Fuel additives are big business. For nearly every make and model of engine out there, there seem to be two or three kinds of fuel additives promising higher fuel efficiency/economy, greater power from fuel, greater longevity for your engine and related systems, et cetera.
But, do they actually work? Will these seemingly magical elixirs actually enhance fuel so that engines live longer, gas gets more bang for its buck, and the car somehow performs so much better? What even are these compounds, and how are they supposed to achieve these things?
Let’s demystify fuel additives, and examine if they really do improve things all that much. Both supporters and detractors both will be surprised by the findings!
Types of Fuel Additives
For a start, there are several different types of fuel additives, each with a specific purpose. This doesn’t help reduce the confusion and skepticism involving these substances at all. Some are even mixtures of one or more of these additives as well.
Let’s start by taking a look at the four basic types of additives and what they’re intended to do.
- Octane Boosters – Octane boosters serve the purpose most often associated with fuel additives, by increasing the octane rating of a given fuel. In other words, they’re intended to boost the performance of the fuel. This is theoretically accomplished by adding additional catalyzers that produce more energy as the fuel combusts. They also usually contain lubricants to protect cast-iron valves used heavily in older classic models of vehicle.
- Fuel Injector Cleaners – Fuel injector cleaners are intended to do just that; clean and flush the fuel injectors and fuel lines. This is done using inert chemicals that break down build-up and deposits.
- Fuel Stabilizers – Fuel stabilizers aren’t intended to affect performance while a vehicle is running. They’re actually intended to lengthen the shelf life of fuel in the tank during long periods of the vehicle not running. Many people don’t know that gasoline and diesel actually go bad and begin to separate over time. These provide bonding agents which stabilize the complex molecules in these fuels.
- Anti-Gel Diesel Additives – Not unlike standard fuel stabilizers, these provide compounds which prevent diesel from separating and gelling, which is a common issue during cold conditions.
Knowing a bit about what these difference additives do, it becomes easier to choose which ones, if any, you might need. These can effectively help reduce maintenance issues, reduce wear and tear on critical systems and keep your fuel as performant as can be.
When choosing, make a point to seek out additives containing polybutene amine (PBA), a very effective compound which cleans deposits out from fuel injectors, intake valves, and carburetors.
So Will this Improve My Fuel Economy?
The short answer to this is no. While additives can help preserve fuel longevity and reduce how much wear and tear a vehicle endures, EPA testing of over 100 products (claiming to improve fuel economy by 12 or more percent) showed that direct impact on fuel economy is negligible.
However, indirect impact is another story, showing that their ability to stabilize fuel and help keep engines clean meant that fuel use was optimal with less waste and performance loss.
Avoid overusing additives, using only the ones whose purposes are crucial to your needs. While the EPA discovered that additives don’t in fact harm engines, overuse of multiple compounds can have unpredictable effects.
To learn more about fuel economy, the stimuli which affect it and more about fuel additives, fill out the contact form to stay informed!