Dan Ferrell writes about DIY car maintenance and repair. He has certifications in Automation and Control Technology and Technical Writing.
Why You Should Know How to Test an EGR Valve
Learning how to test an EGR valve will save you time, money and some headaches. After miles of service, the exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system—especially the EGR valve—will lead to engine performance problems due to carbon buildup, components mechanical problems, or vacuum hose leaks.
Depending on the particular problem, you'll notice symptoms like rough idle, pinging or knocking engine sounds, an increase in emissions, poor fuel economy, hard starting and even stalling. Without some troubleshooting, though, these same symptoms will mislead you into replacing an otherwise good EGR valve, solenoid, or miss a simple solution to your problem.
In this article, we take a look at a simple procedure to troubleshoot a potentially bad EGR valve, and a few tips to do some system cleaning, if necessary. In either case, I'd recommend you buy the vehicle repair manual for your particular make and model, if you don't have one yet.
The manual will help as a reference, either now or later, to identify the exact type and components you have in your EGR system; help you in identifying passageways for cleaning the system, including the valve itself; and the correct steps if you need to replace the EGR valve. Not to mention all the help you'll get in future maintenance and repairs for your vehicle.
You can get fairly inexpensive aftermarket repair manuals from most auto parts stores or online. Or, if you don't want to buy the manual now, look up a copy of the manual in the reference section of your local public library.
And one more thing: we're discussing vacuum controlled EGR valves found in old model vehicles and some newer models using hybrid (vacuum-electronic) controls. New vehicle models come with electronically controlled valves (about six different types of EGR-valve control configurations exist today, and some late model cars have rid of the EGR valve entirely).
Still, you can follow this guide along with the procedure described in your vehicle manual to test your EGR valve, if necessary.
To apply one of the tests to the EGR valve, you'll need a vacuum pump, which you can borrow-rent from a local auto parts store, if you don't have one. Other than that, you'll only need to use some common tools if you need to clean carbon buildup from EGR system passages.
Before testing, though, let's take a look at the purpose of the EGR system and what the EGR valve does, to make better sense of the EGR valve testing procedure.
What Does the EGR System Do?
The EGR system in your vehicle uses the EGR valve to introduce measured amounts of exhaust gases back into the combustion chambers. These gases lower combustion temperatures. And lower combustion temperatures mean lower emission of harmful NOx (oxides of nitrogen) gases.
However, exhaust gases shouldn't flow continuously into the cylinders. Once the engine has reached operating temperature, gases begin to flow gradually as engine speed increases. When this flow pattern fails, you begin to notice a decline in engine performance. For instance, this will happen if the EGR valve fails to close completely as the engine idles, or fails to open when engine speed increases.
Unfortunately, problems in the EGR system and valve will happen sooner or later. Overtime, small carbon particles contained in the exhaust gases begin to stick and accumulate along EGR and intake system passages, clogging tubes, exhaust gasses channels and the EGR valve itself.
Eventually, this will affect the valve's plunger mechanism as well, causing it to stick open or close. On top of that, EGR parts and components wear out and stop functioning properly.
That's when troubleshooting becomes necessary. You need to confirm whether the EGR valve has failed or carbon deposits have began upsetting EGR system and engine operation.
How to Test an EGR Valve
Locate the EGR valve
Look for a round, thick, metal disc about three inches in diameter. In most cases, you'll find it around the top area and to one side of the engine. You may need to look between and under some components on your vehicle. Also, you should see a thin, vacuum line connected to the top of the valve.
Still, depending on your vehicle model, the valve itself may have a different configuration. If you have trouble locating the valve, consult your vehicle service manual.
Or visit an online auto parts retailer, and enter your vehicle information to look for the EGR valve. Many auto parts stores online keep a database of auto parts photos or images for many vehicle makes and models. You may find a picture of the EGR valve for your particular model. That way you'll know what to look for.
Testing the Valve Stem Manually
The valve's metal disc houses a diaphragm, spring, and plunger to maintain the valve in the normally closed position. During operation, increase in vacuum pulls on the diaphragm, overcoming spring pressure to open the valve.
If you have good access to the valve, you may see small openings on the underside of the metal disc.
- Try to push on the diaphragm by sticking a finger through one of the openings of the EGR valve, if you have access to it—if you can't reach the diaphragm don't worry, you still can test the valve in the following sections.
- If the diaphragm doesn't move at all using finger pressure, you need to inspect EGR valve passages for carbon deposits restricting plunger movement (check the section EGR Valve and System Passages Cleaning below), or the mechanism has failed.
