FAQs

 

It’s simply the most effective, trusted leak-detection technology on the market.

  • It’s the only technology developed in collaboration with OEM-partners; Ford, GM & DaimlerChrysler.
  • Smoke machines with STAR Technology, inside are the only ones mandated by OEMs anywhere in the world.
  • It’s the only smoke technology continuously under improvement in collaboration with major OEMs,
    ensuring the technology you’re using is in pace with the newest vehicle designs.
  • They include patented technologies and features not available anywhere else.
  • STAR Technology will not damage vehicle components such as the activated charcoal, sensors [including O2], catalytic converters, gaskets or seals.
  • Will not void vehicle factory warranties.


Details / Documentation >

 


Yes.  Only STAR EnviroTech has the respect, experience and relationships with major OEMs, and government regulatory agencies, to make that statement.  That means when you choose a smoke machine with STAR Technology, inside you know it is consistently ahead of the technology and regulatory curve.


Diagnostic Smoke® is a special vapor invented and developed by STAR. It looks like ‘smoke’, and quickly pinpoints leaks when used to test a vehicle system: Find the exiting ‘smoke’ and/or UltraTraceUV® dye, which deposits at the exact leak location, and you’ve found the leak.

Details / Documentation >


Our UltraTraceUV® solution was developed and tested safe in collaboration with major OEMs and in independent university studies.  It is exclusively formulated to be 100% contaminate-free. It also easily ‘releases’ from components and systems and does not void OEM warranties.  We were awarded a patent for this UV solution. And UltraTrace™, our non-dye smoke solution, is also available for those choosing not to use our oem-approved/mandated dye.

Details / Documentation >


Yes. Only Toyota/Lexus have a policy of not using dyes in any vehicle system – this includes A/C, hydraulic systems, etc.  That does not mean they believe it contaminates their systems, it’s simply a policy they adopted many years ago.  Instead, Toyota/Lexus years ago approved and has been exclusively using our UltraTrace™ non-dye solution.

Virtually all other OEMs use ‘approved’ dyes in their various vehicle systems.  And UltraTraceUV® is OEM-mandated (required) in many smoke machines used by OEMs around the world.  It’s an excellent method of locating hard-to-find leaks, which often smoke alone cannot find.

Details / Documentation >


We strongly advise against it, and so do OEMs. ‘Baby oil’ is not designed as a smoke vapor solution especially for EVAP testing. No automaker in the world approves using baby oil vapor in their vehicles.  In fact, the largest baby oil manufacturer clearly states: “It [baby oil] is NOT intended to be used nor should it be used in or in conjunction with any mechanical or automotive component or equipment.”  Our smoke solution is a pure, refined mineral oil-based blended chemistry that doesn’t breakdown and produce a foul odor like baby-oil.

The simple answer: any company suggesting you use baby oil in a smoke machine is likely not licensed to use our OEM-approved/mandated UltraTrace™ or UltraTraceUV®.


It delivers better and safer temperature controls, which in turn produces a better smoke vapor.

The glow plug heaters we use are manufactured to exacting standards by Bosch, an industry leader.  Combined with our sophisticated microprocessor ‘fail-safe’ temperature controls, this heater has proven to be the most reliable for proper temperature controls, delivering the safest heating systems while producing optimum smoke vapor.

A simple ‘resistance wire’ used to be a very popular heater. It was introduced in the first-generation Vacutec® in the early 1990s.  The wire can be used by itself, or wrapped around a wick material.  But in the early 2000s we switched to our advanced design with the Bosch heater, for most of our clients.  Resistance wire heater systems don’t have the required reliability, especially the ones wrapped around a wick. The wire burns the wick fibers, causing the ‘capillary-action’ of the wick to constantly diminish, reducing smoke production and quality, and therefore frequently requires replacement of the entire heater/wick system. The Bosch heater always performs at its best and never requires replacement and is guaranteed for a minimum of 10 years.


For safety, use nitrogen or other inert gas for EVAP testing. This avoids the danger of adding oxygen into a vehicle’s fuel tank and creating a flammable fuel vapor mixture inside the fuel system. Again, beware: any company claiming anything else, is obviously not licensed to use our patented inert gas technology.

The basic laws of physics are clear, and SAE International has published several papers that agree: the proper use of an inert gas is the only way to eliminate the risk of fire or explosion when EVAP testing a fuel tank. Virtually all OEMs require nitrogen for safer testing and the EPA strongly recommends it.   When testing vacuum, exhaust and other systems, shop air is fine. But when doing EVAP testing, why take chances?

 


Any vehicle with an LDP was designed to introduce very little air (about 1.5 liters of air volume) into the fuel tank to maintain its ‘too rich to burn’ fuel-to-air mixture. A smoke machine can easily introduce 10-15 liters per minute, or 50 liters of air volume into the fuel tank in a single test, creating a dangerous flammable condition inside the fuel tank. This MOTOR article explains: [pdf 277 kb].


Of course inert gas is safer!  But you don’t have to take our word for it.
See SAE International Technical Papers on potential hazards when using air:

http://www.sae.org/technical/papers/2007-01-1235 and
http://www.sae.org/technical/papers/2008-01-0554.

