If you work on your own car, you need the right tools to do the job without breaking the bank. When you know you have an air leak but cannot find it, it is time for the smoke machine!
This unit will create smoke for a great price compared to some other brand names. We have seen prices from five hundred to three and a half thousand. We would rather spend the money in other places. Price is a big factor in this tool.
We are not sponsored by AutoLine, but we have bought and used this smoke machine for over two years now. The AutoLine Diagnostic tester has been a great addition to our shop at a great price. Having this small unit beats the alternatives we have tried to find vacuum leaks in the past.
Why do you need a smoke machine?
Unmetered air entering an engine will cause all sorts of lean conditions. You cannot see the leaks without the help of smoke. A vacuum line can just become porous over time but look ok. O-rings can become hardened and no longer seal. Plastic parts can be separated or cracked.
More than just the intake system can be tested. Exhaust leaks can be bad for your health and can cause backfiring in carbureted cars. You can use the smoke machine to help find exhaust leaks without running the engine and gassing yourself.
You can smoke test EVAP systems, vacuum leaks, low-pressure turbo leaks, intake manifolds, cooling / EGR / exhaust systems, worn rubber, gaskets, seals, connectors, and more.
In modern cars, many check engine codes are set off by an air/vacuum leak. Quickly dialing in the problem will save you time and money in a shop and help a home mechanic find the problem instead of just changing parts.
You should not check air-conditioning with this smoke detector. It can add contaminants from the oil used into the air-conditioning, which is not good. The oil migration would be one of the few drawbacks of this unit. Running it for an extended period of time, we found some oil residue in the intake system. The other drawback is sometimes it is hard to seal the input plugs, but that is no fault of the machine and can be fixed by adding the right accessories.
Using your smoke machine
The pros of this unit go beyond just a good price. The smoke machine is very easy to use. Fill the canister with a small amount of smoke fluid. The fluid is baby oil or mineral oil, or you can use the oil supplied with the kit. They profess more smoke and cleaner smoke if you use the supplied fluid. We have used the fluid exclusively.
There is a smell to the smoke. It’s not bad but can be strong before it clears out. It does not linger for weeks, as some reviews say, it is kind of sweet-smelling.
You will need an air compressor to supply the air to the unit. It uses a very low pressure of one PSI and has a regulator on the top to knock down the incoming air pressure. Because it’s such a low pressure any air compressor will do the job.
The power comes directly from the battery on the vehicle. If you don’t have the battery at the engine, you can grab power from other places. We use the alternator or the rear fuse board to make the unit turn on with no hassles. In our version, there is no switch. Just connect to power or disconnect to start the smoke machine warming up or to turn it off. Looks like the latest model has added an on-off switch to the battery hook-up.
Latest news: Redline Updates the smoke machine
The Red Line manufacturing department has been listening to its customers! They have now updated this already great machine to include a small air compressor! So, if you do not have a compressor in your shop, the unit will now supply the one psi needed.
Adding a cap set of plugs is a good idea. We use a combination of yellow caps and rubber caps for blocking off areas. We have drilled a hole in the center of some of the yellow caps to accept the smoke nozzle. The caps can be hard to fit into the intake if it is not perfectly sized.
To work with a variety of intake systems, we have added a pump-style intake blocking tool. With this accessory, you can seal off a variety of holes and also add in the smoke. The great part is if the intakes are not perfectly round or soft material, this pump system will still seal the hole.
The kit comes with a sufficient length of hose, but if you needed to add more, it would be an easy job.
Pros and Cons
|Smells a bit
|Easy to use
|Fitting caps can be hard
Final thoughts on the AutoLine Smoke machine
This is an invaluable tool at a great price, and it will pay for itself on the first job! We used to spray accelerants around a running engine to try and narrow down the leaks. With a few minutes set up, you can have this small smoke machine making smoke and finding the leaks in a calm and safe way. The body of the smoke machine is lightweight and has a hook to hang it on the hood or engine lid. This makes it easy to have close by but out of the way.
We would recommend this tool for a shop or a home mechanic. By adding the accessories, you will cover a wide range of makes and models. And who knows, you may grow to love the smell. If the smell means you save time and money, it is a good smell.