Testing EGR Valve Diaphragm Condition
Valve diaphragms suffer wear and tear as well. Eventually, they may start leaking exhaust gases. However, hidden from view inside the valve case, you need to do a specific and simple test to know the condition of the diaphragm.
- Apply the parking brake, block the wheels, and start the engine.
- Using a can of carburetor cleaner with the thin straw inserted into the tip, carefully spray a small burst of cleaner through the underside openings and towards the diaphragm.
- If the engine's rpm increases as you spray carburetor cleaner into the valve, the diaphragm is leaking and you need to replace the valve.
Testing for Stem Movement
- Start the engine and let it idle for about 15 minutes to bring it up to operating temperature.
- With the engine at idle, increase engine speed to about 2,500 rpm by quickly pushing and letting go of the accelerator linkage by hand, or ask an assistant to do it for you by quickly pressing and releasing the accelerator pedal.
- As you do this, watch the valve diaphragm movement. Use a small hand mirror for this, if necessary.
- If the stem or diaphragm doesn't move, disconnect the thin vacuum hose from the top of the valve.
- Place your finger on the opening of the vacuum hose you just disconnected.
- Increase engine rpm again as you did in the previous step. You should feel vacuum or a slight pressure on your finger tip, depending on the particular system type.
- If you don't feel a change in vacuum or pressure, likely the problem lies with the circuit that provides vacuum or pressure to the valve.
- Reconnect the vacuum hose to the valve.
Testing Valve Operation With a Vacuum Pump
- With the engine idling at operating temperature, disconnect the vacuum hose from the valve and plug it with a thin Phillips-head screwdriver or a similar object.
- Connect a hand vacuum pump to the EGR valve in place of the vacuum hose and apply 15 in-Hg of vacuum to the valve (if you don't have access to a vacuum pump you may borrow-rent one from a local auto parts store).
- As you apply vacuum to the valve, check for diaphragm movement. Also, pay attention to engine idle. Idle should become rough or the engine should stall as you apply vacuum.
- If the plunger doesn't move or the valve doesn't hold the vacuum you apply, replace the valve.
- If you notice no change at all in engine idle operation, but the plunger moves and the diaphragm holds vacuum, carbon buildup is blocking passages in the EGR system or the valve itself. Continue with the following section to remove the valve and clean the passages.
Common Vacuum Type EGR System Checks
- EGR valve plunger movement
- EGR valve diaphragm leaks
- Vacuum check
- Vacuum hose condition
- EGR system passage obstruction
How to Clean an EGR Valve
EGR Valve and System Passages Cleaning
If you suspect carbon deposits are blocking the EGR valve or system passages, remove the valve. You can also remove carbon deposits from some electronic EGR valves.
Tools You'll Need
- Set of sockets
- Ratchet extension
- Adjustable or crescent wrench, if necessary
- EGR valve or carburetor cleaner
- Dull scraper
- Wire brush
Removing the Valve
- On some models, you only need to remove two mounting bolts. On other engines, you may need—in addition to removing the two mounting bolts—to disconnect the valve from a steel pipe that connects the valve to the exhaust manifold.
- Depending on your particular car model, you may also need to remove one or more components to gain access to the valve.
Cleaning the Valve
- After removing the valve, use an EGR valve cleaner, if possible. However, you can use carburetor cleaner or solvent as well. But don't let the harsh cleaner to reach electronic components attached to the valve or you'll destroy it.
- Apply the cleaner to the passages at the bottom of the valve, intake and exhaust passages.
- Use a dull scraper and wire brush to remove carbon deposits from the bottom of the valve, plunger and valve seat.
- If necessary, replace the valve gasket. If you can't find the valve gasket at your local auto parts store, buy paper gasket and make one yourself.
- Once you've cleaned the valve and passages, reinstall the valve.
Once you know how to test an EGR valve, apply the same steps every one or two years to service the system. Many car manufacturers suggest a specific interval to inspect the EGR valve and system. This simple task will help you keep emissions low, maintain good engine performance, and save on fuel.
Car Computer Scan Tools
Test Your Knowledge of the Automotive EGR System
For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.
- The function of the EGR valve is to:
- Provide extra oxygen to the engine
- Reduce emissions of toxic oxides of nitrogen gases
- Prevent air from interfering with cylinder combustion
- Provide a power boost to the air/fuel mixture
- Reduce emissions of toxic oxides of nitrogen gases
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: should there be exhaust pressure coming from the lower ERG hose?
Answer: Check how the valve connects to the exhaust, either a port or a pipe - there's where pressure should be coming from.
