5 Easy Steps to Installing a New Vapor Canister
Also known as the charcoal or EVAP canister, the vapor canister is a device that reduces carbon emissions and increases fuel efficiency. Normally, vapor canisters do not require service beyond keeping it clean and free of debris, although cracks and deterioration on the canister body may cause it to lose pressure and fail. And once it starts to show signs of failure, the vapor canister must be replaced immediately to prevent fire, explosions, and other incidents due to the outside air mixing with the fuel vapors in the canister.
Required skill level: Novice
Needed tools and materials:
- Car jack
- Wheel chock/bricks
- Socket wrench
Prepping the vehicle
With the car parked on level ground and the ignition safely turned off, pull out the fuel system relay. You can refer to the car's user manual for the location of the fuel system relay, although it is usually marked as
C/Opn on the relay panel. Once the relay is detached from the system, turn on the ignition. Allow the engine to run until it uses all of its fuel and stops. Disconnect the battery cable.
Propping it up
Lift the rear of the car with jacks and place jack stands on each side underneath the frame. Slowly lower the car into the stands and slide a chock or a brick in the front tires to keep it from moving.
Finding and removing the old canister
The location of the vapor canister varies from one vehicle to another, although it is often located near the fuel tank. Once you've found the canister, pull out the hoses that attach it to the fuel tank. The hose is usually secured by a clamp, so use a pair of pliers to slide the clamp down the hose until it comes loose. Once the clamp is out of the way, take off the hose. Unscrew all the mounting bolts securing the vapor canister in place with the socket wrench. If the canister is held in place by a clamp, a screwdriver should be used to pry the canister off the clamp.
Installing the new canister
With the old canister out of the way, take your new canister and slide it into position next to the fuel tank and bolt or clamp it down and place. If the canister is held by mounting bolts, we recommend inserting all the bolts first so that the canister is held firmly while you tighten down the bolts. Reattach the hoses to the canister and slide the clamps back into the hoses.
Replace the fuel system relay and remove the jacks and chocks or bricks on the wheels. Reattach the battery battery cable, start the engine, and take the vehicle for a test run to see if the canister has been installed properly.
Vapor Canister Buyer's Guide
- The vapor canister is an essential component of your vehicle’s evaporative emission control or EVAP system.
- It is commonly referred to as a charcoal or fuel vapor canister.
- The vapor canister gets a plastic container filled with activated charcoal with a vapor canister purge valve and a vent solenoid.
- To pinpoint the exact location of your charcoal canister, it’s a good idea to refer to your vehicle repair manual.
- The vapor canister uses a series of charcoal filters to trap the unburnt fuel vapor so that it can be sent back to the engine for efficient combustion (in the form of hydrocarbon) or released outside the vehicle once it is converted to a less harmful form (as carbon dioxide).
- Most vapor canisters last the entire service life of your vehicle. However, there are rare instances wherein this part gets clogged or contaminated.
- Signs of a bad fuel vapor canister: Check Engine Light is on, noticeable fuel odors, difficulty pumping gas into the fuel
- OE replacement vapor canisters may cost you in the range of $25 to $881. You may purchase a canister individually or as an assembly.
- Any leaks or problems in the EVAP system may not affect the drivability of your vehicle but it will result in your engine failing to run efficiently.
- To prevent your vehicle from contributing to smog and air pollution, problems in the EVAP system must be addressed immediately.
Since strict environmental regulations got enforced in the United States in the 1970s, auto manufacturers have developed innovations that reduce the impact of fuel emissions on the environment. Today, all vehicles carry a built-in evaporative emissions control system that stores and purges unburnt fuel to prevent them from escaping and causing air pollution. One part that plays an important role in this process is the vapor canister.
What is a vapor canister?
The vapor canister is an essential component of your vehicle’s evaporative emission control or EVAP system. Commonly referred to as a charcoal or fuel vapor canister, it is essentially a plastic container filled with activated charcoal with a vapor canister purge valve and a vent solenoid.
Its main role is to trap and store evaporated fuel for burning in the engine at a later time. A functioning vapor canister is necessary for your engine to run efficiently and minimize harmful emissions at the same time.
Where is the fuel vapor canister located?
