Replacing Your Charcoal Canister is Easy!

An Easy, 15-Minute Auto Repair

If you have been told that you need to replace the charcoal canister on your car or the "check engine" light has indicated the need to replace the part, don't panic. You may be able to save a few bucks and your sanity by doing your own charcoal canister replacement. 

This is an easy car repair -- one that you can likely do on your own. Doing so can save you a few hundred dollars in some cases. Before you attempt it, let's learn a little about what a charcoal canister does and why you would need to replace it.


What's a Charcoal Canister?

The charcoal canister is part of the vehicle's emissions controls or EVAP system. When the "check engine" light goes on, it could be due to the charcoal canister. The canister's job is to absorb vapor from fuel so that does not go into the atmosphere and cause air pollution. When a charcoal canister functions normally, vapors in it go back into the engine via the purge valve and then they are burned to prevent pollution.

Charcoal canister problems can be difficult for mechanics to diagnose. Typically, if you can smell a strong gasoline odor when the light goes on, it is likely to be the charcoal canister. Keep in mind that the light can indicate a number of problems, so it's vital to make sure you are certain of the exact issue before you attempt a repair on your own. Should your vehicle have a solid gas gap and makes a whooshing sound when it is removed, the problem could be related to venting from a collapsed charcoal canister.

Replacing the part would be necessary to prevent dangerous emissions from being released. A busted charcoal canister can impact engine quality, and it also means the possibility of failing a state inspection if one is required.

If your engine light suggests the EVAP system canister (or charcoal canister) needs to be replaced, here are some tips to do it yourself.


How to Fix a Charcoal Canister

The charcoal canister is located to the rear of the vehicle near the fuel filler neck. Place a jack under the vehicle and raise it so you can make contact with the can. You may want to take the wheel under the fuel cap off for easier access. 

Inspect the canister visually for any cracks or holes. If you have determined that it needs to be replaced, all you need to do is remove the old canister first.

Make sure to carefully disconnect the vacuum lines connected to the canister, and then reinstall a new one. When you insert bolts to attach the new part, hand-tighten them first to make sure they are in the right place, then finish off tightening with a wrench so the canister is secured to your vehicle. Be sure you properly reinstall the vacuum lines or you may experience issues with the "check engine" light going back on. 

Once you have done this, you should be good to go. If you think you prefer to go to a dealer or mechanic, you may expect to pay more for the part and labor but then you can be sure the proper part is replaced and installed correctly.