WRX vapor canister purge valve replacement write-up

I recently had a problem that I needed to fix prior to passing NYS Motor Vehicle Inspection.

The problem was that when I went to fill up my fuel tank, the pump would shut off after about 3 seconds. Even after trying repeatedly. I tried a different gas station, but had the same problem. After some research on www.NASIOC.com and some other Subaru-related internet forums, the problem seemed to be with the “vapor canister purge valve.” I was getting an error code P1443 and my ‘check engine’ light was on.

The temporary workaround was to take my tire lug wrench, reach under the car between the charcoal canister and the side of the body, and hit random parts a few times until I heard the “glug glug glug” sound of fuel moving. Apparently tapping on the purge valve can cause the valve to open and release the pressure, so that you can fill up your tank again.

So, I took some photos and decided to do a write-up. I had a few minor problems along the way.

 

The Write-Up

Step 1. Have a refreshing beverage. In my case, a frozen lemonade from Tim Hortons. It’s summer and pretty warm today.
Tim Hortons Frozen Lemonade

Step 2. Jack the car up. I prefer to place my jack under the rear differential (use a block of wood between the jack and the rear diff if you want to be more gentle with it). Place jack stands in front of the rear wheels, similar to the place behind the front wheels where jacks or jack-stands frequently can go. You could also use ramps if you prefer, just keep the front wheels ‘chocked’ so that the car doesn’t roll. Always put safety first.
car jacked up under the rear differential and jack stands underneath in front of rear wheels on WRX

Step 3. Take some pictures before you take anything apart, so that you have a reference when you go to put it all back together.

Step 4. Remove the charcoal canister
removing charcoal evaporative emissions filter 2004 Subaru Impreza WRX

There are 3 bolts holding this on, two are on the right side of the picture and one on the left side that is hidden from view above. The two nuts/bolts on the right are actually sunken into rubber grommets that slide onto the mounting bracket. If you need to take them off, they actually slide right out.

Step 5. Let the charcoal canister drop down and hang slightly from the rubber hoses so that you can loosen the hose-clamps. I believe that they are 6mm heads. I didn’t have a 6mm wrench or socket, so I used an adjustable wrench instead. Also unplug the wire harness from the purge valve.
loosen the hose clamps from the rubber lines connecting to the charcoal filter, 2004 Subaru Impreza WRX
The bracket below it is a Perrin rear sway-bar mount. An OEM Subaru mount may not look the same. In my case I actually lost one of the nuts for the charcoal canister. I opted to put one on each end of the canister in my case because if not, one of these rubber lines comes dangerously close to the sway bar mount, and could conceivably wear a hold in the line. This will probably at least give you an engine light and error code for an evap leak.

Step 6. Remove the canister to access the purge valve assembly. The rubber hoses should pull right off, be careful not to tear them, or you could end up with a leak in the evap system.
charcoal evaporative canister filter removed, 2004 Subaru Impreza WRX
Above you can see a typical amount of Buffalo, NY rust. The bolt that has silver coloring around it in the picture is the one I chose to remove. This will allow the whole bracket and valve assembly to come off. It has silver coloring because this is an “after” picture where I slathered an optimal amount of lithium anti-seize grease on the bolt and threads. There is another smaller bolt holding the purge valve to the bracket, but mine was rusted and frozen at this point.

Step 7. Remove the 17mm bolt holding the bracket to the underbody.
remove 17mm bolt for evap vapor canister purge valve bracket, 2004 Subaru Impreza WRX
You can see the tow-hook in the picture to the right. Be careful removing this 17mm bolt. I believe that on the other side there is a nut that is welded to the frame. If it is sufficiently rusted and you use a large breaker bar to loosen, you could snap off the bolt or break the nut loose from the other side. If this happens you are in some trouble. I’m not sure how you would access the other side of this, it might involve cutting a hole in the bottom of the trunk. Use some penetrating oil, a hammer and some patience if needed. It might be a bad idea to use a torch due to proximity of the fuel vent lines.
While the valve is still plugged into the wire harness, you can also connect the green test-mode connectors under the driver’s side dashboard, turn the ignition key to ‘On’ and see if the purge valve is making any clicking sounds. Just to rule out other possibilities, plug volt-meter probes (carefully so they don’t arc) into the end of the plug coming from the car and make sure that it is measuring 12 volts DC or something close. You can also connect an external 12 volt power source to the valve directly to see if it clicks or not (I used alligator clips with small hex wrenches to touch the contacts inside the valve’s plug).
If you have 12 volts coming out of the car, and the valve is making no sounds, chances are your valve has died.

