The fuel injector in your car is responsible for injecting fuel into the intake manifold in front of the intake valves of your engine. It gets fuel from the fuel pump and pressure allows it to spray out of a tiny nozzle where it becomes aerosolized. The amount of fuel that is squirted out by the fuel injector has to be very precisely measured and calculated. The timing of this fuel injection is important as well. When your fuel injector isn't working properly, the combustion reaction in your engine will either happen at the wrong time, in the wrong way, or not at all so it's clearly a very important piece of technology. If you need to get your fuel injector replaced is likely going to cost you somewhere between $300 and $1000.
As with most repairs, the make, model, and year of your vehicle has a great impact on the cost of these repairs. As does where you take it to get it done. The dealership will likely charge you more than your neighborhood mechanic. Likewise, the city you live in also has an impact on cost because a smaller town mechanic will likely charge you less money for this kind of work.
Getting a fuel injector replaced in a Toyota Camry may cost you around $500 or so depending on the fuel injector you use. Some sites like Repairpal.com will tell you that it may cost you upwards of $1,800 to get your fuel injector replaced in a Camry. It's worth noting that they list the replacement part cost at upwards of $1,000. However, if you go to AutoZone you can find a number of fuel injectors for Toyota Camrys that cost from $50 to $200. Aftermarket parts are cheaper than OEM parts and getting your work done at a mechanic will always be cheaper than getting it done at a dealership.
Can You Drive with a Bad Fuel Injector?
It's definitely possible that you can drive for a while with a bad fuel injector in your car. Fuel injectors often don't fail completely right away, rather they get worse over time. They will most likely be a point where you're experiencing bad symptoms of a clogged or faulty fuel injector before it fails completely. It will affect your overall engine performance and power, how you consume fuel, as well as the emissions from your vehicle. So, while you can continue to operate in this condition, it's never recommended that you continue to do so for a long period of time. All of the symptoms that your car is experiencing will get worse, and you may potentially end up causing more damage and any reference figure repair bills in the long-term.
Is a Fuel Injector Cleaner Worth It?
You may have seen products on the market that are fuel injector cleaners that you can use which claim to be able to get the injectors cleaned and running as good as new again. This can save you the cost of having to replace your fuel injectors if you're able to get them properly clean.
Basically, an injector cleaner is a solvent that cleans out the fuel pathways in your fuel injector. You would pour a bottle of the injector cleaner into your gas tank and it starts to work by cleaning up the whole fuel system dissolving residue and other materials that have accumulated in your fuel lines your fuel filter will be able to prevent large particles from contaminating your fuel lines but small amounts of residue and a gummy kind of substance can form over time.
A number of drivers swear by the effectiveness of fuel injector cleaners. If you choose to go this route, you definitely have to follow the instructions on how to use the fuel cleaner exactly if you wanted to be effective. And it's worth noting that if your injectors are too badly clogged then the injector cleaner may not be up to the task at that point. But if you catch the issue early enough and use the injector cleaner correctly then you may see and improve performance as a result.
When you follow the instructions of using a bottle of fuel injector then it should be able to eliminate the buildup of carbon residue around the intake valve in your engine. Carbon build-up can also be cleaned from the piston heads and intake manifold as a result. If it's too much carbon build-up however then it is unlikely that a bottle of injector cleaner can help.
As we said, you should be following the instructions on the bottle of the cleaner that you bought if you want to try it. In general, the method is to pour in a bottle next time you head to the gas station before you fill your tank. One bottle is typically good for your average sized fuel tank to get the job done. When you fuel up you can add the cleaner to the mix with the fuel and dispersed through the system as you continue to try. When you operate your vehicle as a normal the cleaner filters through and then burns alongside your regular fuel mixture and performs the cleaning function.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of a Bad Fuel Injector?
If your fuel injectors are starting to go bad, you'll get some advance warning that things are going wrong. If you start experiencing any of these symptoms, especially more than one, that there's a good chance that your fuel injector is the root cause of the problem.
Vibrating Engine: If your fuel injector isn't working the way it's supposed to then it's not going to be able to supply the fuel and either the right amounts were at the right time to your engine. The signal from your car's computer will be attempting to keep the timing precisely right but your injectors will either be clogged and prevent the fuel from coming out in the right quantity or at the right time. That likely means you're going to be having a delayed combustion reaction or a weak combustion reaction. When the fuel and air mix fires incorrectly you may end up getting some serious and aggressive vibrations as a result.
