Picture this: you are on your way to work or do an errand, but when you started your car, you noticed that the “Check Engine” light is on. What should you do? Well, don’t panic yet. There are a few reasons why it’s lit, and one could be because of a vacuum leak. If you find yourself in this situation, what you can do is check for vacuum leaks. There are a few ways on how to find a vacuum leak in a car. Keep on reading as we’ll show you how to check for vacuum leaks with brake cleaner and other methods.
What is a vacuum leak?
What is a vacuum leak? Normally, all of the intake air of a car’s engine goes through the throttle body. When a vacuum leak occurs, a certain amount of air bypassed the usual engine intake tract. A tiny leak, even as small as 0.020 inches, can reduce the engine’s performance, compromise drivability, and can lead to malfunctions in some systems that depend on the vacuum.
How To Know If You Have Vacuum Leak
Before we start to learn how to check for vacuum leaks with brake cleaners and bother methods, it is important to make sure that your engine’s problem is a vacuum leak. So, how to know if you have a vacuum leak in a car?
One sign you can check is if your engine light is on, although a vacuum leak is not the only possible reason why it is lit. If your lit engine light is accompanied by hissing engine noise, loss of power, and does not peak even after accelerating, then it is safe to say that the issue is a vacuum leak.
How To Find A Vacuum Leak In A Car Engine
Using Brake Cleaner
In this method, you will have to use flammable brake cleaners. Begin with the engine cool. After starting the engine, spray water on the intakes before you spray the brake cleaner near and around the throttle bore gasket. Remember to spray in small puffs. When you see bubbles on the hose, then that’s where the leak is. If you spray on the base gaskets and the engine speed increases, it means the gasket has failed.
For some, learning how to check vacuum leaks with brake cleaners may be useful. It worked to some (as long as it’s flammable brake cleaners). However, some car owners are careful or doubtful to use this method, as some issues arise. Some brake cleaners can wrinkle or damage rubber and plastic. Most of the stuff under your hood is made of those materials, so using it may damage some parts and may cause other problems.
Testing For Loose Engine Hoses
First, you will need an important tool: the vacuum hose diagram. This is usually printed on a placard in the engine bay so you can check this in the service manual. Using the diagram, check the hoses that are connected to the motor and look for cracks or fastenings. Also, make sure that the hose clamps which secure the hose in place are strong enough by moving the clamps sideways. If it is easy to move them, tighten them. Check other surfaces if you still cannot identify the leaking areas. If your car is old and hasn’t replaced its vacuum lines, it may be a good idea to replace them. The vacuum lines may have leaks due to old age. Some of these leaks wouldn’t be traceable and can be the reason why you are having that problem.
This method is perhaps the most common, the easiest, and the cheapest way to check for vacuum leaks. Fill a spray bottle with soapy water, then spray it around the inlet and the affected hoses. Ensure that the engine is running when you are doing it. You will find air bubbles coming out if there are leaks in the affected area.
The Carb-Cleaner Trick
This method can be an alternative to the first item: how to check for vacuum leaks with a brake cleaner. Put the car in neutral, then spray on places where you think might have vacuum leaks. If there is a vacuum leak, the engine will start to run faster as you spray the carburetor cleaner.
The Professional Method
Another way on knowing how to check for vacuum leaks with brake cleaner is through the use of an EVAP smoke machine, such as Redline Detection’s Smoke Pro system. This method can be a bit pricey as an EVAP machine can cost you at least $900. Once you press the smoke button of the machine, it will give off thick white smoke. The smoke is regulated by an internal regulator, which keeps the smoke levels low enough to not damage anything on the car but high enough for the leaks to emit puffs of smoke.
Damaged hoses are one of the main culprits of vacuum leaks. Learning how to check for vacuum leaks with brake cleaners and other methods is necessary as you may need to do it yourself in the future. Remember to always practice caution and wear protective gear such as rubber gloves and protective eyewear. Also, having a fire extinguisher near you while checking for vacuum leaks can be very helpful. Want to learn more about vacuum cleaners? Read here!