The best way to clean fuel injectors is on a machine designed specifically for the job, but that’s not a realistic option for a lot of people – a dedicated injector cleaner will cost you thousands of dollars, and even if you went to a shop that did it, the bill would be significant thanks to the labor cost to remove the injectors, so what are your options?
There are a number of different fuel additives, some based on detergents, that you can pour in to your gas tank which then get sent around the fuel system, including through the combustion process; they’re marketed as fuel system cleaners that restore power, reduce emissions, eliminate rough running … they seem to be the snake oil of the automotive world.
But can they really do all that they claim?
I’ve chosen six of the best injector cleaners on the market. I can’t tell you exactly which is the right product for you, but I can give you my thoughts as to what each product does, and potentially why it could help with certain problems.
The Best Fuel Injector Cleaner
1. Chevron Techron Concentrate Plus Fuel System Cleaner
Chevron is an energy company, they’ve been supplying fuels, additives and petrochemicals for … forever it seems, so what they don’t know about fuel and fuel additives could be written on a sticky note.
As the name suggests, this is a concentrated formula of their popular fuel injector cleaner, and they advise it to be used quite sparingly – every 3,000 miles or so. It’s essentially a full cleaner for everything and anything related to the fuel or combustion process.
It’s a patented formula, using what Chevron call ‘fuel additive technology’, and it gets to work the moment you put it in the tank (using the handy, long-necked bottle); it cleans the injectors (or carburetor), intake valves, intake system, combustion chambers which all helps to restore any ‘lost’ power, improve acceleration, and even add an extra bit to the fuel economy. The most surprising thing is working its magic on the fuel gauge sender, for they too can become gummed up.
Chevron also say that it helps to improve cold start ability (but I’m not so sure about that, for many different reasons) and keep fuel stable for up to one year – again, I don’t really see the how or the why with that … it’s unlikely you’ll be needing to keep the same gas in your car for a year, unless you were storing the vehicle, and in which case, you’d drain it anyway.
All in all, for the price and the benefit, I’d say the Chevron Techron cleaner is great value for money, and really can help to keep your engine clean and running error free.
2. Lucas 10013 Fuel Treatment
First up, you’ll need to decant this into a smaller container, jug or bottle because it’s a gallon of fluid, you’ll need to measure out the required amount for a fill.
It can be used in both gasoline and diesel engines, and Lucas say it’s a great additive for the low-sulfur diesel fuel problems, and equally great for engines that were designed to run on leaded fuel – giving you all the benefits of leaded fuel, without the negatives.
It doesn’t matter if the engine is carburetor fed, fuel injection, turbo or normally aspirated, this juice will work to help clean everything within the fuel system, give better gas mileage, increase power and clean up exhaust emissions (thanks to better burn).
This fuel treatment is a high detergent and super slick oil formulation that’s made in the USA. Thanks to the jumbo size, it offers great value for money, especially when compared to some of the other products. An all round great product, that’s worth using if your engine is older.
3. BG 44K Fuel System Cleaner Power Enhancer
Small but mighty … this can of additive will treat 20 gallons of gas, and has been proven to improve combustion quality and power output.
BG 44K helps to clean everything in the fuel system and combustion cycle – fuel injectors, valves, combustion chamber, intake manifold, and has been tested to ensure that it’s fully compatible with all materials used in a fuel system, so there’s no danger of creating further issues by degrading any components. It can also be used in conjunction with other fuel additives, making it safe to mix if you’ve used formulas such as octane boosters in the past.
My only real niggle with the 44K is that it is slightly more difficult to open, and will need some way (like a funnel) of getting it in to the fuel filler neck of your car, aside from that, it’s a quality product that works great.
4. Red Line Complete SI-1 Fuel System Cleaner
I know lots of people that have used Red Line stuff in the past, it always seems to do what it’s meant to, and the fuel system cleaner is no different; Red Line Complete SI-1 cleans to near 100% efficiency in one treatment, and to me, that’s significant – they aren’t trying to upsell you in to having to use this on every fill up, so there’s no … BS behind it.
