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When your engine is running, one of the byproducts inside the engine is vacuum. Engine vacuum can either be normalized or harnessed to power devices inside your vehicle. One piece that is necessary to harness engine vacuum is an electrical vacuum switch, which is a small solenoid that changes positions to divert engine vacuum or control the flow of engine vacuum to a certain place. The switch can be mounted in many places, though vacuum hoses need to be able to run to and from the vacuum switch, as well as to and from a wiring harness and connector.
Vehicle manufacturers use vacuum switches for several functions in vehicles, which include activating air conditioning, assisting in power brake control, switching interior heater modes, and controlling temperature. Some manufacturers have even used vacuum switches for power door lock controls. When an electrical impulse is sent to the switch, it changes position and directs the vacuum to a specific direction or adjusts the flow of vacuum. If an electrical vacuum switch malfunctions and works intermittently or quits working at all, or if the vacuum switch develops a leak, the function it controls will cease to respond. For example, if the heater control vacuum switch leaks, you may not be able to switch from defrost mode to vent mode on your dash.
A vacuum test can be performed by one of our expert technicians during any engine control module scan, however an electrical vacuum switch doesn’t require maintenance or scheduled replacement. If a vacuum switch leaks or the electrical switch fails, it will need to be replaced.
As electrical vacuum switches are used for a multitude of purposes, it is difficult to assess the importance. Generally, electrical vacuum switches are used for accessory features that don’t affect vehicle safety, so repairs can be at your discretion. If the vacuum switch controls a safety-related item, it should be replaced as soon as possible.