Sparks Auto Care Tip: What is the PCV Valve and Why Do I Care?


What The PCV Valve Does

Reno and Sparks drivers, let’s talk about your often-unnoticed but critical PCV valve. Did you know that the power that drives your car generates from minor explosions? But during these explosions, some of the vapors can escape from the cylinder and enter the crankcase. Your engine oil hangs out in the crankcase. When these gases are allowed to dwell in the crankcase, they can contaminate the oil. This contamination happens because the fumes contain about 70% unburned fuel. When this fuel mixes with the oil, it can become sludge very quickly. Oil sludge can be one of the most common enemies of the modern engine. It can plug up the passages, blocking lubrication to essential areas of the engine. Oil sludge can also cause the pressure to build in your engine leading to expensive failures. When pressure builds, it can create gaskets and seals to blow out. Dealing with these gases is the jobs of the PCV valve.

The PCV Valve Is An Emissions Requirement

Before 1963, gas-powered engines were built with hoses to vent fumes out of the crankcase and into the air. In 1963, the federal government put regulations in place that required manufacturers to install a one-way valve to reduce toxic emissions. Imagine how polluted our Northern Nevada air would be if these valves didn’t exist. With the weather inversions present in Reno and Sparks, we probably wouldn’t be able to breathe! Anyway, these valves help solve the emissions issues. Here is an interesting note: Diesel engines are not required to have these valves.Waynes Technician Working On A PCV Valve

How The PCV Value Functions

So what does the positive crankcase ventilation (PCV) valve do? It routes dangerous crankcase gases back into the air intake system to be burned again by the engine. Re-routing crankcase vapors allow reuse of the unspent fuel present in those fumes. Also, fresh air is drawn back into the crankcase with a tube called a “breather tube.” The whole process is pretty simple but makes a big difference. Minimized sludge buildup is the result of the re-circulating air removing moisture and combustion waste from the crankcase. This system extends the life of your oil and engine. The PCV valve can also relieve pressure in the crankcase which in turn helps prevent oil leaks.

Over time, the PCV valve can start to fail due to gum and buildup. If the valve is not moving air around efficiently, you can experience oil leaks, a fouled intake system, and extra oil consumption. Car hesitation when accelerating can be a sign of a faulty PCV valve. Many times the owners manual won’t list a replacement time or mileage number to help you gauge when to perform the maintenance. If we look at the average though, replacing the PCV valve between 20,000 mi/32,000km and 50,000 mi/80,000 km is ideal.

Wayne’s Automotive Center Can Replace Your PCV Valve

Our technicians at Wayne’s Automotive Center can diagnose many PCV system problems. Fortunately, PCV valve replacement is both quick and inexpensive at Wayne’s Automotive Center. Proper oil changes will significantly extend the life of the PCV valve. Skipping a few recommended oil changes can allow varnish and gum to build up in the PCV valve, reducing its efficiency. So when your Wayne’s Service technician tells you its time to replace your PCV valve, you will know the concepts he’s is describing to you, and you can feel better about the following advice. If you have had your car for a while and this is the first you’ve ever heard of a PCV valve, ask your technician to check yours out or call Wayne’s Automotive Center at 775-356-6996.

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Sparks, NV 89431

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