Believe it or not, the automotive market is filled with all types of bogus products. Placebo products that claim to boost engine performance and reduce fuel consumption but then when you use them they make very little difference. Sometimes such products can even be harmful to your vehicle’s health. Is fuel injector cleaner one of those products?
Fuel injection cleaner is one of those readily available auto maintenance products. You can find them at your local Walgreens when you stop in for a midnight snack, there are assorted varieties available at every Walmart and you can find them sitting on the shelf at your nearest gas station.
Over the years there has been some uncertainty regarding the effectiveness of fuel injector cleaners. If you ask a group of car enthusiasts you’ll find yourself in the middle of a heated debate on whether fuel additives like this really work.
If you’ve never used a fuel injector cleaner and you're finally considering trying it out in your car then you have come to the right place. When it comes to using fuel system cleaners it’s important to do your research.
Fuel Injector Cleaners – What Are They and What Do They Do?
Fuel injector cleaners are considered a fuel additive. They are made up of a combination of solvents that are designed to clean the fuel injector and the fuel lines. The fuel injectors spray fuel into the engine while the fuel lines are the pipes that are used to transport fuel from the tank to the engine. A quality fuel injector cleaner consists of solvents that will dissolve the carbon that has accumulated in the fuel injectors and other parts of the fuel line. These solvents are combustibles so they will end up getting burned off in the engine right along with the fuel except it doesn’t leave any new deposits in the combustion chamber.
While every fuel injector cleaning product is different they are mostly made up of detergents that are effective at breaking up the deposits and other impurities. Fuel injector cleaners have three main ingredients:
Polyether Amine – This compound is strong enough to break down the toughest deposits that tend to get stuck in the fuel injectors. Polyether amine effectively breaks down these deposits and excretes them through the exhaust system. This compound ensures that the fuel system is thoroughly clean which is why it’s one of the core ingredients in fuel injector cleaners.
Polyisobutylene – This compound is another detergent that’s great at removing gunk, carbon, and other deposits in the fuel lines. However, this compound helps prevent engine misfiring and other engine problems in cars.
Polyisobutylene Amine – This compound doesn’t have the strongest cleaning capabilities. Yet it can successfully remove moisture in the fuel system. Polyisobutylene Amine helps maintain the fuel injectors.
Fuel Injector Cleaners Attacks Carbon and Ethanol
What many people don’t know is that gasoline leaves behind contaminants in a vehicle’s fuel system. Some of these harmful particles get left in the bottom of the gas tank while the rest builds up in the fuel pressure regulator, the fuel lines, and the fuel injectors.
Carbon deposits aren’t only detrimental to the fuel system but they will eventually cause damage to the engine. Unfortunately, the engine is not capable of converting a hundred percent of the fuel to energy. When you gas up your car, some portions of the fuel don’t combust during the combustion process. The leftover fuel turns into carbon. Carbon deposits end up all in the exhaust system, the fuel injectors, and the fuel lines leaving one big mess.
Small amounts of carbon aren't harmful. However, when it accumulates and it's left in the fuel system and the engine for years without being cleaned out you’ll notice that it begins to compromise your vehicle’s performance.
Ethanol is another deposit that fuel injector cleaner fights against. Ethanol is a renewable fuel source that is used in the gasoline we put into our cars. Ethanol oxygenates the gas mixture it helps the engine burn the fuel more efficiently producing cleaner emissions.
Ethanol which is derived from alcohol is corrosive and can be harsh on the fuel system and the engine. Modern cars are equipped with newer engines that have been designed to run on fuel and ethanol mixture. The same can’t be said for older engines. In older engines, ethanol increases carbon buildup. It causes the carbon to dislodge to other parts of the engine and infiltrate the fuel injectors, intake valves, and combustion chamber. This decreases engine performance and fuel economy.
Do Fuel Injector Cleaners Work Or Are They A Placebo Product?
Let’s cut to the chase. Fuel injector cleaner does work. Fuel lines and injectors should be cleaned intermittently for them to be in good condition. Fuel system cleaners are effective at removing the buildup of deposits in the fuel lines and the fuel injectors only when they are used on a regular basis.
While most fuel injector cleaners are intended to begin working within a week you can’t simply use this product one or two times and expect it to be highly effective. Also, these cleaners will only work if they are properly used. What’s the proper way to apply a fuel injector cleaning product?
The Right Way To Use Fuel System Cleaners
The market has become flooded with fuel injector cleaner products. Fuel injector cleaner is designed to go right into your gas tank. It’s a good idea to carefully read the instructions on the back of the product because if the concentration of the fuel injector is too high it can damage your car.
Typically, a full bottle of fuel injector cleaner is adequate for about 50 liters of fuel. Generally, a passenger car’s fuel tank capacity can range between 35-70 liters. It’s best to put the fuel injector cleaner in the tank when it’s less than half full. On your next trip to the gas station, you should pour in the fuel injector cleaner and then top up the tank. This allows the cleaner to adequately mix in with the fuel.
