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The exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system reduces combustion temperature and prevents oxygen and nitrogen from combining to form harmful emissions. So if something is wrong with it, it could increase your vehicle’s emissions and cause engine performance problems. 

One of the parts that mechanics examine in the EGR system for issues is the EGR tube, though this is not usually where the EGR system fails.

Fortunately, there’s almost never anything wrong with the EGR tube as long as it hasn’t been physically damaged.

image of a ford egr system
The diagram shows the Ford EGR system that is common in various configurations on Ford platforms vehicles beginning in the early 1990s. Later, the components were all concentrated in one unit. | Image Source: Richard McCuistian

What Is the EGR Tube?

The EGR tube directs gases from the exhaust manifold through the EGR system. It recycles them back to the combustion chamber where they’ll be burned.

Symptoms of a Bad EGR Tube

The EGR tube works directly with the engine, so it pays to know the signs it’s time to replace it. They include:

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Rough Idling

An open EGR tube lets very little or too much exhaust gas into the combustion chamber. This messes with the air and fuel mixture, causing the engine to idle roughly.

Engine Stalling

Rough idling can also cause the engine to stall or die out when idling.

Knocking Sounds

A closed EGR tube locks the gases inside the combustion chamber. They cause high temperatures and early ignition at low RPMs, which produce a knocking sound from the engine.

Illuminated Check Engine Light

The check engine light illuminates when the car computer detects issues. If there’s something wrong with the EGR tube, it could trigger the warning light.

Does the EGR Tube Clog?

The EGR tube doesn’t typically clog, but the ports leading into the throttle body often do, resulting in a P0401 code for no EGR flow. Here are some photos of that type of clogging.

image of a clogged egr port
The tar-like substance in the photo has clogged the ports that feed the exhaust gases just behind the throttle plate and had to be cleaned out. On some platforms, there’ll be a separate EGR port (see photo) feeding each cylinder. Sometimes, several of these ports will clog and the ones that didn’t clog will get all the EGR and misfire when the EGR is flowing. EGR never flows at idle, or it will cause a rough idle condition and a hot intake manifold right after starting the engine. | Image Source: Richard McCuistian
image of an old park brake cable
This photo shows an old park brake cable that has been cut off and modified for the purpose of clearing the tarry sludge out of the EGR port on a Pontiac Aztec 3.4L V6. | Image Source: Richard McCuistian
electric egr valve diagram
Most EGR valves are now fully electric (see diagram), with an internal potentiometer and an internal reversible DC motor to move the pintle. | Image Source: Richard McCuistian

What Causes EGR Tube Problems?

EGR tubes can fail due to contaminant buildups. The exhaust gasses passing through the EGR tube contain carbon and other elements that accumulate. The buildup can get sticky, preventing the EGR tube from opening or closing properly. However, as stated earlier, the tube itself isn’t where the clogging happens.

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How Long Does an EGR Tube Last?

The EGR tube has no set service life, but experts recommend getting a carbon cleaning or air induction procedure every 50,000 miles. The process removes the buildups in the tube and its supporting connections, keeping them from clogging the passageways.

Should I Clean or Replace the EGR Tube?

If your EGR tube is dirty, cleaning it would solve most issues. However, if it’s damaged or there are other problems reducing its performance, it might be better to replace it.

Also, remember that a bad EGR tube can affect the parts around it. If it’s been faulty and causing issues for a while, the parts around it might also need repairs or replacement.

If you take your vehicle to an auto repair shop, mechanics would also check other system parts, like the EGR valve, EGR cooler, EGR cooler bypass, and intake throttle valve.

Can I Clean the EGR Tube Myself?

While cleaning the EGR tube yourself can save money, it can also cause costly problems if done incorrectly. It involves removing, cleaning, and reinstalling the tube. Mistakes in any of the steps can worsen existing issues and affect the entire EGR system.

Can I Replace the EGR Tube Myself?

With the right tools and know-how, you can replace the EGR tube in your garage. However, similar to cleaning, taking the DIY approach is risky if you don’t know what you’re doing. So if you’re not confident you can do it yourself, it’s best to leave the task to a licensed mechanic.

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How Much Does EGR Tube Replacement Cost?

Replacing an EGR tube can set you back between $250 and $350, depending on your vehicle and its system type. New parts typically cost $200 to $280, while the labor fee is around $60 to $80.

Final Thoughts

The EGR tube is a crucial part of the EGR system, so you must ensure it stays in great condition. If you spot any of the signs that point to its failure, take your ride to an auto repair shop to address problems immediately.

Mechanics can determine whether your EGR tube needs cleaning or replacement, and they can do the service as well. You can also count on them to identify and prevent potential problems in case the EGR tube has affected other parts.

About The Authors
Richard McCuistian, ASE Certified Master Automobile Technician
Reviewed By Richard McCuistian, ASE Certified Master Automobile Technician

Technical Reviewer at

Richard McCuistian has worked for nearly 50 years in the automotive field as a professional technician, an instructor, and a freelance automotive writer for Motor Age, ACtion magazine, Power Stroke Registry, and others. Richard is ASE certified for more than 30 years in 10 categories, including L1 Advanced Engine Performance and Light Vehicle Diesel.

CarParts Research Team
Written By Research Team

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The Research Team is composed of experienced automotive and tech writers working with (ASE)-certified automobile technicians and automotive journalists to bring up-to-date, helpful information to car owners in the US. Guided by's thorough editorial process, our team strives to produce guides and resources DIYers and casual car owners can trust.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.

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