Step 8. Remove assembly, unplug the wire-harness from the valve and get to work removing the purge valve from the bracket.
vapor canister purge valve and bracket, 2004 Subaru Impreza WRX
This step was a little tricky because the bolt that holds the purge valve to the bracket is held in place by the plastic of the cylindrical piece. When the bolt rusts to the nut, you go to unscrew the nut, and the whole bolt rotates and deforms the plastic on the other side.
rusted nut for vapor canister purge valve, 2004 Subaru Impreza WRX
You can see above where the plastic is supposed to hold the square bolt-head in place, but rust usually has other plans. I used a dremel cut-off disc and boring-out type of head to cut away the plastic on one side. Otherwise, it’s impossible to get a wrench in there to hold the bolt head still. Maybe there is a special tool for this, but I’m not fond of special tools 😛
rusted nut for vapor canister purge valve, 2004 Subaru Impreza WRX
Above you can see the other side of this bolt.
trying to hold bolt still with wrench, vapor canister purge valve, 2004 Subaru Impreza WRX
I tried holding the bolt still like this, but there isn’t enough leverage. This was before dremel-ing out the plastic.
cut away plastic for vapor canister purge valve, 2004 Subaru Impreza WRX
This is the ‘after’ photo showing what plastic was cut away.
removing nut for vapor canister purge valve, 2004 Subaru Impreza WRX
Now you can barely get a wrench in there to hold the bolt head still, you can see a ratchet on the bottom where I can now apply force to the nut.
old vapor canister purge valve on left, new one on right, 2004 Subaru Impreza WRX
Swap out the old valve for the new valve.
take pictures so you put everything back together correctly, 2004 Subaru WRX Impreza
Go back to your original picture to make sure you put everything back together correctly.

Step 9. Anti-seize EVERYTHING (nuts, bolt threads and metal-to-metal contact places I mean…not electrical contacts). Reconnect hoses; bolt the bracket back on the car; bolt the charcoal canister back on; make sure everything is tight but not over-tightened. Also reconnect the wire harness plug to the purge valve. The plug was very tight to connect on my new valve; make sure it’s on all the way so that it makes electrical contact.
use anti-seize on everything

If you had to reset your ECU to clear an error code (like the P1443 or others), you will have to drive for a bit until your “monitors” are ready. You can identify this using many types of OBDII scan tools. Only after the monitors are ready, will you know if the engine light is off for good. I have read that the monitors will go into ready status if you drive for approximately 15 minutes at highway speeds. Supposedly the ECU must pass through multiple ‘cycles’ of varying driving conditions before the system is fully ready. Until then, your engine lights will probably not come on, but the system will still be in a ‘not ready’ state. The car will be operational, but not paying attention to some sensors just yet.

Good luck and hopefully this helps some others out there.
Thanks for visiting !

Nate

15 comments for “WRX vapor canister purge valve replacement write-up

  1. Kevin Powers
    December 21, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    What is the part number for the valve? What MY WRX was this done on? I am having the same problems on my 06.

    • lastsnare2
      December 21, 2011 at 2:04 pm

      Hi Kevin,
      I checked my receipt from RockAuto.com and I think this is the part number:
      911650 (911-650)
      This is for a 2.0L 2004 USDM WRX Sedan.

  2. Calvin Chai
    January 18, 2012 at 12:54 am

    Hi Lastnare2:

    What other problems were you having besides the gas filling up part and stalling out right after? Cause I am getting that problem along with sometimes just stalling out going in reverse as well. The only code that ever showed up was the P0457. I have replaced the gas cap and check that blue T and everything checks out okay. I will try to replace this Vent Valve as well in my next step. However, I would just like to know if you had bad/rough idle and or stalling other times besides stalling at the gas pump. Thanks

    • lastsnare
      January 18, 2012 at 7:52 am

      Hi,
      Well, in my situation my car never actually had trouble running or the engine stalling. This might be a little bit above my troubleshooting abilities. Stalling could be signs of a fuel delivery problem, a vacuum leak, or an air metering problem (there are probably other things it could be too). I think some of those problems could possibly throw a code however (that you would have seen already). I don’t know if a faulty vent valve or canister would cause the car to stall. The valve is not too expensive, but I have heard that the canister is more expensive (I haven’t looked it up myself). It might be good to take it to someone with some experience to help troubleshoot it on the spot. I never had any idle or stalling problems myself, so I’m thinking that your issue is probably different than the problem that I had. You could post up a thread on NASIOC.com or do some looking there to see if anyone has other ideas, there are lots of very experienced owners and mechanics on there. Wish I could be of more help, but good luck !!

  3. James
    March 22, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    I just place my order for the valve on amazon. I’ll let yous know how it goes.

    • lastsnare
      March 22, 2012 at 8:36 pm

      good luck ! hope everything works out

  4. Scott Lewandowski
    August 12, 2012 at 9:49 pm

    Thanks for the great tutorial….. I live in Buffalo as well and am having the same problem on my 2003 Outback.

