What Causes High Hydrocarbon (HC)?
Below are common failures which are likely to produce high Hydrocarbon HC. Hydrocarbons are basically raw fuel, otherwise known as Gasoline. High Hydrocarbon (HC) emissions are almost always a sign of poor fuel ignition. However, it's not always that the engine's ignition system is responsible for high Hydrocarbon emissions. Read on.
1. Improper Ignition Timing - Engine ignition timing is measured in degrees
before or after Top Dead Center (TDC). Example of an ignition timing failure would be in the case where an engine's ignition timing is required to be set at 10 degrees Before Top Dead Center (BTDC) and instead is set to 15 degrees BTDC. This fault will not only cause a smog check "functional failure", but will increase Hyrdocarbon (HC) emissions as well. California allows 3 degrees +/- off of the manufacturer's required setting. Note: Late model vehicle's may not have a distributor, and therefore no timing adjustment will be needed. On these engines timing is electronically controlled by the ECU (Engine Control Unit).
2. Defective Ignition Components Your vehicle's ignition system consists of the ignition coil/s, distributor*, distributor cap*, distributor rotor*, ignition wires, and spark plugs. If any of these components are defective the engine will produce high hydrocarbons. A common reason ignition components perform poorly is due to carbon build-up. High ignition voltage traveling through the air pockets within these components form carbon. Carbon acts as an insulator between paths of electricity, decreasing the energy required at the spark plug to ignite the air/fuel in the combustion chambers properly. *Distributor-less engines do not have these components.
3. Lean Fuel Mixture - Any condition which will cause unmetered air to enter the intake manifold, and ultimately the combustion chambers, will cause high hydrocarbons (HC). This condition is called a lean miss-fire. Such faults as vacuum leaks and gasket leaks will cause lean fuel/air mixtures. Broken, disconnected or misrouted vacuum hoses will do the same. It is also important to note that many engine components rely on engine vacuum for proper operation. If any of these components are defective, externally or internally, they may cause large vacuum leaks as well. A good example of such a component is your vehicle's power brake booster.