Different make models have varying EVAP system designs. Some will have the canister installed towards the front of the vehicle, while others at the rear. To pinpoint the exact location of your charcoal canister, it’s a good idea to refer to your vehicle repair manual.
In general, most fuel vapor canisters can be located on the driver’s side of the vehicle, close to the rear tire. You may look for a rectangular or spherical plastic container with three connecting vapor hoses and an electrical harness. One hose attaches to the vapor canister vent solenoid, the other to the fuel cell, and the last one to the purge valve.
What does a vapor canister do?
Inside the fuel tank, you’ll find fuel in both liquid and gas states. In order for the liquid fuel to flow through the system efficiently, fuel vapors must stay in a separate container to prevent the buildup of negative pressure. The vapor canister uses a series of charcoal filters to trap the unburnt fuel vapor so that it can go back to the engine for efficient combustion (in the form of hydrocarbon) or released outside the vehicle once it gets converted to a less harmful form (as carbon dioxide).
What causes a vapor canister to fail?
Most vapor canisters last the entire service life of your vehicle. Most EVAP system problems stem from faulty components connected to the canister, such as loose or disconnected fuel lines. However, there are rare instances where clogging can lead to cracks in the plastic housing.
Here are some other signs that suggest a faulty EVAP canister.
Check Engine light is illuminated or blinking
There are several issues that could trigger the Check Engine Light. You’ll need an OBD-II scan tool to retrieve the specific engine trouble code. A cracked fuel vapor canister or damaged vapor lines could be the culprit for an EVAP system leak. For an accurate diagnosis, it is best to seek the help of a licensed mechanic after retrieving the engine trouble code.
Noticeable fuel smell
Check for any noticeable fuel odors from inside your vehicle. A leaking or contaminated vapor canister will make it possible to smell fuel vapors from the passenger cabin.
Difficulty pumping gas into your vehicle
A clogged or faulty vapor canister can lead to a buildup of fuel vapors inside the gas tank. Water contamination in the fuel cell may also damage the charcoal filters meant to store the evaporated fuel. This results in negative pressure, which makes it hard to pump gas into the tank while refueling.
Failed emissions inspection
A fault in the EVAP system is likely to cause your vehicle to fail emissions testing mandated in most states.
How much does it cost to replace a vapor canister?
The cost of a fuel vapor canister will vary depending on your vehicle’s specific year, make, and model. In general, OE replacement vapor canisters may cost you between $25 to $881. You may purchase a canister individually or as an assembly. Because of the location of this component and the difficulty of this install, you should seek the expertise of a trusted mechanic during replacement.
Will my car run badly without a vapor canister?
Any leaks or problems in the EVAP system may not affect the drivability of your vehicle, but it will cause your engine to fail to run efficiently. You may notice that you need to refuel more often and use more gas for driving the same distance and power you’d normally get for less. This is because your vehicle cannot utilize the unburnt fuel vapors for acceleration.
More importantly, a faulty vapor canister can cause toxic gases to leak from your vehicle 24/7 without you knowing. To prevent your vehicle from contributing to smog and air pollution, address problems in the EVAP system immediately. Keep in mind that a faulty vapor canister may only be replaced and never repaired.
AC Delco vs. Motorcraft Vapor Canister: A Head to Head Comparison
The vapor or EVAP canister is an integral component in the fuel system of modern automobiles, so a replacement vapor canister isn't that hard to find. In fact, with so many brands offering OE vapor canisters it can be hard to wade through all of the technical terms and find out whether a particular canister will actually do the job right. So we took two of the most popular brands - Motorcraft and AC Delco - and installed their vapor canisters in a 1996 Ford Ranger to see which one is up to the challenge.
Both brands claim that their vapor canisters are a direct fit for the 1996 Ford Ranger, and when we installed the canisters it felt like we were installing a factory canister. We did have a bit of trouble disconnecting the AC Delco canister, however. The quick disconnect fittings on the canister did not disconnect as easily as we expected, although it was not that difficult to remove.
The AC Delco and the Motorcraft vapor canister were designed to match the exact specifications of the factory canister, so we didn't expect anything exceptional. We did have a couple of instances where the engine light turned on, but we later found out it was because of a loose vacuum line connected to the canister purge valve. But overall, both canisters worked fairly well and didn't cause any problems when we drove the Ranger around the block.
