Engine Vacuum Test
Intake manifold vacuum is the difference between the air pressure in the intake manifold and the outside atmosphere. To check manifold pressure with a vacuum gauge, you need to locate a port on the manifold or throttle body. Manufacturers install ports on their manifolds for many reasons: Brake Booster, PCV tube, EGR Switch, A/C vents, etc. Find one small enough for the vacuum gauge line to slide onto firmly.
Vacuum Gauge Readings
* Vacuum is measured in inches of mercury vacuum ("hg vacuum). For every 1000 ft. of increase in altitude, 1 "hg is subtracted from the vacuum gauge reading.
Normal Engine: On a normal engine, accelerate to 2000 rpm and then quickly release the throttle. The engine should snap right back to a steady 17-21 "hg vacuum.
Steady low between 5-10 "hg vacuum: This indicates that the engine has a leak in the intake manifold or the intake gasket. This leak should be easy to find because it would be making a loud hissing noise.
Steady low between 10-15 "hg vacuum: This reading indicates late valve timing. There's a good chance the vehicle has jumped timing. Check the timing belt or chain, depending on the application.
Steady low between 15-18 "hg vacuum: This just low reading indicates retarded ignition timing. Advance the timing to correct this problem.
Fluctuating Needle: A fluctuating needle indicates there's a problem with a valve or a there's an engine misfire.
Needle drops during acceleration: If the needle drops steadily during acceleration, there's a restriction in the exhaust or intake. This result is typically due to a clogged catalytic converter.