If your car is failing exhaust checks, your exhaust output is black, or your gas mileage is dropping, the EGR system is a likely culprit.
EGR systems or exhaust gas recirculation systems sometimes go out.
However, it’s much more likely that the sensor is dirty or the system itself needs to be cleaned. In addition, cleaning your EGR is normally a lot cheaper than replacing it.
In fact, the average cost to clean the EGR system is about $70. That can drop as low as $25 for a cheap mechanic or can go as high as $500 if other parts of the system need cleaning as well. However, in most cars, your technician can do the job in as little as 20 minutes, meaning you’ll pay their minimum rate or usually for an hour of work.
The following chart outlines costs for EGR cleaning from several specialists:
|O’Reilly Auto Parts
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How Much Does EGR Cleaning Cost?*
In most cases, the only real cost of cleaning an EGR system is labor.
Here, actual costs can vary depending on what you’re actually cleaning, if you’re using a solvent or just air, and if the technician inspects the full system.
In addition, accessibility can impact costs across different vehicles. For example, the following chart outlines cost estimates for cleaning an EGR system or valve in several popular vehicles.
*Note: Prices are estimates and were correct at the time of writing (February 2023). Cost estimates may have changed since our figures should be used as a starting point for your own research.
What Is An EGR?
The EGR or Exhaust Gas Recirculation system takes exhaust from the fuel combustion chamber, circulates it through a cooling chamber, and then injects it back into the engine as part of the air-fuel mixture.
This second combustion burns off nitrogen oxide in the exhaust, reducing harmful emissions.
In addition, recirculating the exhaust reduces the amount of oxygen in the combustion chamber. This reduces the amount of power the engine is able to achieve but also reduces the amount of nitrogen oxide produced by the engine.
In some vehicles, EGR systems are also a critical part of turbo or high-speed drive, because the cooled air allows the engine to run at a higher speed before it starts experiencing issues.
EGR Cleaning Price Factors
In most cases, the cost of labor is the most influential cost factor when cleaning an EGR system.
However, there are other considerations.
Make and Model of Vehicle
The make and model of your vehicle will impact the base cost of labor, especially if you’re going to the dealership. However, it also impacts how easy it is to access the EGR system.
In many vehicles, the EGR is easy to find and remove. For others, that’s not always the case.
In addition, if it turns out you need a new valve rather than just cleaning it, the make and model of your vehicle can make a very large difference.
Cost of Labor
The cost of labor is the most influential cost of cleaning an EGR valve. Here, you’ll normally pay for about an hour of work – which is the minimum rate for most technicians.
However, that will vary from location to location. For example, if your technician charges you for the time spent inspecting the system, cleaning the EGR, and resetting the EGR system by deleting old codes.
If you’re paying $100 per hour, you’ll probably pay about that for the work.
If Other Parts Need Cleaning
Often, if your EGR needs cleaning, you’ll have to clean other parts as well. For example, the intake manifold, the intercooler, the EGR cooler, and the catalytic converter.
If you have a diesel engine, you’ll also want to consider cleaning the DPF.
In addition, you may want to clean the EGR sensors as well as the valves. That can add to the duration of the work.
However, it may not be necessary to clean all of these parts. You can quickly inspect your system and decide based on that.
If Parts Are Bad or Not
If your EGR system is dirty it could be adding more soot or tar into the injection system. It could also mean that your exhaust is coming out blacker, meaning more soot builds up.
Over time, that can damage other parts of the engine, including the exhaust, the catalytic converter, and the fuel injectors. If they’re clogged and need to be cleaned or actually damaged, costs will add up a great deal.
Signs Of A Bad EGR System
If your EGR is going out, the most common symptom is reduced miles per gallon. You might also notice when you fail an emissions test.
However, you can also look for these symptoms.
EGR controls part of the air-fuel mixture going into your car. If it’s clogged or not passing enough air through the system, the air-fuel mixture could be off.
This could result in your car stalling because it gets too much air or too much fuel.
Clogged or dirty EGR systems can provide intermittent exhaust recirculation, which may change the pressure of air in the combustion chamber or may mean not enough air is getting into the combustion chamber.
This can result in a rough idle, where the engine has skips or highs and lows, even when not driving.
Poor Fuel Economy
The worse your EGR system gets, the worse your fuel economy will get. Here, the issue might also be any other problem with the exhaust or the fuel injection system.
However, cleaning the EGR should fix the issue. Here, not enough air is getting into the fuel injection system, meaning fuel doesn’t combust as well, and your vehicle has to use more of it to achieve the same power.
