By Segun Adebayo (Technical Sales Executive, Carbon Cleaning Nigeria)
Everyone wants to get the best out of their cars, whether in improved engine performance, reduced fuel consumption, or both. One of the simple ways to achieve this is with performance fuel additives. One issue plaguing many car owners is the question; “Does it really work?”.
There have been many misconceptions about what additives do in the engines of automobiles. These mistaken beliefs have been fueled by the wrong use of fuel additives and the presence of several lower grades or fake products in the market. These inferior products when administered may result in particles being deposited in fuel tanks. These may likely end up damaging the vehicle’s fuel pump and/or reduce the efficiency of the fuel injectors (or nozzles).
Claims made by some fuel additive manufacturers haven’t been scientifically proven, and so they remain unproven. Some manufacturers of fuel additives will show on their product description that they have been registered by the EPA, but in reality, every fuel additive OEM can make this claim which might be untrue.
This doesn’t take away the fact that there are many outstanding products out there in the market. These products have been found to truly maximize engine performance, improve fuel efficiency, restore engine life, and also reduce exhaust emissions. Two brands that are highly regarded and considered very good when talking about fuel additives are the JLM lubricants (fuel and oil additives (jlmlubricants.com) which is tried and trusted, and Liqui Moly (which is also well known).
In this article, I will explain what a fuel additive is, what it does to fuel, the types of fuel additives, their benefits (reasons for using fuel additives) when it is necessary to use them, and finally, how to use fuel additives.
What are fuel additives?
Fuel additives are supplements added to the fuel to improve a vehicle’s performance and also its fuel efficiency. These chemical additives in small dosage combine to add or improve properties of virgin fuel that cannot be obtained through the refining processes.
They can either be bought as “after-market products” sold to individuals or they can be incorporated by the supplier at the pumps. Supplementing your fuel with additives, when administered correctly, is designed to give your vehicle better performance over standard petrol or diesel.
Some fuel additives increase the octane rating of fuels, help scrub carbon from fuel systems, inhibit metal corrosions, and can act as fuel lubricants.
Fuel (petrol or diesel) has greatly improved over the years. Most fuels are being treated with additives right in the factory before being transported to the fuel station to sell to customers. This is why issues such as metal corrosion caused by fuel have greatly reduced and generally do not occur in the engine.
Types of Fuel Additives
When buying fuel supplements, one needs to understand what role it is going to play in the fuel, because there are several types in the market and they serve different functions. Many times, people buy a particular type and pour in their fuel tank thinking it would solve their problem. While it may end up doing the needful, most times it may just be a waste of money or even end up causing another problem in your engine. This is why knowing the different types of fuel additives is crucial and also knowing which one to use on your engine.
There are several types of fuel additives, however, in this article, three of the most common additives would be discussed:
- Fuel System Cleaner: The most common type of additive is the fuel system cleaner. These cleaners are general-purpose as they dissolve carbon and other buildups inside the fuel system, starting from the fuel tank, through the fuel lines to the injectors. They have been proven to work well and improve the vehicle’s performance. It is highly recommended to use them in your engine from time to time. An example is JLM Extreme Clean.
- Fuel Injector Cleaner: These focus more on clogged fuel injectors. They scrub carbon and other deposits that have deposited overtime on the fuel injectors. Gasoline direct injection (GDI) engines based on their design, easily produce carbon deposits on the engine components like the intake valves. This can rob the engine of optimum performance, smooth operation, gas mileage, and horsepower. An example is JLM Injector Cleaner.
If you’re doing a lot of short trips, spend too much time in holdups or the engine rarely goes into the higher revs where it gets hot enough to clean itself; then you want a fuel injection cleaning additive.
- Octane/Cetane Booster: Octane boosters are used in high-performance vehicles when the fuel sold in a particular country has a low octane rating. Every vehicle engine has their specific octane rating and if fuel with a lower octane rating is used in an engine with a higher octane rating, it can lead to pre-ignition (which speeds up engine damage) or knocking (which damages the engine overtime).
This is why it is very much necessary to know your engine octane rating. It is important to note that putting octane boosters in the fuel of a low-performance engine would likely have no effect on the vehicle although some people claim to have experienced smoother driving operation after using octane boosters. What is known is that it wouldn’t damage the engine, however using it on high-performance engines (supercars, sports car, etc) would have a huge impact on the engine performance.
General Benefits of Using Fuel Additives
There are five main reasons for using additives in fuels. These are:
- It improves the handling properties and stability of the fuel.
- It improves the combustion properties of the fuel.
- It is used to reduce emissions from fuel combustion.
- It is used to provide engine protection and cleanliness.
- It is used to improve fuel economy.
When and How to use a Fuel additive
Generally, additives work best on older, high mileage engines that have either been neglected or missed out on regular maintenance. You’re unlikely to see a significant benefit on a newer, well-maintained vehicle, however, taking the octane rating into consideration, this might be necessary for prolonging your engine’s lifespan.
Every fuel additive should have a product description on the packaging with instructions on how to use the product. If it doesn’t have it, that’s a red flag about the type of additive you’re buying.
In conclusion, additives are needed and can significantly improve overall engine performance and longevity, but finding a good mechanic that knows and understands how your vehicle works is also as important. If you’re your vehicle’s mechanic or a DIYer, kudos. Read your vehicle’s instruction manual as the manufacturers usually make recommendations about what, and what not to do.