Originally Posted by jim_naisium
White smoke when it is below freezing is normal, its just the moisture in the exhaust gas condensing in the cold air, white smoke above freezing however is not normal and means that your engine is sucking antifreeze into the cylinders.
But with that said...
Unless you smell anti-freeze in the exhaust don't worry about the while smoke, just focus on the electrical problem.
Put a volt meter (on DC voltage) on the battery and run the engine up to 2,500 rpms, what voltage are you getting?
Jim, thanks for the reply, which I just saw. The morning after I wrote my post the car had a dead battery, I had to work, so had it towed to the garage. The mechanic replaced the alternator (no surprise) and serpentine belt, tightened a power steering line, and pointed out that the top gasket (on the engine block) is leaking a bit. I've had no problems since then but the source of the smoke is still a mystery. The serpentine belt was worn but was not burned and the alternator wasn't seized, and there wasn't a whole lot of any fluid sprayed inside the compartment. My guess is that it was something inside the alternator burning up (possibly insulation on the windings, if they are insulated?)
Thanks again for the reply.