The anxiety you get when your vehicle’s “Check Engine” light is on can be overwhelming. This is because you are well aware that a turned on check engine light only indicates one thing. Your car has a problem somewhere. This malfunction may be a major one or something minor.
One common reason why your car’s check engine light may come up is if your car has a vacuum leak. So, today we will explore what a vacuum leak is, symptoms your car will give if there is a vacuum leak, what the cost of repair is and other information you will find educating.
What is a Vacuum Leak?
In simple words, a vacuum leak is any air spill, escape or ooze at the connection of an engine (your car’s engine) and a mass airflow sensor. This air spill can cause a handful of driving issues because an unwelcome amount of air finds its way into your car’s engine. This leads to leaning which implies that there is excess air in your engine with an insubstantial amount of fuel.
What Happens If You Drive With A Vacuum Leak?
Typically, your car’s engine airflow pattern is that its entire air influx passes through the throttle body. Within this throttle body lies the mass airflow sensor whose job is to regulate the amount of air entering the engine by precise measurements. Now when there is a vacuum leak, air escapes into the engine and bypasses the throttle body.
The implication of this is that your car’s engine control unit releases only the required amount of fuel as detected in the airflow. Thus, causing a discrepancy in the fuel-air ratio. This invariably causes driving irregularities. Also, because of this discrepancy the oxygen sensor is activated and the “Check Engine” light is turned on.
Cost of a vacuum leak repair
The deal is the cost of a vacuum leak repair is difficult to estimate without first identifying where the leak is. The leak source may be more complicated than it seems. You may need to replace some damaged gasket or change the intake manifold. Hence, prices may go from 200dollars to over 1000dollars depending on the location of the leak.
For a breakdown, if the vacuum leak is in the intake manifold, the price for the repair may range from $700 to $1600 (labor inclusive) depending on your car type. However, if it is leaking, repair may cost about $25 to $65 with the cost of labor being about 150dollars to 450dollars. If the leak is from the intake snorkel, its replacement cost between 30 to 75 dollars. Again, the leak may be from a bad EGR valve. If so, a replacement costs about 60 to 340dollars with labor costing from 100dollars to 340dollars. Also, getting a diagnosis for your engine vacuum leak costs an average of 100dollars.
Now that you know getting a quote for a vacuum without knowing where the leak is difficult, let’s explore how to find the vacuum leak.
To locate a vacuum leak, you must first know there is a vacuum leak. Here are some signs of knowing your car’s engine has a vacuum leak. Note; these may not be unique to a vacuum leak.
4 Symptoms of a Vacuum Leak?
a. The whizzing sound of a leaking gas:
One definitive way to identify there is a vacuum leak is the whizzing sound made when air escapes an enclosed space. Be it a marred pipe or a damaged gasket, once there is a leak, air escapes and as it does it hisses out. Surely, you will notice your car engine sounding different due to the release of pressurized air. So, when next you hear the hiss, check for the leak. It might just be a vacuum leak.
b. Reduced fuel performance:
Remember the vacuum system controls the fuel to air ratio in your car’s engine. Hence, an unaccounted-for air in the engine limits the availability of fuel in it. In turn, if the engine is not getting enough fuel, you will be buying more fuel that you used to.
c. Reduced engine performance:
Just as the fuel efficiency is affected by a vacuum leak the overall performance of the engine be affected too. There will be poor combustion, idling of the engine, sudden stops or not being able to start your car at all.
d. A turned-on check engine light:
True, the check engine light comes on at the slightest provocation or detection of a mishap. It still is an undeniable indicator that there is a malfunction somewhere. This malfunction just might be a vacuum leak. Hence, you should visit your mechanic when the check engine light is on or use a diagnostic scanner to find the fault.
Other signs include; poor brake performance, poor acceleration, stalling, difficult start and oxygen sensor leaning report.
How to find a vacuum leak
It is important to note that locating a vacuum leak is best done by a mechanic. However, here are some steps to help you with it.
Step one: Check for the diagram of your car’s vacuum. This is usually in the car’s manual and its engine compartment. You can also see it in a repair manual if you have one. The diagram guides you on where to check and how to check each vacuum hose.
Step two: Check the vacuum hose. You do this by first starting your car’s engine, set the transmission to neutral or park as your car model supposes. Then check the hose, remove and inspect its ends before fixing back. Also, run your hands through its length as you check for spots, softness, hardness or splits. Next, you check its connectors and see if they are in shape.
You can also confirm its intactness by spraying water on the hose and its connectors. Also, remember to check the hose for the presence of oil or any foreign substance. Ensure to do all checking under a good light source. Finally, replace any damaged or unduly hard or soft hose immediately.
Step three: Check the intake manifold. The leaks may be from the gasket. You do this by starting the car’s engine and leave it idle. Next, inspect the intake manifold for leaks and spray soapy water around it. Carefully listen to any alteration in the engine sound. Presence of bubbles reveal the location of vacuum leaks.
Can You Drive With A Vacuum Leak?
You can still drive your car despite the vacuum leak. However, it won’t be a smooth ride. You will most likely experience the symptoms that come with the vacuum leak like poor engine performance, poor brake, stalling and the rest.
Also, driving with a vacuum leak can cause your car an increased temperature so much that the engine’s cooling unit cannot take it. This will result in further damage to your vehicle. There is the risk of a brake failure, speed failure or power failure on a highway. Also, putting your life in danger. So, is a ride possible with a vacuum leak? Yes. Is it a commendable decision? No.
Can I fix a Vacuum Leak Myself?
It is not an impossible act. However, precisely detecting where the leak is in your car engine’s vacuum system is no easy task. This is because there is no one defined source in the engine where a leak is coming from. There are multiple components in the engine that may be responsible for the leak. There has to be a thorough check of each component to identify the source of the leak. Now, if you have no prior experience or mechanical knowledge this will likely be difficult.
The use of a broad scanner is helpful in the search but may not pinpoint the exact location of the leak neither will it fix the problem. Hence, it is best to let a mechanic do this.
A vacuum leak is not an uncommon problem in an engine and it can be repaired. The cost of its repair is dependent on the site of the leak. It is a good idea to contact your mechanic if a leak is suspected. However, there are helpful DIY tips to guide you.