An air pump, also known as a smog pump, is a part of a vehicle’s emissions control system. Back in the times when most vehicles were equipped with carburetors, an air pump helped for reducing a vehicle’s emissions, while keeping it running at its best. It forced more air into the burnt air/fuel mixture before it came out of the tailpipe. This caused the unburnt fuel in the mixture to ignite before it left the vehicle.
While older vehicles equipped with carburetors were not able to provide the perfect mix of air and fuel, modern computer-operated fuel injection systems allow for precise air/fuel control. Despite this fact, an air pump also comes in handy for modern vehicles, helping for reducing their emissions by assisting a catalytic converter. It is an important part of a car’s emissions control system, which makes the catalytic converter warm up faster and provides some extra air when the converter needs it most. The majority of air pumps found in modern vehicles are electrically-powered, while there are also cars and trucks equipped with belt-driven assemblies.
Being a part of your vehicle’s emissions control system, the air pump can cause serious problems if it fails to operate or malfunctions. A faulty air pump may not only increase the amount of pollutants produced by the vehicle, but also affect your engine performance and fuel efficiency. Most likely, you will not be able to pass a smog test and emissions inspection. A failing air pump can also cause an illuminated check engine light and other engine-related problems such as rough idling, poor acceleration and overall performance, and abnormal noises.
Air pump troubleshooting and replacement
While poor engine performance and increased emissions are an unwanted experience, a real danger from a faulty air pump is drivability problems. They can put your life at risk and lead to an emergency on the road.
A thorough inspection of the air pump and related components, such as belts and hoses, is recommended before replacing the pump. Your mechanic can use a special scanner to read trouble codes provided by the engine control unit if it monitors air pump operation. If you do have a faulty air pump, it must be replaced with an OE-quality unit recommended by the manufacturer. All related belts and hoses should also be inspected for wear and damage, and replaced if necessary. When the fix is done, the mechanic should test the system to make sure everything functions properly.
We do not recommend you to replace a faulty air pump yourself unless you’re a mechanic with lots of experience in this field. You should be aware of how all system components cooperate with each other and a proper diagnosis is performed. Besides, a special trouble code scanner is required for figuring out the damage or cause to the emissions control system and other related components. You should detect and fix all problems to make sure no trouble code appears when the replacement is done.