If you smell your exhaust anywhere but directly behind your vehicle, it’s a good sign that something is off with the EGR, the vacuum pressure, or the catalytic converter.
Here, you’ll have to inspect the full system to see what’s actually going wrong. However, if you have other symptoms of a dirty EGR system, that’s likely the issue.
Engine Running Hot
If your air-fuel mixture is off in the engine it will likely run hot. Here, you’ll want to check that the oil and coolant are not running low.
Like most of the other symptoms on this list, a hot engine can be caused by a large range of problems. However, when aligned with exhaust issues, the EGR should be the first place you look.
How Do You Do EGR Cleaning? (Video)
If you want to avoid a trip to the mechanic, you can almost always choose to clean the EGR yourself at home. Often, that means cleaning the EGR valve.
However, you should inspect the intake manifold, the EGR sensor, and the lines at the same time to ensure they don’t also have to be cleaned.
In most cases, you should expect to spend about an hour on this job although you might be faster.
Things You’ll Need
- Penetrating fluid
- Wrench set
- Exhaust and Manifold Cleaning Solvent
How to Clean the EGR
- Spray the EGR valve bolts with penetrating fluid and let it sit for 20-60 minutes.
- Disconnect the vacuum line connecting to the EGR valve by turning the bolt. Inspect it to see if needs cleaning.
- Unbolt the primary bolt and the side bolts holding the EGR valve in place.
- Tap the valve with a hammer to knock it loose and then wriggle it out of the engine.
- Spray the inside of the valve with an exhaust-cleaning solvent. Spray the solvent with the valve right side up and then upside down.
- Let the solvent sit for the amount of time listed on the can. Usually 20 minutes to 5 hours. Letting it sit longer is always going to be fine. Some technicians even recommend filling the full valve with solvent and leaving it to sit overnight.
- Remove any visible carbon buildup from around the exterior.
- Inspect the hoses and connections to the intake manifold and clean those if necessary.
- Once clean, bolt the EGR valve back onto the manifold.
- Replace the vacuum line.
- Turn the engine on and make sure there’s no exhaust leaking around the valve.
In some vehicles, you’ll have to reset the system to get rid of EGR error codes.
You may be able to do this by getting into the car, turning the ignition on, pumping the gas three times without starting the car, and then turning the ignition off and then back on. However, you might also have to go to the dealer.
If you have a hand vacuum pump, you can also test to see if your EGR valve is still good. Here, you connect the pump to the vacuum line and then put pressure on it.
If the valve moves up, the diaphragm inside is still working and the valve is good. If not, however, you need a new valve. If the pressure drops to 0, it also means the valve is bad.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you still have questions about cleaning an EGR system, these answers should help.
Can I clean an EGR valve myself?
You can often clean an EGR system yourself. In fact, cleaning kits range from $12 to $100. However, you can also clean an EGR system with nothing more than alcohol and a toothbrush and pick.
You also won’t be able to blow out the system or the lines unless you have a vacuum system at home.
Most people also find it relatively easy to clean the EGR on their own. However, you should take care if you’re also cleaning sensors.
Finally, some EGR systems have to be reset after cleaning. You can try turning your ignition on, pumping the gas three times, and then turning the ignition off, then turning the ignition back on to reset the codes.
However, some vehicles will have to go to the dealer or to a mechanic with the codes. You can’t normally do this yourself.
Is EGR valve cleaning worth it?
Cleaning the EGR valve can greatly improve your vehicle’s performance. If you’re just cleaning the valve, the job is fast, routine, and usually takes about 20 minutes.
In most cases, you’re also recommended to clean it at least every 12 months. That works out to every 30,000 miles in a city or every 50,000 miles in a rural environment.
How many times can you clean an EGR?
There’s no limit to the number of times you can clean an EGR valve.
As long as the parts are still working as intended and aren’t leaking, you don’t have to buy a new valve. However, it’s important to ensure that the issue comes from a dirty EGR valve and not a leaking or faulty one.
If you’re unsure if you should clean or replace your EGR valve, ask a professional. In most cases, cleaning it will more than do the job.
Cleaning an EGR valve is a quick job that normally takes 20-30 minutes. With no parts involved, you’ll probably pay your technician’s minimum rate for work. In some cases, you’ll also pay for cleaning supplies or solvents. However, the job usually costs about $70. That can go as low as $25 or as high as $500+ if you also have to clean the intake, the sensors, the cooler, and the catalytic converter. And, if that’s too much or you prefer to DIY, you can also do the work at home with minimal tools and experience.
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