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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Shortly after a long drive on my Elise today with a lot of high speeds and fast acceleration, I took my car to the supermarket (groceries placed in passenger seat, rather than trunk). There is a steep hill, just beyond the parking lot. While going up the hill, the gears felt off. The car was barely moving while in low gears. In 4th gear with a the acceleration pedal down, it was moving up the hill like it was in first or 2nd. I looked in the mirror and saw smoke coming out of the engine, then immediately pulled off the road. I opened things up and couldn't see anything unusual, but did not look with much detail. After waiting a long time for things to cool down, I tried driving again. This time everything was normal, so I brought the car back to my garage.

Does anyone have ideas about what happened, and/or what to check for?
 

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A few questions that can help identify the issue...

Leaks?

Color of the smoke? White-ish? Blue-ish? Black-ish?

Smell?

Unusual noises?

Were you using the A/C or Heater?

Did you notice the engine temp during the run?

Have you checked the oil level?
When you check the oil level what do you see on the dip stick?

Have you checked the coolant level?
What color is the coolant?

Good luck,
Kiyoshi
 

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Discussion Starter #4
There were no obvious leaks, but I did not check in much detail.

The smoke was whitish.

It had a smell that I associate with plastic burning. With high RPMs, then quickly parking, I'd sometimes notice a mild smell of this type in the engine. However, the smell today was far more intense.

There were no unusual noises.

I was using the A/C. I never use the heater, in my climate.

I didn't check the engine temp. After the episode, I realized that would have been useful information, but at the time I was focused on other things.

I checked the oil level recently, and things were good. However, I have not checked since the episode. I also have not looked at the coolant yet.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
...it felt like 1st or 2nd in 4th?
Yes, while in first or 2nd it was barely moving, not much above neutral. And it 4th with the accelerator down, it was moving like 1st or 2nd. As I recall (I may have remembered this wrong), the engine sounded like >4000 RPMs, but there was little movement.
 

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Yes, while in first or 2nd it was barely moving, not much above neutral. And it 4th with the accelerator down, it was moving like 1st or 2nd. As I recall (I may have remembered this wrong), the engine sounded like >4000 RPMs, but there was little movement.
Toasted clutch?
 

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White smoke from the engine is usually water. (blue is oil, and black is rich gas)

Pull your dipstick and hope it doesn't look milky.
Check the coolant fluid that it doesn't look oily.

Hope it was the clutch.
 

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Per SweetDD, check the oil ASAP!!!!

White smoke from the tailpipe typically is caused by a blown head gasket (it's steam).

If you see oil in the coolant or water in the oil it's a positive sign. You can also pull the spark plugs, the one that looks like it has been steam cleaned is where the leak is. Coolant level will be low as it's been leaking into the combustion chamber and perhaps even into the sump.

Prolonged running with a blown head gasket can cause even greater engine damage. You don't want to drive to the shop if there's water in the oil, tow it.

But then... let's hope it's the clutch (highly likely).

Good luck,
Kiyoshi
 

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It had a smell that I associate with plastic burning. With high RPMs, then quickly parking, I'd sometimes notice a mild smell of this type in the engine. However, the smell today was far more intense.
If it is the clutch, which others have said it probably is, and I agree...you may want to consider upgrading to a HD clutch and/or analyze your driving style if you frequently smell burning clutch after agressive driving.
 

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once you get the clutch slipping it keeps doing it til it cools down, so if you misshifted, overloaded it or its wearing out then it keeps slipping til it cools off, usually its fine afterwards unless it is just worn out.

it comes up from around the headers and there is a lot of white smoke.

the smell is the giveaway usually, oil and engine bits smell nothing like the stench of the clutch
 

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If it is the clutch, which others have said it probably is, and I agree...you may want to consider upgrading to a HD clutch and/or analyze your driving style if you frequently smell burning clutch after agressive driving.
I can almost always smell my clutch burning (aggressively driving or not), but it is usually a pretty minor smell. Is there anything I can do to prevent this? I'm aware that I might just suck at driving.
 

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^^^

Either you drive like crap, or you have clutch disengagement issues.

Find level ground, put the car in first, and give it some revs with the clutch down. If the car moves AT ALL then you have issues.

To the OP, it sounds to me like your clutch is roasted.
 

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the smell is the giveaway usually, oil and engine bits smell nothing like the stench of the clutch
agreed

OP, if you smelled something and thought it was the clutch then it probably was.

Heres to hoping that it actually was the clutch...good luck.
 

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A burning clutch smells really bad, a little like burning plastic. Burning coolant smells sweet, and oil smells like you are running rich.
 

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...practice rev matching, ian...

...nolan, as mentioned above, a clutch has a very distinctive smell not unlike the acrid tang you'll pick up from burning/grinding in a metal shop, and once you identify it you'll always recognise it instantly - sounds like a clutch to me...

edit:
..sebastian makes a good point, a common mistake inexperienced drivers make in our small cockpits: if your seating position is too far back, you mightn't be engaging the clutch completely when shifting...
 
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