Question: I have a 2004 ford explorer. The Check Engine light was on, and it was giving the EGR code, but running fine. I replaced the EGR valve & cleared the code. The car ran great for 47miles. But this morning it started idling rough and smoking with a strong smell of gas. Then, the Check Engine light started blinking. The new codes are P0300, 0301, 0302, 0303, 0316, P0172. Any suggestions? Could the new EGR valve be bad?
Answer: The problem could be with the ignition system, or a solenoid related to the EGR valve is not operating correctly, making the valve get stuck and cause misfires.
Question: I replaced my EGR valve and top vacuum hose, but the light of my vehicle is back on with the same code. What do I look for now?
Answer: Double check the system and make sure there was no buildup in the valve/intake passages. On some models, you may need to remove the intake and clean buildup at the ports as well.
Question: I have a 2005 dodge magnum 3.5L V6. It was running pretty good, but a bit bogged down and coded for the EGR valve, so we replaced it, and on the first startup and since it's roughly idling low at around 500 rpm and sputtering. It sounds like air may be escaping, but I don't know. Coded running lean on banks 1 and 2. p0404 and p0406. The paperwork says to replace the fuel pump, but nothing is wrong with my fuel pump. Please help?
Answer: There seems to be a problem in the EGR circuit (P0404), maybe the sensor. Make sure vacuum hoses are well connected and in good condition. Also, did you check for build up around the ports? On some models, you need to dig deep into the intake to clear the passages.
Question: In my Mercedes-Benz E-class W212 CDI, the generic code P2463 continues to appear even though I have both flushed and swapped my DPF. Would a jammed EGR create enough of a backflow issue to trigger such a code? The location of this valve is in such a position that embarrassing myself by asking the question now is better than spending quite a few hours removing most of the intake system to get to it.
Answer: Once the code is set the computer will go into limp mode and disable the EGR system. Make sure you clear out this code from memory after checking there no other ones stored that can give you more information about the problem.
There are other possible issues that may trigger the P2463 besides a clogged DPF. The most common: damage to wiring or connectors, problems with pressure hoses or the DPF pressure sensor, issues with regeneration of the DPF, and a bad EGR valve or its circuit.
Question: I have a 13 plate diesel Zafira, and the engine spanner light came on back last summer, lost power, then it was ok until six weeks ago. P0409 is the fault code. I did 17 miles before it broke down in Longleat! Could it just be the Air flow filter?
Answer: The code points to an EGR sensor, check the sensor and the valve, it may be stuck. Other possibilities EGR solenoid and vacuum lines.
Question: I changed the EGR valve on my 91' Chevy S10 truck, 4.3 liter V6. When I did, the tiny hose broke in half. I used a slightly different hose, one more flexible and almost the same size. Now my truck won't start? Would the hose difference cause this?
Answer: Probably not. If there’s something wrong with the EGR valve, it may cause a rough idle and possibly a stall. Could you have disconnected something while replacing the valve? Make sure you have good spark and fuel pressure first. Also, even if the checking engine light is not on, try downloading trouble codes. There could be a pending code that could give you some direction.
Question: I'm still getting check engine light after replacing the EGR valve on my 97 Nissan Maxima. Got the light after about 35 miles of driving. Any suggestions? The car only has 135,000 miles on it.
Answer: Make sure that you clean all carbon deposits at the intake ports. Also, the problem might be in the electrical or vacuum side of the circuit.
Question: How do new type EGR valves function? Can the diaphragm be tested using vacuum port on valve?
Answer: If the EGR operates through a vacuum, you can test it with a hand-held vacuum pump. See the section Testing Valve Operation With a Vacuum Pump in this post. Modern vehicles have electric EGR valves. You may be able to test this valve with a digital multimeter. Check your vehicle repair manual to test the electric valve and compare the values to specs.
Question: Would a clogged or bad EGR valve make my all wheel drive shudder when driving 30-40 mph?
Answer: Sometimes this type of fault is associated with the torque converter on some automatic transmission models; but an unbalanced tire or faulty rim can have the same effect within a speed range.
Question: My car is ford Fiesta Duratorq TDCi 1.4. While in idle the vehicle is jerking too much and RPM is reducing automatically. The vehicle is giving a poor average. What may be the reason?
Answer: On some of these models, the injectors seem to have some problems. Check the injectors, connectors and scan the computer for trouble codes, even if you don't see the CEL coming on.
Question: I have a 2005 Honda Civic with a 1.7L engine. Do I have to have an error code telling me that I have a bad EGR valve or can I have a bad valve without getting an error code?
Answer: A clogged EGR valve usually will trigger a trouble code but not all the time, specially when backfires appear. It's a good idea to test the EGR valve if you suspect a fault, even without a DTC.