Car Won't Start: In the simplest terms the fuel injectors supply fuel to the engine and if they don't work, then you don't get to burn any fuel. This is the most drastic kind of failure that your fuel injectors can experience but it's also not uncommon if there's a problem. If there's a mechanical failure or some kind or if they've just become too clogged to release any fuel at all, then it will be impossible for the fuel to enter the combustion chamber such that when the spark ignites there will be nothing there and your engine can not turn over at all. When this happens you'll hear the starter motor attempt to get the vehicle going and ignition will work as normal, but you will be unable to get the combustion reaction and therefore unable to start your car at all.
Engine Misfires: A severe clog in your fuel injector will prevent the fuel from spraying a note in the proper amount in the chamber. When this happens in a way that prevents the combustion reaction from occurring in that chamber you'll have a misfire. When you experience an engine misfire, you're going to lose power on par with the number of chambers that you have in your engine. That means that if you have a four-cylinder engine and one of them misfires you're going to lose 1/4 power as a result. If you're running a 6-cylinder engine in one of the misfires you will lose 1/6 of the overall power of your engine at that point. This will continue to happen since your fuel injector is clogged, so you're going to notice a serious decrease in overall performance. This could also end up causing damage to your engine in the long run if misfires continue to happen.
Engine Stall: Due to the inability of your fuel injector to supply the correct amount of fuel for the combustion reaction you're going to be experiencing rough idling as a result because your fuel mixture is likely burning too lean, which means there's more air than oxygen in the mix. When the RPMs drop too low then your engine may actually stall it on you.
Fuel Leaks: Depending on how your fuel injectors failed, it's very possible you could be having a fuel leak as a result. If the leak is severe enough that it causes the fuel to simply dribble out of the injector, or there's a break somewhere in the line, then the fuel will not inject into the combustion chamber and will instead trip down from somewhere around the injector. This could cause puddles of fuel to form under your car when it's parked. If you're noticing a smell of gasoline when you've been sitting still for a while, it's very possible that this is where the leak is coming from. they also noticed gasoline in the vehicle around the injectors when you do a visual inspection.
Smell: Even if you can't see a visible fuel leak, the smell of gasoline may also be able to tip you off that there's a problem. If you smell gasoline in the cabin of your vehicle then there's definitely a problem because that should never happen. If you are smelling gasoline, you need to get to a mechanic as soon as possible as there are health risks associated with gas fumes on top of the problem it will cause to your vehicle just because you're having a leak. Prolonged exposure to the smell of gasoline can cause dizziness, nausea, and light-headedness. These are all problems you don't want to experience behind the wheel of a moving vehicle.
Poor Gas Mileage: It stands to reason that if you are not able to burn gasoline in the correct way in the combustion chamber then you're going to be wasting gasoline. Either it's missing because of a fuel leak or it's not hitting the chamber at the right time you're going to be paying more money for gas and getting less performance out of it because it's not being burnt, simply wasted.
Engine Surge: Engine surges are caused by the injectors not spraying the correct amount of fuel into the combustion chamber. You'll suffer from lower acceleration and lower RPMs when you're driving. Sometimes the correct amount of fuel will hit the chamber and burn properly and then it will fail again causing the vehicle to surge and jerk.
Failed Emissions Test: This is a rarer symptom of the problem because not every state requires that drivers take emissions tests, but those that do can result in failure if there's a problem with your fuel injectors. This could be caused by you burning the incorrect fuel mixed in your chamber leading to improperly regulated emissions.
Check Engine Light : This is the most vague symptom that you can experience when there's a problem with your fuel injectors because a check engine light could mean one of many hundreds of different things is going wrong. If you get the check engine light along with the number of these other symptoms though then it seems likely that the fuel injector could definitely be the problem that you're dealing with. When in doubt, you could also pick up an OBD2 scanner on Amazon.com for $30 or $40. When you plug it in after a check engine light comes on, it can give you a better diagnosis of the problem to let you know if it really is the fuel injectors or not.
The Bottom Line
Your fuel injectors should reasonably last you at least 100,000 miles before something goes wrong with them. That said, we all know nothing is 100% guaranteed so it's possible your injectors could fail early because of unusual clogs or a mechanical failure or a flaw in their design that no one knew about. They're definitely an important part of your fuel system and how your engine performs however so if you start experiencing any of these problems, you want to get your fuel injectors checked out right away to make sure they're working the way they're supposed to. A bottle of injector cleaner can never hurt if you're feeling like things are just starting to go bad, and it may save you a bigger repair bill down the road as a result.