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Fred931's avatar

Car Nuts: Is using a valve cover breather bad?

Asked by Fred931 (9404 points ) January 21st, 2011

For the record, I would appreciate a thorough explanation of how everything discussed in here works. This is my first mod project, albeit a simple one, but it’s still got me nervous.

The car is a ‘90 Grand Prix Turbo. I’m getting a conical filter to replace the air filter box, but I’m having a crisis with the PCV system.

There is a hose with two PCV valves at each end, one in the valve cover and the other in the air filter box above where the air filter is located. That means that there’s a little sludge building up inside the hose between the filter box and the turbo, and the turbine has a film as well. The mechanic who looked at all this with me (a friend, not a chain business or dealer) said the best solution was to ditch the hose and put in a valve cover breather.

There seems to be a lot of controversy over valve cover breathers/crankcase breathers, and that I should try to find a way to direct the “dirty” into some collector “thing,” or keep routing it through the intake system (whether before or after the filter, I’m not sure).

I have a real damn blurry picture of the hose with the two PCV valves, dead-center, with the valve cover on the left and the air filter box on the right, as well as a slightly less blurry one of the end of the hose with the PCV valve in the valve cover.

Firstly, I want to know if using a push-in breather is reasonable here. If it isn’t, let me know what my alternatives are, or if I should just leave the “air train” the way it is.

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8 Answers

Fred931's avatar

The more I read, the more nightmarish the breather seems. I’m definitely wanting to not get one now. So what now? The use of a catch-can system shows up a lot through my brief internet searches, so if anyone has the beans on that, then gimme. Also still open to other ideas or just getting the drop-in K&N for the air filter box and leaving all the original kit alone, living with that bit of sludge, if that’s reasonable.

Fred931's avatar

My Piss-O-Meter is about a 6 right now because I already ordered the cone and the breather, but I’m still optimistic.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Is this vehicle going to driven on USA highways? If so you maybe fined and have the car confiscated.

Fred931's avatar

I believe the question of whether getting a conical filter and/or the breather was a state law issue, regarding whether or not each state requires emissions testing. Alabama does not.

I’m pretty sold on not getting the breather at this point, so I’m looking for other solutions anyway.

Fred931's avatar

I went through the big ol’ rulebook on emissions everything for the state, and there are 3 deliberate clauses that prohibit circumventing the PCV system. The breather is completely out, while the conical filter, being allowed only in states without emissions testing requirements according to K&N.com, and there being no clauses on the air filter of a vehicle, is acceptable. At this point, though, I think I should just stick with the drop-in filter and let that dirty air keep gunking up my turbo. I’ll consult the mechanic tomorrow on what I could and should do at this point, but I’m still open for suggestions.

Arbornaut's avatar

Shit fred, sounds like a nightmare. Wish i could help but my expertise stops with chainsaws and pre 95 diesels. Good luck..

Fred931's avatar

More research: this website targets the cause of sludge buildup in the PCV valves, and in my case, the following tubing and the turbo, to be from not keeping track of when to change the oil. Am I definitely set on getting the drop-in filter at this point? Because it seems that if this is the case, then the sludge will go away with regular oil changes, including the one I just finished, and sending both parts that I ordered back and getting the drop-in instead won’t be a hassle.

Wait… actually, it will. This means that I’ll be stuck with an OEM paper thing. K&N makes a drop-in for the ‘90 Grand Prix, but not for the Turbo version! Piss-O-Meter is at a 12 right now! AARGH!!

@Arbornaut You bet it’s a damn nightmare.

jerv's avatar

If you ask ten people their opinion on just about anything then you will get 12 different opinions; asking car nuts about valve cover breathers is no different.

”..if the intake system you are attaching a K&N cone filter to is CARB exempt, the K&N cone filter will not change that status and will be part of the exempt system.”
In other words, basically anything that is CARB-approved is fine, and while a cone filter by itself may be illegal in some places (though apparently they are legal where you live), if you get a CARB-approved intake system that uses a conical filter then it’s 50-state legal. Have you looked around for a decent CAI setup?

I also wonder if you may benefit from a turbo timer. While modern turbocharged cars have no need for them due to technology, a 1990 may do better if you get one. Older turbos had a habit of baking oil onto their innards if they didn’t cool off properly (accomplished by running the engine at zero boost) before shutting the engine off. Turbo timers will keep it running for a few minutes after leaving, which gets the oily mist out of the turbo before shutdown. Don’t worry about someone taking your car while the timer is running the engine while you are elsewhere; if properly installed, built-in security measures will kill the engine if someone tries that.

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