I found smoking oil on the back of my Renault Clio's engine. What could have caused this?

I was driving my 2002 1.5 Renault Clio diesel (78,000 miles) the other day when the engine started to make a gurgling noise. I pulled over straightaway, turned the engine off and smoke started coming out of the bonnet. After a few minutes, I opened the bonnet and found oil smoking at the back of the engine area. This all happened within a matter of minutes. The car was towed home and left for a couple of weeks as we were going on holiday.

Three weeks later, the car started first time and the engine seemed to run fine. I am told that the oil has come up through the coolant. There appears to be no coolant in the engine when the dipstick is checked. There is oil in the engine, albeit a bit low since it has escaped from somewhere! There was no warning of this - the engine did not lose power or pour smoke out the back, and no engine warning lights came on either. The car was serviced 2000 miles ago. The garage that I have spoken to seems to think it might be a head gasket, however another mechanic said it might be the heat exchanger since there is no sign of water in the engine and the car runs and starts fine. I have a small budget - what do you think it is?

Asked on 21 August 2010 by LisaW

Answered by Alan Ross
It is hard to understand at this stage what the "gurgling" noise was. When you say there was smoke coming from the back of the engine, was this in the area of the exhaust system, and could the oil have been burnt by the exhaust? Given that the engine did not fail in the first instance, and is still running ok now, one can only assume that somehow oil has spilled or leaked from somewhere in the engine. Was the engine overfilled with oil at any time? Is there a leak from the rocker cover gasket? Was the oil filler cap correctly fitted?

Given that the engine is running ok, it doesn't seem to be the cylinder head gasket. I would recommend that you check all oil/ water levels weekly, to see if they drop and to see if they get contaminated.
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