The Evaporative Emission Control System (EVAP) is used to prevent gasoline vapors from escaping into the atmosphere from the fuel tank and fuel system. The EVAP system usually requires no maintenance, but faults can turn on the Check Engine light and prevent a vehicle from passing an OBD II plug-in emissions test.
The OBD II EVAP monitor on 1996 and newer vehicles runs diagnostic self-checks to detect fuel vapor leaks, and if it finds any (including a loose or missing gas cap), it will set a fault code and turn on the Check Engine light. However, the EVAP monitor only runs under certain operating conditions. This may create a problem for the vehicle owner if his vehicle must be given an OBD II plug-in emissions test and the monitor has not completed.
Sealing the fuel tank is not as simple as it sounds. For one thing, a fuel tank must have some type of venting so air can enter to replace fuel as the fuel is sucked up the fuel pump and sent to the engine. If the tank were sealed tight, the fuel pump would soon create enough negative suction pressure inside the tank to collapse the tank. On older EVAP systems, the tank is vented by a spring-loaded valve inside the gas cap. On newer vehicles, it is vented through the EVAP canister.
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