Question: I have a 2002 Ford Focus SE manual that had three different issues with the wires from the starter to the battery falling on the EGR tube and melting, with the last time burning a hole in the EGR tube. Now the car tries to start but won't turn over. Any suggestions on the issue, and how difficult will it be to change that tube out?
Answer: This EGR tube/burning issue seems to be a common problem in these models. Probably the wires melting caused a short in the starting system. If the car tries to start, the engine is turning over but won't catch. I think that's what you tried to say? In this case, check for spark and fuel pressure.
If the engine doesn't turn over, meaning the engine doesn't make any sound or movement and you hear a click or series or clicks, than the problem is with the starter motor or the starting system.
Now, replacing the EGR tube is a bit tricky because of the space in this model. However, with the right tools and a bit of elbow grease, you may be able to do it. This other video may help you here:
Question: What's the average cost to smoke test your car to find a leak that won’t let you pass inspection because of a bad EGR?
Answer: You may pay around $100.00 dollars. in a shop. But you may also find some homemade smoke test solutions that might help you. Just do an online search and see what you can find.
Question: I have a 2009 BMW 335i. I've noticed pinging and decreased power during take off or acceleration. My car also stalls out or the rpm falls to almost zero at other times. My "engine malfunction decreased power" light comes on when this happens. What could be the problem?
Answer: First, download trouble codes from the computer memory. That should point you to the system where the fault was detected. There could be several possibilities, a faulty oxygen sensor, bad fuel pump, bad ignition coil. If you find no codes, try checking the charging system (battery and alternator and circuit) and throttle body (valvetronic -position sensor and electric motor).
Question: I have a Vauxhall corsa Club A/C CDTi 58 plate. I was told the engine light coming on was en EGR valve getting wet. What do I need to do? Is it safe to drive?
Answer: There could be a problem with the EGR cooler. You may need to have it tested. Eventually, if not already, it can affect pressure in the cooling system. Keep an eye on the temperatures, and have it checked soon.
Question: I have a Vauxhall Tigra 1.3 CDTI. I replaced the EGR valve and MAF. I had the engine management light reset but, it will not start now. If I take the EGR wire connection off, it will start and run as normal, but as soon as I put the electrics back on, nothing. Could the new valve be at fault?
Answer: There could be a problem with the solenoids. Scan the computer for possible pending codes and test the EGR system solenoids as well, if necessary.
Question: What is the purpose of a DPFE sensor?
Answer: The delta pressure feedback of EGR (DPFE) sensor basically informs the computer of EGR system pressure changes (how much exhaust gas is entering back the intake through the EGR valve).
Question: I have an intermittent car misfiring. 2010 Toyota Prius. When it misfires, engine light comes on. Scanned it and error is insufficient flow detected in EGR. EGR was checked and it wasn't dirty at all. Changed spark plugs. Coils weren't checked since if they were faulty, the issue would be permanent. But it only happens for a few days and after that, the car runs smooth and engine light goes off itself. What could be the problem?
Answer: The fault could be in the EGR system; check the sensor/solenoid that controls the EGR valve. Electrical circuits can cause intermittent faults from loose or damaged wires or connectors. Wiggle the connectors and wires and see if you can trigger the check engine light.
Question: My 2010 4L Town & Country occasionally stalls at very slow speeds, never at idle or highway speeds. Usually with a cold engine, but lately even with a warm engine. This car has 110K miles on it. Should I replace the EGR valve?
Answer: There could be problems with other components like the torque converter (automatic transmission) or a faulty oxygen sensor. Download trouble codes, even if you don't see the check engine light on, for a possible pending code. This other post may help as well:
Question: How do you clean an EGR still on the vehicle?
Answer: You need to remove the valve to get rid of all the carbon build-up, replace the gasket and check the mounting area for cracks. Sometimes it's necessary to leave the valve soaking to remove stubborn build-up.
Question: I have a 2003 Ford F150 4.2l. It was sputtering on and off. I disconnected the vacuum line to the EGR, and problem solved. Going to leave it disconnected. I plugged the vacuum line. Any issues with doing this, as I don't have to run it through emissions testing in my county? Just wanted to make sure this won't cause any damage to my engine.
Answer: Fix the problem as soon as you can; not having the EGR system running will increase engine temperature which may lead, in the long run, to other problems. Check this other post:
Question: What does code P1406 mean for an EGR valve?
Answer: Depending on your particular application, the code may point to a problem with the differential pressure feedback (DPFE - also known as a delta pressure feedback) sensor circuit hose, either restricted or unplugged. Also, the code may point to any part of the circuit - depending on the manufacturer. It's best to refer to your vehicle repair manual and test the valve and sensor (hoses, connectors) for proper operation.