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Snake oil, or magical potion? Let's find out what fuel & engine cleaning additives do, and whether they actually work.
Category: Car Technical Advice
What are additives? Think of it as vitamin supplements, but for your car. Vitamin supplements can be highly beneficial to the health of those who aren't able to meet their daily nutritional requirements. Of course, there are sayings that they are beneficial for everyone.
Likewise, fuel additives, such as a fuel injector cleaner or an octane booster can offer tangible benefits - provided that your car requires it. And often, there are little to no harm to using them, other than the cost of buying them.
Types of fuel additives
To find out if your car can benefit from a fuel additive, you need to know what additives are commonly available in the market, and what they actually do.
1. Fuel injector cleaners / fuel system cleaners
These fuel cleaning additives are formulated to get rid of deposits that are left in your car's fuel system, such as the injectors, valves and piston tops. With regular usage, deposits build up, restricts fuel delivery and cause reduced engine performance and poor fuel economy.
Fuel injector cleaners and fuel system cleaners attempt to get rid of the deposits so as to restore the engine's efficiency and performance.
2. Octane boosters
Octane boosters are made to increase the octane of the fuel. They aren't all the same though, as some are more effective than others. You shouldn't be getting one of these if your intention is to make your car go faster - that simply isn't how it works.
Higher octane fuel is more knock-resistant (the fuel can withstand more pressure before detonating), and is usually required by performance engines. You should only be considering the use of octane boosters if your car requires fuel of a higher octane level than what you are able to obtain.
3. Fuel stabilisers
Yes, fuel does go bad. Petrol can degrade over a time of as short as three months when stored in a sealed container, if left in a car's fuel tank, it will start to degrade in about month's time. Fuel stabilisers are additives that prolong the lifespan of stored fuel by preventing oxidation. They are engineered to bond with petrol to create a protective layer in order to extend the lifespan of fuels.
These additives are best used in cars that are not driven often, and aren't started up for weeks on ends - such as collectible classic cars.