    I will be doing the same repairs this weekend…..Thanks

  5. ssxt
    November 18, 2013 at 7:18 pm

    HI,
    That part is known as the CANISTER VENT VALVE and is part number 42084FA120 – for all 1999-2005 Subaru Imprezas (incl. WRX and STi) and Foresters….as well as some Legacy/Outback/Baja models.

    I was not having the fill-up issue, but do have the starts/dies and erratic idle symptoms. I just replaced this part – new from Subaru was $58 – and it did NOT fix my issue.

    I’ll be looking @ the Charcoal Canister next – P/N: 42036AC020 – to see if that’s the cause. After that it gets bad, as it could be lines going to the gas tank which require its removal!!

    Thanks for this post,
    SS

    • lastsnare
      November 18, 2013 at 8:47 pm

      Hi,
      Best of luck with your idle and stalling issues. Just for the heck of it, if you haven’t already, check your PCV valve and IAC valve to make sure they aren’t stuck open or closed. I had some rough idling and stalling problems on my 2000 2.5RS that was cleared up by cleaning off the rubber/plastic tip of the IAC valve, and rinsing out the PCV valve with some solvent (ultimately replacing it when I found out they were approximately $3). If you suspect that your charcoal canister may be causing problems, you could try removing it from the car and checking to see that the vacuum lines aren’t clogged. A friend had the lines clog up when the charcoal somehow got out of the canister and plugged up some of the lines. I don’t recall exactly what his symptoms are, but it’s something that wouldn’t cost anything to check.
      Hope you get your problem sorted out ! 🙂
      Nate

      • ssxt
        November 22, 2013 at 11:19 pm

        Thanks for the feedback. I’m fairly sure it’s not related to the IACV or PCV as the car only runs poorly after filling it up…or just adding a couple of gallons. Something in the EVAP system is causing the issue.

        I replaced the charcoal canister – w/a low mileage used one- and still getting the CEL.

        So, guess i’ll have to try cleaning out the lines, but not sure HOW to do that. I don’t have a air compressor to blow air and not sure that’s a good idea anyway….don’t want to push stuff farther into the hoses if ti’s blocking.

        Thanks

        • lastsnare
          November 23, 2013 at 3:59 pm

          Hmmmm. I wonder if you could use something like a piece of wire or a thin drain snake cleaning brush (or even a bore-cleaning brush for something like a trumpet, should be a flexible wire and have bristles on it), perhaps you could carefully stick that into the hoses and see if anything comes out. I am not familiar enough with where the hoses go, without looking it up, so be I careful of course.
          I found this thread where someone had a few problems:
          http://forums.nasioc.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2514389
          and suggestions were to make sure that the rubber lines are connected to the right places.
          Post back if you find out what your problem and solution were, curious to know what happens ! 🙂

  6. Monicka
    November 19, 2013 at 4:16 pm

    Hi! I’m having the same issues you did, but wanted to save a few (a lot) bucks so I bought a canister from eBay, and they said it’s fully functional with no issues. Thing is I just got it and weighed it and it’s over 5lbs. I read that the manufacturer changes it out once it hits 2.5. Do you recall how much your canister weighed? I’ve contacted the company through eBay who say the part was just fine when it left, so i’m thinking the option of returning it does not exist. I’ll be changing the part out myself and would rather not waste my time.

    • lastsnare
      November 19, 2013 at 8:59 pm

      Hmmm, I don’t actually remember what it weighed. I know that I didn’t think to weigh mine when it was out, but I wasn’t aware that it would get heavier over time, since I think it’s just supposed to filter out vapors so you don’t smell gas out of the filler neck all the time.
      What I might try is this, if you are having trouble where the pump is shutting off while you are trying to fill it, you could try disconnecting the hoses from the canister and see if it fills without problems.
      Also, you could try what I did. Just in case it is the vapor vent valve (that I replaced), if it’s stuck, you can reach under the bumper area and tap the metal box part firmly a few times with your OEM tire lug wrench (I just happened to have mine in the car so it’s what I used, but something like a breaker bar, or something about that weight that will reach under there would work too). When I would tap mine a few times, I could fill up the tank without trouble. Then next time I filled up, I had to do it again.
      You could also perhaps try blowing through the openings in the charcoal canister just to see if air flows through it or not. If it’s somehow blocked up, then this might be one way to discover it. Of course be careful not to get any of it in your mouth, don’t breathe it in of course, gasoline and vapors are bad for you :S (disclaimer, proceed at your own risk).

  7. hannah k
    December 6, 2013 at 10:49 am

    Thank you so much! This helped me with my 2004 Impreza that had a slow fill problem as long as I’ve had the car. It was really hard to get the new canister on, dimensions seemed to be the same, but it felt like it fit a lot tighter than the one I took off.

    The parts I used are:
    http://amzn.com/B004IYZLIU
    http://amzn.com/B00449N8MK

    • lastsnare
      December 6, 2013 at 10:56 am

      Thanks for the update and link to the parts Hannah !
      Hope it’s all working properly now
      Nate

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