See EPA’s EVAP Technical Guidance document (page 29) requiring nitrogen or other inert gas.

Think about it; the hazards of using air has absolutely nothing to do with the equipment you are using, or whether the equipment creates smoke or not, or whether the smoke vapor is created using a heater or not.  It has everything to do with introducing oxygen into the fuel tank system of a motor vehicle.

It is a fact, and independent studies published by SAE demonstrate, that it only takes 12% of oxygen volume in a vehicle’s fuel tank to support combustion!  Fuel tanks are normally too rich to burn.  In other words, the little oxygen that enters the fuel tank, under normal driving conditions, is not enough to create a flammable mixture inside the tank.  But SAE shows that it only takes between 1-5 minutes to create a flammable fuel mixture inside the vehicle’s fuel tank when using compressed air, which contains 21% oxygen.

Studies conclude that when using smoke vapor for leak detection, the best way to prevent creating a flammable fuel mixture inside the fuel tank is to use an inert gas to deliver the smoke vapor to the fuel tank.

* That is why virtually all auto manufacturers that use smoke technology require the use of nitrogen when testing the vehicle’s EVAP system with smoke vapor. 

* EPA in their “IM240 & EVAP Technical Guidance” document for years has required the use of an inert gas when pressurizing the evaporative system. And those instructions have nothing to do with a smoke machine, it only dictates the gas source to be used whenever pressure testing the EVAP system.

* The California BAR and CARB requires the LPFET Certified equipment use nitrogen when pressure testing the EVAP system.  

Adopt safer testing habits and procedures, especially when you are testing a volatile system like an EVAP system.  And we suggest you use equipment specifically designed for these safer test methods.


There are at least two risk factors associated with using compressed air, when testing the EVAP system and you should do everything possible to avoid the risks.

1. The oxygen introduced into the fuel tank will inevitably exit along with the flammable gasoline fumes, either through a leak source in the EVAP system or through the EVAP system’s canister vent valve.  Ignition can take place at those and other locations if static electricity or some other external ignition source is present, such as when the canister vent valve is back-probed closed on vehicles lacking bidirectional communication. We all know there are many other potential sources for ignition in a workshop environment and many of us have heard or read about gasoline fumes catching on fire, creating a very hazardous situation. Using nitrogen reduces the oxygen content of the mixture in the leaking fumes and reduces the chances of the dispersing vapor from ever reaching the Lower Explosive Limit (LEL) of gasoline.

2. Testing the EVAP system of a vehicle using compressed air usually means that you will be adding the equivalent volume contained in several gallons of vapor space.  Under many conditions, there will be enough oxygen added to the fuel vapor space that will warrant a safety concern.  Filling the fuel vapor space inside the tank with more than 12% of oxygen volume creates a fuel-to-air mixture that will support combustion. In fact, University studies have shown that it takes only one to five minutes of air introduction from any smoke machine to render much of the fuel tank’s vapor space flammable. There are also documented cases where the fuel pumps inside fuel tanks have developed overheated wiring harnesses hot enough to ignite a flammable mixture.  So now any vapor leak leaving the fuel tank can become a sort of “fuse” back into a flammable fuel tank mixture.

Download evidence of internal ignition sources: [pdf 363 kb] — [pdf 162 kb] )

Using an inert gas, such as nitrogen, is the most sensible, simplest and least expensive insurance you can have to reduce the risks mentioned above.


Yes, in  high pressure leak detection.

Some of our designs are for industrial applications which require them to produce smoke at very high pressures (some as high as 120 PSI or more).  An inert gas, such as nitrogen, must be used with those high pressure machines because the oxygen in shop air will cause a ‘flash’ effect inside the smoke machine chamber.

One of STAR’s patents is for exactly that application. All smoke machines manufactured today, when used with shop air, will flash if enough pressure is created inside the smoke chamber (flash can start to occur between 20-40 PSI / 1.4-2.8 bar).  Our inert gas technology allows us to manufacture smoke machines for any pressure setting while completely eliminating the flashing issue.


The short answer is; with heat.  That is why 100% of the smoke machines approved and mandated by OEMs use a heat source.

‘Cold fog’ machines have been used in theatrical stage antics for many years.  They have been desirable on stage because cold fog is heavy and settles low on the stage.  Any machine that does not use a heating element is considered a cold fog machine.  A cold fog machine simply atomizes a liquid solution.  (Just about any solution can be atomized, even water).  What you get is a very wet fog that can be very unfriendly in today’s sophisticated automobiles – most especially in a vehicle’s fuel vapor recovery (EVAP) system.

EVAP systems are equipped with an activated charcoal that must maintain its integrity; otherwise you’ve just made matters worse.  In other words, the wet fog can saturate the activated charcoal, rendering the EVAP system ineffective which could affect the system’s performance and vehicle warranty. Another disadvantage is that the wet fog has a tendency of quickly condensing inside the system being tested, lacking that buoyant “hang time” required to properly travel through an entire test system.


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