WINNER: AC Delco and Motorcraft
The price of an AC Delco Vapor Canister ranges from $40 to $100 and comes with a 1-year or 12,000-mile limited warranty upon date of purchase, while Motorcraft canisters go for $60 to $130 and have a 1-year or 12,000-mile warranty.
WINNER: AC Delco
Both AC Delco and Motorcraft vapor canisters do as exactly as what they are advertised: they provided the exact same performance as one would expect from a stock vapor canister straight from the factory floor. But with AC Delco vapor canisters having a lower price tag, their vapor canisters might be the wiser choice for shoppers looking for a replacement canister on a tight budget.
How to Pick the Proper Vapor Canister for Your Vehicle
Each vehicle owner still has a responsibility towards the environment while driving. As we all know, vehicles can emit toxic gases that can be harmful to the surroundings. Hence, your ride is equipped with a vapor canister. It works through the recycling process of absorbing vapors for them to be combusted in a proper manner, thereby reducing their harmful effects. You will know if your vapor canister is failing when you start to smell foul gases on your vehicle. Hence, it is time for its replacement. You should be aware of the suitable vapor canister that can be installed in your vehicle. Listed here are the things that you must consider before buying a new one:
Types of vapor canister used in the fuel tanks of vehicles
- Two vapor storage canister: This type of vapor canister is placed on medium to heavy duty vehicles that contains a single tank with a capacity of 35 gallons or even less.
- Three vapor storage canister: This type, on the other hand, is used by medium to heavy duty vehicles that has more than 35 gallon capacity on single and multi-tanks.
Kinds of vapor canister that are available in the automotive market
- Standard vapor canister: This is the typical model of vapor canister that is made to absorb fuel vapors from the tank container. Because it is made from high-class materials, the standard vapor canister is not easily prone to rust and corrosion that makes it a worthy option. This type is also made to be directly fit on vehicles.
- OES genuine vapor canister: This type is a recent innovation in the design of the vapor canister. It is made to exceed the standard original equipment (OE) type. Moreover, it is made to complement the specifications of a certain vehicle, so you would not have a problem in installing it.
Other things to consider
Keep in mind that you must browse for reliable brands only upon purchasing a new vapor canister. In this way, you can ensure that the money you use upon investing in this product is worth the cost. Search for the product number and the manufacturer to verify your chosen vapor canister.
Vapor Canister: How to Replace It
If there is a component that should be awarded as an environmental-friendly in your vehicle, your vapor canister can be counted as a candidate. This is because the said part allows the absorption of hydrocarbon vapors emitted by your vehicle, and it also serves as the channel of these vapors back to the engine for proper combustion. Hence, the harmful gases are absorbed in the process, which is further beneficial to the outside environment upon their emission. However, your vapor canister can fail over a period of time. Because of that, you must be able to replace it immediately. Here are the procedures that can guide you in installing a new vapor canister for your vehicle:
Difficulty level: Moderate
What you'll need:
- floor jacks and jack stands
- new vapor canister
Step 1: Before you remove your vapor canister, it is recommended to disconnect the ground cable from the negative battery terminal as a safety measure.
Step 2: Because your vapor canister is located near the fuel tank on the rear area of your vehicle, it is advisable to have that part raised using jack stands. You can also put bricks on the front area of your vehicle to prevent it from losing balance.
Step 3: Using a pair of pliers, detach the hoses of your vapor canister that connect it to the fuel supply. Target the clamp to loosen down the hoses for easier removal.
Step 4: Once the hoses are taken off, you can now remove your vapor canister. Do this by unscrewing its bolts with the use of a wrench.
Step 5: Hold your new vapor canister carefully until it is slid into position after the fuel tank. By using the wrench once again, reinstall the bolts that will secure your new vapor canister into place.
Step 6: You must also put the hoses of your vapor canister and their clamp back into place by using the pair of pliers again. Make sure that they are tightened securely to prevent your vapor canister from becoming loose.
Step 7: Reconnect the cable to the battery terminal, and lower your vehicle to check if your new vapor canister has been installed properly.