Coolant is getting into the combustion chamber. Sounds like a head gasket problem.
You have described the classic symptoms of a blown head gasket or cracked cylinder head or both. In either case, there is a loss compression and "get up and go". Also, coolant leaks into the combustion chamber (also affects "get up and go" and the steam comes out of the muffler/tail pipe as "white" smoke.
white smoke is usually due to large amounts of oil in the muffler. if the mower was turned on its side for a period of time the oil will run into the muffler and when you start it it burns the oil out. after the large cloud starts to dissipate the smoke should start to change to a normal blue color and then disappear as it clears out
Just having a hole in the muffler won't cause smoke to form. Any smoke coming from an engine is caused by either environment changes (white smoke while engine is warming up), or an engine burning oil (blue smoke). Sometimes even a bad catalytic converter can cause smoke. The hole in the muffler simply gives the smoke a way out. Trying looking for external oil leaks or checking he oil level occasionally to see if it is burning oil. You may see water vapor is there is a hole in the muffler but it wouldn't last long once the muffler warms up and the moisture is burned off. She shouldn't see actual smoke unless there is a problem with the engine.
NO!! White smoke indicates the burning of oil. The law says, "ANY smoke coming from the engine during any part of the test is grounds for failure." I've been an Emissions guy in Denver for 23 years. White smoke is oil. Black is gas (too rich). Black smoke can get pricey. White smoke is always pricey!!
White smoke indicates coolant entering the combustion chamber. STOP driving this car immediately and have this repaired or you will destroy the engine.Blue smoke indicates the engine is burning oil.Black smoke indicates an overly rich fuel/air mixture. Have this repaired or you will destroy the catalytic converter and the O2 sensor.
There are three types of smoke that will exhust from your gasoline engine: White smoke, actually is steam from condensation of water within the muffler and exhust system. Number two is Black smoke, this is from unburned fuel. The engine is running far richer that it needs to be. Number three is blue smoke. This is usually associated with oil comsumption.
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