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Fuel Tank and Charcoal Canister Fire Hazards during EVAP System Leak Testing

The combination of on-board diagnostics and evaporative emission control (EVAP) systems has led to a growing need to identify and repair leaks in automotive EVAP systems. The normal leakfinding method involves purging the system with a smoke fluid, usually air or nitrogen containing an oil aerosol and then looking for a visual indication of the leak. The purge flow used to distribute smoke through the system displaces substantial amounts of fuel vapor from the tank vapor space and can also raise the oxygen level inside the fuel system. If any ignition source is present, the formation of flammable mixtures both inside and outside the vehicle systems can lead to a flash fire hazard associated with leak finding procedures. Currently available fire statistics (such as NFPA) are not sufficiently detailed to attribute service shop fires to specific testing procedures.