It’s a detergent based additive, that uses a powerful formulation of high and low temperature detergents, which means it should work across the board, and the concentrated blend works best for those really neglected engines … it’ll shift all sorts of deposits, reduces the need for octane gasoline by at least two points, and will clean the fuel lines, injectors (or carbs), tank, combustion chambers and valves.
The #1 cleaner for a project vehicle … you know the sort … stood out in your yard for a few years, with the promise of ‘one day, I’ll get her running again’ … this is the first step.
5. Liqui Moly Jectron Gasoline Fuel Injection Cleaner
The Liqui Moly information is quite scant … no “secret blend of top quality chemicals and detergents” type of thing, but it does use a few key words that make me think they’re in the game, and that’s why I’ve included them here.
Liqui Moly talk about ‘injector dosing’ and better fuel atomization, and for me, these are the things that I like to hear. It makes me think that they’ve actually engineered the product, and tested it professionally, rather than just waffling on about ‘synthetic detergents’.
One application helps to eliminate all manner of problems, from starting, hesitation and stalling to giving better idle speeds, throttle response and cleaner combustion. Also, it will remove carbon deposits from the internals of the engine (which could also mean less chance of pinging, although they don’t state that as a benefit).
6. Royal Purple Max-Clean Fuel System Cleaner and Stabilizer
Similar to the Liqui Moly, the facts and figures presented with the Royal Purple cleaner makes me think that testing has gone in to the product, and the benefits of using it, rather than just saying that it will clean X, Y and Z.
According to Royal Purple, it can help to improve fuel economy by an average of 3.2%, increase horsepower by 2.6% and reduce hydrocarbons, NOx and CO emissions by as much as 12% (hydrocarbons), 13% (NOx) and 18% for CO – that’s a huge difference for an average car.
It can be used in any car, with any fuel, forced induction or naturally aspirated, and covers diesel also. It can be used from new as an aid to keeping things as they should be, as a fuel stabilizer and of course, as a cleaner for older engines – it does a great job of cleaning everything from the gas tank forwards, right down to the combustion chambers.
As an everyday choice, the Royal Purple Max-Clean would get my vote for the best fuel injector cleaner.
Of course, you could view using a product like this as some sort of preventative measure … so that your fuel system won’t get clogged up with gum or varnish deposits from the fuel, or to keep your combustion chambers clean, but most people just turn to these products when they’ve hit a problem.
Understanding the type of running problem can help you diagnose what to look for. It could be that you’re ‘missing’ a cylinder, a lumpy idle speed, general lack of power or worse … popping and banging through the exhaust or intake system are usually signs of something much more serious.
Newer cars are more difficult to work on – not only are the systems more complex and technologically advanced, but generally speaking everything is hidden under plastic to make it look neater. Having said that, if your car is really new, there’s a chance it’s still under warranty anyway.
So, assuming that you can reach / see everything under the hood, the first place to start is to understand that really, there’s just two elements that go wrong – fuel or electrical (you could add in mechanical to that list, but 9\10 times, a mechanical fault occurs through something else).
If you’re trying to identify a missing cylinder, you can pull the injector plug from each injector to see if it changes how it runs – no change = faulty cylinder. You can also use the HT leads for the same effect, but if you’re not careful, you’ll get a massive voltage shock (although low amperage, so painful rather than deadly). Using the HT leads also works for carbureted engines where there are no injector plugs to pull.
If the engine just seems to be running badly, it could be something as simple as needing a tune up – new spark plugs, air filter (or if you’re feeling fancy, an upgraded cold air intake). But again, much will depend on how new and how clever your car is – most modern-ish cars are capable of masking faults by adapting the running parameters to cope with the change, or reset to a default reading (in the case of sensors – air, coolant etc).
Plugging in a diagnostic tool may not help either – sure, it will tell you if a sensor is faulty, or getting erroneous readings, but it won’t tell you why – it could well be that another sensor has failed and that sparks a chain reaction further down the line. Modern cars, huh.
While using these fuel additives may not cure the problem (it really does depend on the problem), it’s doubtful that they won’t do any harm, and for the sake of a few dollars, they’re worth trying if you’re experiencing these types of running problems.