How Much Does Car Smoke Test Cost?

Do you ever have vacuum or emission leaks that you just can’t find? What should we do? Don’t worry! A car smoke test will help you to diagnose a leak anywhere in your car. In this context, we will discuss the smoke test car: what that means, how to carry it out, and most important does it cost too much to do this test? All concerns will be clarified in the content below:

Car Smoke Test: The Basic Knowledge

What is a smoke test for a car?

One of the most common problems that can come up in every car is a vacuum leak. In some cases, air leaks just cause discomfort to the drivers but may not be hazardous. However, when there are leaks in the vacuum hose, it can damage your engine and causes many drivability problems. Locating the kind of problem could be tricky but using a car smoke test can make you find leaks easier.

A smoke test meaning is to point out any leakage spot under your car’s hood. In a car test smoke, a smoke machine or artificial gas will be used to locate the areas that appear the holes or leakages. After identifying the leakages,  they can be repaired without opening the whole engine. When performing this test, any holes in your vehicle’s system will emit smoke and indicate that leaks need to be repaired immediately.

In this test, a smoke test machine will be used to put white smoke into the car’s vacuum hoses. Which will escape if there is any leak anywhere in the vacuum system. The amount of smoke will be controlled by a regulator to make sure the smoke level is not too high to not cause any damage to your vehicle’s system.

smoke test for car
A smoke test for a car meaning is to point out any leakage spot under your car’s hood (Photo:

Why is a smoke test car necessary?

Smoke tests for cars can give certain benefits that can’t be undeniable, this is a very handy diagnostic test even on a car that has not shown any obvious leakage problems. The first importance of a smoke test is to help you diagnose problems with your engine by performing calculations related to the percentage of exhaust emissions over a certain period of time.

In addition, using the smoke test for leaks can reduce diagnostic time and aid in elimination in addition to faster and more efficient leak detection. It can help you quickly find leaks in the turbocharger, exhaust system, air, intake system, seals, gaskets, hoses, fittings, and other components. It is important to do a smoke test if you detect any leak signs on your car, even a small leak can affect the engine performance. And make you and the passengers unsafe when driving. 

>> Read more: Cylinder Leak-Down Test: A Step-By-Step Guide

How To Carry Out A Smoke Test Car?

Before going into the specific steps, we will summarize the smoke test process as follows: In general, smoke testing is often used to find holes in exhaust systems or air intakes. It uses a smoke generator like a party and special effects machine but is highly specialized for automotive testing. Car smoke testing is performed in any hollow body such as the exhaust system, intake manifold, or evaporative emission.

In the smoke test, you fill the empty parts with artificial smoke and see where the smoke seeping out. With the use of bright lights, it can help you find out exactly where the smoke leak is so that you can take timely remedial measures. To start this test you need to equip with a smoke machine. This machine is not too expensive to buy if you are a creative person. You can absolutely a DIY smoke tester machine.

Step 1: Seal and put the plug

First, you need to make sure the intake system doesn’t have any seal openings. You can start with the inlet down the throttle body from the cleaner. In the intake system, an intake gasket or a throttle body leak can cause a squeal and run lean when your car is going down the road. 

Step 2: Attach the nozzle to the manifold

In the next step, you will plug the nozzle of the smoke machine into the manifold. You can choose the vacuum line to the brake booster is an ideal place to start.

Step 3: Keep the cleaner sealed

To make the cleaner or air filter closed, you can use the plastic cap or plastic food wrap to cap it off. Remember to unwrap the intake system after finishing the car smoke test. If you forget this step, your car can’t operate.

Step 4: Don’t forget to press the button

After completing 3 steps, check the phenomenon of smoke escaping with the visual to detect the leakage parts in your car. You can also apply the method to inspect the exhaust system. 

How long does it take to make this test? Because all three systems are tested in a vacuum leak test, the process can take some time to check. Approximate test times can range from 30 to 60 minutes. This is just the time it takes to detect the leak. Of course, this will not include the time for repairing parts after detecting the leakage. 

smoke test for leaks
Smoke test for leaks: To start this test you need to equip with a smoke machine (Photo:

How Much Does It Cost For A Car Smoke Test? 

The cost to perform the car smoke test is the same as any other diagnostic and repair work on the car. In most cases, some repair centers will charge a standard 1 hour while some will charge for the actual time to diagnose. If you need to do this check, find an ASE-certified master mechanic or manufacturer. While it may cost a bit more, it will cost you less to have your technicians repaired the right way the first time.

On average, the cost for the diagnostic in a smoke test will range from $50-$150 depending on which systems you want to check. But please note that the amount does not include repair costs if a leak is detected. If you decide to do it yourself, you will need to buy a smoke machine, the price will be from $150-$800 based on the brand. 

Normally, car smoke testing is most commonly used for Evaporative Emissions Control (EVAP) systems or PCV systems. However, there are many other uses for smoke testing. The detailed price for these 2 types of tests is:

  • EVAP smoke test will cost from $60 to as much as $150, this is just for tests and not including the repair. If the EVAP system finds leaks, the cost of repairing is $150. In case, you need to replace parts, expect to pay an extra $150 to $440. EVAP is is a fuel vapor control system (gasoline vapor) or evaporative emission control system, used to prevent gasoline vapors from the fuel system or fuel tank from escaping into the atmosphere. Accordingly, EVAP is equipped on cars to collect, store and treat exhaust gases before they are released into the environment. 
  • For the PCV system test, the price will range from $60-$100. PVC is an important part of the car’s exhaust system, responsible for removing emissions from the crankcase of an internal combustion engine. Checking and recognizing the signs of damage to the PCV valve helps the vehicle to operate stably. If the PCV system leaks, your car can lead to a condition where air can enter the intake manifold. 

When Do You Need A Car Smoke Test?

If you notice one of the following signs below, you should need to do a car smoke test:

  • You have bad idle issues of idle stumbling that could be caused by a vacuum leak.
  • More Fuel Consumption: With too much air, the engine control unit will try to compensate by adding more fuel to the air-fuel mixture, resulting in more consumption.
  • Increased emissions: An engine with too much air will burn hotter thereby producing more oxide emissions
  • Leaks around windows and vents -If air is not being drawn into the engine not properly. Due to faulty hoses or lines connecting various parts together (such as the intake manifold). This can cause wind noise (or “vents”) from around the windows. And vents on either side of the dashboard (near the steering wheel). This noise is often increased when driving at high speeds on long trips (>100 mph).
  • Check Engine light is on on the control panel
  • The car does not accelerate as fast as before, possibly because the engine has lost power.
  • A hissing sound comes from the engine area when the vehicle is moving.

You can drive a car with a vacuum leak for a certain amount of time. However, foot leaks cause the engine to overheat. Which increases the engine temperature and thus accelerates the deterioration of rubber and plastic parts, such as hoses and vacuum tubes. You should check for a vacuum leak and fix it as soon as possible. Especially if a leak occurs in the brake booster, you must fix it before driving.

>> Related post: The Reasons and Solutions for Smoke from Oil Cap

Final Thoughts: How Much Does Car Smoke Test Cost?

You can imagine a car moke test works like finding a leak in a bucket. Fill the bucket with water and see where the water comes from. Depending on the severity of the leak, you will have different costs. If your vehicle is found to have a serious leak, the cost of diagnosis and repair can be as high as $800 or more. Conversely, if it is only a small leak, you will only need to pay less than $90. However, in any case, you should take the car to the repairman in time. If you wait longer, it will probably cost more.