How a blow-off valve works

A blow-off valve is vacuum/pressure actuated piston-type valve. It uses vacuum/pressure signals to tell the piston when to open and close.

At idle there is engine vacuum on the top of the BOV piston trying to suck it open, and no vacuum or pressure on the bottom of the piston. Since a vent-to-atmosphere BOV needs to be shut at idle to avoid air being drawn in through it, there is a spring inside a BOV with the job of holding the piston closed. The spring preload adjustment is to allow for differences in engine vacuum from car to car, and variations in atmospheric pressure at different elevations.

On airflow metered cars the air drawn in through an open vent-to-atmosphere BOV at idle would confuse the ECU and cause over-fuelling and stalling and in any case, the air drawn in is unfiltered.

Under cruise conditions (off boost) the BOV is experiencing similar conditions to when the car is at idle, but there is less vacuum present on top of the piston because the throttle is partly open. If the BOV spring has been adjusted to keep the piston closed at idle, it will also be closed at cruise.

On boost there is boost pressure on both top and bottom of the BOV, the forces from which counteract each other, so the BOV remains closed.

Immediately after the throttle is closed under boost there is vacuum on the top of the piston and boost pressure on the bottom of the piston, which together, quickly open the BOV to release the pressure. When the pressure has been released, the BOV closes.