose" prior to firing? Did you pressurize them and hold them just very slightly below the firing point and see if they dribbled like a guy with a bad prostate?

      I highly suspect the injectors are old crappers the expert rebuilder threw in there to get it out-the-door. Likewise, I question every other element of this engine. These engines QUICKLY oval their bores and refitting of new rings (and were they even good rings?) is pointless.

      If the engine was bored and rebuilt, these engines require VERY stringent piston-to-wall clearances...Ö.VERY tight. This is very rarely ever done. I had to wrangle with my machine guy for over 10 years to get him to understand why this is important.

      Even very properly rebuilt engines will smoke when cold. These engines require a LOT of heat to run well. There is no spark plug to produce ignition. It is all accomplished with HEAT. And, it is damned hard to develop THAT much heat in a stone-cold block. It takes a considerable amount of time to establish proper tolerance in these engines. Most owners goose the hell out of these when cold and scuff the pess out of the pistons in very short order. Simply put, the aluminum piston swells much sooner than the surround cast iron.

      These are purely mechanical fuel pumps. They have NO electronic performance modifiers (corrections for perimeters) like the later ALH engines which have 10 electrical wires which go into the fuel pump to make all sorts of adjustments as they talk to their computer.

      With these purely mechanical pumps, you set them up as best you can to do what you want they to do at operating temp. Their performance will ALWAYS be compromised to various degrees when cold.

      How in the world do you really expect this engine to sit there and quietly chug when stone cold at such a low idle? Do you have ANY idea where your valve clearances are set at?

      The usual "fix-it" here is to add clear fuel lines. It is ALWAYS the go-to solution to getting these to run.

      There is a much larger and more-disciplined picture to all this.

      Quite frankly, I don't think the smoke is all that bad. My engines are set up to run exceptionally well once warmed and out on the open road. I don't stand there and let any of them rattle in the driveway while I pick lint out of my belly button. When cold, ya, they are not overly civilized. But, I know why they are like that.

      If you want civilized, go get something more modern.

      If you keep at this car, understand that these engines are VERY happy when they are run hard.....maintained....but, run hard. They internally stay cleaner, run and start better, and are much happier.
      If you need a 12 mm diesel head.....let me know. I am moving into the later ALH cars and have been hoarding several heads (solid and hydro) which have all been disassembled and cleaned.....most ported.
      Think you know EVERYTHING?: https://www.infowars.com/special-rep...piracy-theory/

    18. Senior Member briano1234's Avatar
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      11-20-2019 08:46 AM #16
      Yes a cold engine, even one that has a block heater on it will run rough until it gets to temp, and if it isn't giving you the finger on the glove test then your head gasket it good. The block heater makes it get to temp faster on cold mornings.... . I loved the instant heat from the block heater, and yes I drove it in sub zero weather in Illinois and Nebraska.... I changed the line in "Apocalypse Now" to " I love the smell of Diesel in the Morning."

      If you have a GP that is weak or bad, then you can get a cold running cylinder that spews the unburnt fuel at start and when the block gets warm as well as the head it straightens out.

      I ran my diesel bunny for 20 years, I had to change the 7 second glow plugs every 1-1.5 years as they burned out... The original wait forever ones were removed at 130K and still working fine. Carry a spare one as well as a spare fuse and the 2 sockets and 1/4 ratchet it takes to replace number 4 GP and you will never get stranded for no-start when cold, it will run rough but it will start and even out when you get it to temp, then drive it home and buy 4 more as you need one spare.


      If the engine has only 10K on it, it usually takes about 20K to fully break in and seat everything.

    19. 11-21-2019 12:08 AM #17
      Thanks for the replies guys, a lot of that was what I was talking about the real problem being in my head. Regarding the pop testing I did all the tests, leakage, breaking pressure, multiple hit one where you check for noise etc (canít remember the name but the Bentley calls for it). I drove the car the last two days and it runs rough on start up but I started up my dads old 92 VD pump dodge Cummins cold and got a reality check about white smoke and rough cold starts.
      Once sheís warmed up she runs and drives great and doesnít smoke at all so the real solution was just to park in a better spot at work away from the BMW owners that think the smoke is gonna make their inoperable turn signals start working again.

      Anyways Iíll stop bugging people about smoke until I have some real issues (knock on wood).

      I did learn how to time these motors from this escapade though so thatís a plus.



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    20. 11-21-2019 12:27 AM #18
      Also I pull the cold start advance every morning. She wonít idle cold without it.


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      11-21-2019 01:17 AM #19
      Sooo when you pull or push the cold start lever:
      does the engine sound change?
      I've been hitting the starter with it pushed in then pulling it out when it fires.
      I think it helps build engine speed.

      Later models had the glow plugs stay on for awhile after it started.
      So it's nice to have a manual "over ride" glow plug button to help out at the beginning,
      especially when it's real cool.

