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Oil Separator Bellows replacement DIY

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Hello all. This is only my third post to this forum but after reading everything I could find on replacement of the Oil Separator Bellows, I decided it was worth a try at home in my garage. I had found about three drops of oil on my garage floor over the last two weeks since I bought the car and was throwing P codes 1124 and 1126 every few days (vacuum leak most likely). I already cleaned the new MAF that was in the car when I got it but since the codes persisted I had to accept the fact that I probably had a vacuum leak. Lots of reading on other posts eventually lead me to the Oil Separator Bellows tube as the most likely culprit since the car has 57K miles on it and no record of this item ever being changed. Yesterday I stopped by the dealership and picked up the Bellows tube ($12.84 including tax) and then Lowes for two 1 1/2” stainless steel hose clamps ($3.54). The dealer estimated a couple hundred dollars for labor to replace it and a call to a local independent shop resulted in the same estimate.

Today I decided to tackle the job and see if I could do it. I have read many questions in this forum (including my own) asking where the Oil Separator is and how to find it. Armed with the great pictures provided by brucem on this forum, here's the URL to that post. (I don't know how to insert as a link, maybe Loren can help) I decided I was ready to give it a try.


What follows is the sequence of events I went through to get it done. I decided to time myself because the dealership and the independent both told me the book allowed 2 ½ hours for labor. So I allowed myself about five hours.

4:15 pm. Started by putting the back end of the car up on ramps. Crawled under the car and looked for over ten minutes before I actually saw the Oil Separator and bellows. Here’s the best description of how to see it. The Oil separator is above the left cylinders as you are looking at the car from the back. To see it you must position yourself on your back with your head forward of the left rear axle (LHD cars driver’s side) Then refer to brucem’s pictures and look up through the suspension members toward the rear with a light. You will eventually discover a small triangle of sight (about ½” in size) that you can look through with one eye to see the bottom of the separator and bellows about 18" away. I don’t know how brucem got the great pictures but I commend him. I didn’t see any way to get a view like he got with the engine in the car.

4:30pm. Almost gave up before I started. It looks impossible. You have to get your arm and hand to make two right angle bends through about a four inch opening (and I’m being generous here). I am right handed luckily and was finally able to touch the bellows after training my arm to bend in a whole new way. Now, how to get some kind of tool in there to compress the spring clamps. After trying several needle nose pliers and tiny angle slip joint pliers, I found the only tool I could get on the clamps was a plain old six inch straight pair of pliers. I could compress the clamps but couldn’t move them up or down off the bellows. No room. I finally succeeded in “walking” the top clamp down into the center of the bellows but then there was no room for the bottom clamp. There is absolutely no way to release the bottom clamp and slide it up.

4:45pm. I took my finger and worked the top of the bellows off the tube it fits onto. Now all I had to do was figure out how to get the top clamp out so I took an old fashioned wire coat hanger and formed a small hook at one end (about ½” diameter). I straightened the rest of the coat hangar and guided it up through the “sight” triangle and hooked it into the top (exposed end) of the old bellows and then hooked the bellows along with the old top clamp and pulled. The bellows were still pliable so I wasn’t too worried about pieces breaking off. I pulled and the old bellows tore neatly in half and the top half along with it’s clamp came out in one piece. I then had room for the bottom clamp to move up but still couldn’t get enough movement with the pliers so I took a long (about 24”) flat screwdriver and, again going up through the “sight triangle” pushed the bottom half of the bellows along with it’s clamp up off the tube it was connected to.

5:00pm Success, the old bellows and both clamps are out. Now, thanks to advice in another post from brucem I took the new bellows with no clamps on it and worked it into the gap between the two tubes. It popped in there like it knew where to go. Both sides immediately seated exactly where they were supposed to go.

5:05pm. The rest of the story is a test of one handed manual dexterity. Since there is absolutely no way to get two hands into where the clamps have to go, I had to open the clamps before I could get them around the bellows and then squeeze them together and turn the screw at the same time with only one hand to get them started. This is worth practicing a few times because it was almost the hardest part of the job. Eventually I got them both started and then it was just a matter of tightening the clamps with a short 5/16” nut driver and a small ¼” drive ratchet with a 5/16” socket.

5:20pm Mission accomplished. Total time; one hour and five minutes. It’s not a job I want to do again but it can be done. My biggest caution for anyone else that decides to try it is, make sure your old bellows isn’t crumbling in pieces as they would probably end up in the crank case.

I hope I never have to change the Oil Separator itself. I really looks like a challenge.

I hope this helps someone else who might be considering changing their own bellows.

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It is really an easy thing to do yourself. It is nice to have a lift for access but as you've shown, you don't have to have one. Another nice tool to have is an air ratchet so you can tighten the clamps down with minimal effort in the confined space. What is scary is that I've read some dealers have said that the engine has to be dropped to do the bellows! Sadly, I'm sure that the mechanic tells them that then just uses a special plier designed for those clamps and has it done in 20 minutes.

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