When it comes to taking care of your vehicles, it’s not surprising that there are several products out there that serve to help but do nothing. If you’ve ever heard of “blinker fluid” or purchased it from a retailer, you already know what we’re talking about.
One such product that has often been questioned is fuel injector cleaner. Many people swear by the fluid while others remain skeptic. Whatever your personal feelings are about this magical car-fixing juice, we can’t deny that huge brands are manufacturing the stuff and marketing it as an instant fix to some of the most basic fuel injector issues.
In this article, we’ll address what fuel injectors are, what a fuel injector cleaner is, how the cleaner works, and we’ll try to put a nail in the coffin of the does-it-work-or-not debate. We’ll also include a few different options to clean your fuel injectors for you skeptics out there.
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What Are Fuel Injectors?
Fuel injectors are electronic devices found on the engine of most modern cars. Their only responsibility is to insert, or spray, the right amount of fluid into the engine. The right amount includes both gasoline and air, a mixture of which is required to generate optimal combustion and engine performance.
In general, even with the right kinds of maintenance at the most appropriate frequencies, fuel injectors are prone to becoming damaged or experience reduced performance in some way. Many common problems that people and garages find in fuel injectors are dirty injectors, clogged injectors, stuck injectors, misfiring engines, inconsistent engine performance, and uneven engine idling.
There are several reasons as to why your car’s fuel injectors can become impaired. The most common cause is simply wear and tear; your engine will begin to spew out grease and other substances that fall into the fuel injectors, leading to performance issues. Another common reason is the use of inferior fuels that still contain several contaminants that can accumulate and harden in the fuel injectors.
Using your vehicle on a regular basis can lead to a reduced fuel injector and engine performance. There’s no way around it, but there are at least two ways you can maintain your vehicle. The first is manually taking the fuel injectors apart and giving them a scrub. The second is using a fuel injector cleaner.
What Is a Fuel Injector Cleaner?
A fuel injector cleaner is a blanket term used to describe any fluid that is inserted into the gas tank of a vehicle with the sole purpose of cleaning the fuel injectors. The exact list of ingredients used in these cleaners differs depending on the manufacturer. However, most cleaners include isopropanol alcohol, a hydrocarbon solvent, and a range of other hard-to-pronounce ingredients. They also come with a secret sauce that manufacturers won’t disclose.
Many manufacturers claim that their cleaning product will solve many of your fuel injector’s issues. However, from the list of the most common fuel injector problems mentioned in the previous section, a cleaner will not be able to solve a majority of them. Basically, a fuel injector cleaner cleans but doesn’t unclog. If your car is suffering from a reduction of engine performance due to clogged injectors, your only option is to get them scrubbed and cleaned.
How Does a Fuel Injector Work?
Dirty fuel injectors are usually obstructed by hydrocarbon deposits and other debris that come from far-distance travel and contaminated fuel. As long as these deposits aren’t completely clogging your fuel injectors, a cleaner will theoretically dissolve or remove them from your car’s system. By inserting a few milliliters of the fluid into your car’s gas tank on a nearly empty tank, the fluid enters the fuel injectors, supposedly flushing their systems clean of any accumulated debris.
Does It Really Work?
Unfortunately, there has yet to be any publication in any scientific journal that measures the effectiveness of fuel injector cleaner. Most of the failure and success stories you read or hear about are anecdotal, and their levels of failure and success depend mainly on how well the person tells his or her story.
However, just because these testimonies aren’t supported by scientific evidence doesn’t automatically mean they are invalid. From our experience, fuel injector cleaner does indeed work, but it needs to be used correctly.
By “correctly” we mean in the right quantity and frequency. Some cleaners require you to use a certain quantity of the cleaner into your car’s fuel tank every time you fill fuel up. Other brands recommend using their cleaner once every 3,000 miles. Many times, you won’t notice an immediate difference in engine performance; it’ll take multiple visits to the gas station – maybe even up to 5 times – before anything noticeable happens.
Surefire Way to Clean Fuel Injectors
Even though fuel injector cleaners do work, provided you’re using a high-quality cleaner at the right frequency while being patient, there may be certain instances where a fuel injector is simply ineffective. Some deposits, though not completely clogging the injectors, may not dissolve and be lifted away by the cleaner.
In these cases, the only options left are between using an ultrasonic cleaning system or manually taking the injectors out and giving them a thorough cleaning.
An ultrasonic fuel injector cleaning system employs high-frequency sound waves to produce millions upon millions of heated bubbles which scrub away at hard deposits in your fuel injectors. No speck of debris is safe from the bubble scrubbers. However, owning one of these systems or renting them can be quite expensive.
The second alternative would be to get your fuel injectors manually cleaned, either by doing it yourself or hiring the help of a professional. This is the more cost-efficient way of cleaning your fuel injectors, and you can really get a good look at the degree of the hydrocarbon deposits. You can also claim that “you and your car are one” by doing it yourself – it’s something to brag about, but nobody will care.
So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. Fuel injector cleaners serve to eliminate any hydrocarbon deposits and other debris that has the potential to accumulate and clog your injectors. Fuel injector cleaners actually do work, but some off-the-shelf cleaners you can find at a retailer may do nothing for days, weeks, or even months. There are even stories of some large companies producing cleaners that are absolutely 100% worthless and ineffective. Unfortunately, the only thing we can recommend is that you go through a long try-and-error process to find what brand and at what frequency works for your vehicle.