    22. Senior Member briano1234's Avatar
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      11-21-2019 08:36 AM #20
      Quote Originally Posted by fatmobile View Post
      Sooo when you pull or push the cold start lever:
      does the engine sound change?
      I've been hitting the starter with it pushed in then pulling it out when it fires.
      I think it helps build engine speed.

      Later models had the glow plugs stay on for awhile after it started.
      So it's nice to have a manual "over ride" glow plug button to help out at the beginning,
      especially when it's real cool.
      No you pull the cold-start out prior to first start, and it advances the injection about 5 degrees, you leave it out until the water temp reaches the first mark after a couple of minutes. It aids the diesel engine to start cold, if you pull it out then start the car it is better, when the engine warms up you push it in. Think of it as a manual choke on a carbed engine on the older Cars.

    23. Member mokoosh's Avatar
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      11-21-2019 10:59 AM #21
      Quote Originally Posted by briano1234 View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by fatmobile View Post
      Sooo when you pull or push the cold start lever:
      does the engine sound change?
      I've been hitting the starter with it pushed in then pulling it out when it fires.
      I think it helps build engine speed.

      Later models had the glow plugs stay on for awhile after it started.
      So it's nice to have a manual "over ride" glow plug button to help out at the beginning,
      especially when it's real cool.
      No you pull the cold-start out prior to first start, and it advances the injection about 5 degrees, you leave it out until the water temp reaches the first mark after a couple of minutes. It aids the diesel engine to start cold, if you pull it out then start the car it is better, when the engine warms up you push it in. Think of it as a manual choke on a carbed engine on the older Cars.
      My understanding is that the cold start only advances the timing at idle. That is, that if you start driving gently immediately you no longer need it. This is how I usually operate. If I don't push it in as soon as I'm moving, I often arrive at work finding that I forgot to push it in at all.
      Quote Originally Posted by rabbitnothopper View Post
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    24. Senior Member briano1234's Avatar
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      11-21-2019 11:33 AM #22
      Quote Originally Posted by fatmobile View Post
      Sooo when you pull or push the cold start lever:
      does the engine sound change?
      I've been hitting the starter with it pushed in then pulling it out when it fires.
      I think it helps build engine speed.

      Later models had the glow plugs stay on for awhile after it started.
      So it's nice to have a manual "over ride" glow plug button to help out at the beginning,
      especially when it's real cool.
      Quote Originally Posted by briano1234 View Post
      No you pull the cold-start out prior to first start, and it advances the injection about 5 degrees, you leave it out until the water temp reaches the first mark after a couple of minutes. It aids the diesel engine to start cold, if you pull it out then start the car it is better, when the engine warms up you push it in. Think of it as a manual choke on a carbed engine on the older Cars.
      Quote Originally Posted by mokoosh View Post
      My understanding is that the cold start only advances the timing at idle. That is, that if you start driving gently immediately you no longer need it. This is how I usually operate. If I don't push it in as soon as I'm moving, I often arrive at work finding that I forgot to push it in at all.
      LOL over the 20 years that I drove my Diesel bunny, I don't think I can count the times I was driving along and realize that I had left the Cold Start out and to push it in, let alone going out to start it again and finding the lever was still pulled out.... .

      I can also remember me driving it home from the dealership on the day I picked it up, and thought that by looking at the gauge infront of me that I had a half a tank of diesel, only to realize that I was looking at the water temp gauge and I had better start looking for a Gas station that sold diesel as there weren't too many of those stations in my town.. IIRC there were but 3, One Truck Stop, and 2 individual stations on the opposite sides of my town....

    25. 11-21-2019 08:41 PM #23
      White smoke is NOT fuel.
      That is antifreeze.
      Have a compression test done, with a leak down test.
      Quite possibly the head gasket is going.
      But Barr's lead stop might fix it, since the leak seems very small?

    26. 11-21-2019 08:45 PM #24
      Quote Originally Posted by mokoosh View Post
      My understanding is that the cold start only advances the timing at idle. That is, that if you start driving gently immediately you no longer need it. This is how I usually operate. If I don't push it in as soon as I'm moving, I often arrive at work finding that I forgot to push it in at all.
      No, the cold start can not change injection timing, at any time.
      It changes the mixture, making it richer.
      It has a time out, so is not a disaster to forget to push in, but you should push it in to avoid over heating the time out.

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      11-22-2019 02:57 AM #25
      Kirk, you sound like you are stating facts but
      I think you have it wrong on both accounts,

      It's common knowledge that the cold start lever advances the timing.
      Anyone who has pulled a pump apart knows that it moves the timing piston.

      Hard for a diesel to pull antifreeze into the cylinder because there is no vacuum.
      If the head gasket leaks into a water jacket it pumps air into the coolant.

      aaand I think anyone who tries to start their car in real cold weather
      can pull the cold start knob out and push it back in while cranking and see that it cranks faster with the cold start in.
      Maybe the fuel injecting earlier could warm the fuel up a little but turning slower makes the compression colder.
      It's a debate that's been going on for awhile, especially with the MK2 pumps.

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