The first full cleaning cycle will be complete once the fuel mixture has been burned off by the engine. Afterward, you may notice some performance improvements but you’ll need additional cycles to notice any significant changes. Fuel injector cleaner should be used every 1,500 -3,000 miles or whenever you get an oil change. Newer vehicles that are designed with highly efficient engines may only require a cleaning every 10,000 miles.
If you reside in colder climates or if you do a lot of city driving and you find yourself stuck in traffic frequently your vehicle could be subject to more carbon buildup than normal. Since these conditions can be harsh to your car’s fuel system and the engine you might need to use a fuel injector cleaner more often.
What about the fuel you're using? If you tend to use cheap gas in your car, adding a cleaner to the fuel mix more often can improve your driving experience.
The Truth About Fuel Injector Cleaners – What You Should Know
Now let’s get down to the “nitty gritty” so to speak. There are numerous automotive experts who discourage the use of fuel injector cleaners largely due to the fact that there is no scientific research that provides proof that these fuel cleaners and their ingredients actually work. To be honest, most of the information about fuel injector cleaners is anecdotal.
Techron and Chevron are the highest selling brands when it comes to fuel injector cleaners and they have made a considerable investment in fuel research and their products are highly acclaimed. They have yet to release how effective their products are in testing conditions because the variables are too vast for consumers.
Some auto manufacturers have made fuel injector cleaners obsolete. They have even instructed dealers not to offer fuel injector cleaning products mainly because they are unnecessary. In the nineties, fuel system cleaning products would have been beneficial but today’s engines don’t need them. Since these products have not been lab-tested they could cause damage to modern engines, oxygen sensors, fuel injectors, or even the catalytic converter.
Most of the Fuel injector cleaning products on the market are useless in vehicles with an outdated fuel system design. Older vehicles are designed with carburetors rather than fuel injectors.
Another reason why some automotive experts believe that fuel injector cleaners aren’t valuable is because gasoline contains cleansing detergents. In 1996 The Environmental Protection Agency required that all the fuel sold in the United States have a minimum level of detergents to clean out the fuel system and engine. Top-tier gasoline contains more than the minimum level of detergent required by the EPA and is an extra two cents per gallon.
Fuel Injector Cleaners Have Their Limits
There’s but so much these little bottles can do. While a high-quality fuel injector can clean some of the deposits from your vehicle’s fuel system and engine they do have limits. If your car fuel system is heavy with carbon and ethanol deposits a fuel injector cleaner won’t be much help. You’ll need to have a technician drain the system, disassemble portions of the fuel system so that the fuel injectors and the fuel lines can be manually cleaned.
If the fuel injectors have become clogged or if the check engine light is on and producing error codes related to the misfiring then you will need to have your fuel injectors professionally cleaned. This is done using a highly concentrated cleaner that is pushed through the fuel injection system using a specialized tool.
Finding The Right Fuel Additives For Your Vehicle
With so many products on the market and just as many bogus marketing schemes to shift through it may seem nearly impossible to find the right fuel injector cleaner. Your best bet is to search for products with established chemistries that have been on the market for a considerable amount of time. Find out what the professionals are using and recreate the same experience for yourself. Products that are ineffective don’t garner a lot of attention, especially from professionals.
Determine exactly what it is that you’re looking to get out of a fuel injector cleaner. Is it better gas mileage that you’re hoping to gain? This gives you something to measure a product by. This may require testing out a few products over the next few months.
Before you choose a fuel injector cleaning product it’s important to make sure you select a product that’s right for your car. There are fuel injector cleaners that are specifically designed for gasoline engines and ones that are made for diesel engines. For vehicles that are designed with a carburetor rather than fuel injectors, there are new fuel injector cleaners on the market that can be used on carburetors.
Check your car’s owner's manual to make sure there aren’t any special formulations that you have to use in your car. Special high-mileage fuel injector cleaners are available for cars with a lot of miles on the odometer.
The Bottom Line
If you take good care of your car, it will take good care of you. Although cliche this saying packs so much truth. Fuel injector cleaners help clear out some of the harmful deposits and stopping new blockages from forming as long as you use them correctly.
Fuel injector cleaner is inexpensive so it doesn’t hurt to try a bottle next time you have to fuel up especially if you have been experiencing performance issues such as rough idling and hard starts. However, it’s important to manage your expectations when it comes to these types of products. Fuel injector cleaners aren’t a magic solution. If your fuel injectors have become clogged or if they need to be replaced a cleaning product will be ineffective.
Learn as much as you can about your car, its engine, and fuel system before using any type of fuel additive product. Stick to high-quality solutions which tend to cost you about. $10-$20 bucks. Closely monitor how your vehicle performs and you’ll be fine.