Testbench - Smoke 'em out

John Tinham investigates the OTC Leak Tamer in this month's Testbench

Published:  13 June, 2012

Smoking is bad for you of course, but being able to find tiny leaks as quickly as possible will most certainly be good for the health of your business. Fault-finding machines that produce smoke have been common in workshops for years, but this newcomer from OTC (part of the SPX group of companies) has a number of features that we haven't seen before - and as such, we were eager to test it out.

First impressions

The unit itself is smaller than previous units from the same firm. In fact the 6522 has roughly the same dimensions as a smallish jump-pack, though obviously it is much lighter. Included with the kit are two bottles of UV smoke producing solution, a pair of UV shades, various connectors for your workshop's air supply as well as an assortment of cap plugs and an exhaust adapter cone.  There is also a really nifty multifunction LED torch in the box which can also produce UV light as well as having a party-piece laser pointer built in, presumably so you can point out to your customer exactly where his car is leaking from. While the supplied adaptors cover most things on the road, you'll have to buy one off fuel tank plugs, such as those used on Mini and various BMWs, separately. Overall the kit was very well supplied - the only thing missing from our loan unit was an instruction manual as presumably the last person to have it had forgotten to put it back. New kits will of course be shipped with instructions.

Setting up

Getting the machine up and running was no problem - it took technician John Tinham just a few minutes to change the air line connector, fix on a hook so they can hang away from moving parts and fill the unit with the smoke solution.  Note that if you wish to change the air line connector, you will have to find some PTFE tape to go on the thread. It is also worth noting that this unit can also run with compressed nitrogen, which is vital if investigating fuel evap problems.

In use

It sounds strange, but the first thing we noticed when firing the machine up was the smoke itself. Other units we have seen produce a fuggy, heavy smoke, but presumably thanks to the OE-approved solution, the vapour from the 6522 was light and not unpleasant to smell. In fact it was almost citrusy. Anyhow, the first test we performed was on the exhaust of a Fiesta TDI. For this, Tinham used the cone shaped adaptor.

A pressure gauge on the front let you know if there is a leak somewhere, even before you see any smoke. As the Ford appeared leak free, we then tried the kit out on the crankcase breather system of a Citroen C3 that had come in for some trade work. The wisps of smoke were unmistakeable even without the help of the UV torch - in fact the maker says the unit can detect leaks to below .010''.

Another feature worth noting is an automatic cut out device that stops the unit from blowing smoke or spilling solution if knocked over. We tried this out and it performed as claimed.

There were no serious issues with the operation of this machine, though Tinham noted that he would have liked the option of running the smoke at a higher pressure for certain jobs.

Price

The unit will be priced at around £466, which will put it head-to-head with machines from other makers. The smoke solution is more expensive than other types on the market, but don't forget it is OE approved and visible under UV light. If you don't have a smoke machine, or if you do but want to perform evap work, we conclude that the 6522 is a very strong choice.

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