The 10 Best Fuel System Cleaners
10. Lucas Oil 10013 Lubricant
9. STP 17437 Ultra
8. Star Brite Star Tron
7. Sta-Bil 360 Performance
6. Lucas Oil 10512 Deep Clean
5. Red Line 60103 Complete
4. Lubegard 77012 Booster
3. Chevron 65740-CASE Techron
2. BG 44K
1. Royal Purple 11723 Max-Clean
Money At Both Ends
There's a long, rich history of commercial rackets in the US. The manufacturers of fast food and tobacco products, for example, are often owned by the same corporations that own the pharmaceutical companies who sell you the treatments for all the sickness their poisons cause. These are masked men who steal your purse one minute, disappear around the corner, take the mask off, and reappear offering to help you find the man who stole your purse–for a fee, of course.
The same sad truth applies to our oil-producing overlords, who behave remarkably like drug dealers. If you dealt heroin on a large scale, you'd likely want to get the purest stuff you could find. Think of it like oil that's been extracted and cleaned, but not yet turned into gasoline. You could take one kilogram of that pure heroin and sell it as is on American streets for about $130,000.
Or, you could cut it with different chemicals, a little vitamin C, a little baking powder, maybe some Ajax–whatever's lying around. As long as you don't reduce the potency so much that the side effects of the additives outweigh the natural effects of the drug, you can turn one kilogram into two kilograms, effectively doubling your profits.
You buy gasoline by the gallon, but gasoline isn't just refined oil anymore. It's loaded with detergents and other additives, and about 10% of all your gasoline is actually ethanol. Ethanol is an alcohol derived from corn that the government and gas companies collude to include in your gas mainly to offset overproduction of corn resulting from imbalanced farm subsidies.
Ethanol boosts the octane level of your gas, it pays out double to industrial agriculture companies for overproducing corn, and it gives the oil companies a 10% bump in profits (your tax dollars pay for the ethanol in your gas long before you swipe your card at the pump). Worst of all, though, is that it's terrible for your vehicle, causing a gross accumulation of non-combustible deposits in your entire fuel system. Even without the ethanol, you'd see a build-up of gunk over the years, but that corn juice exacerbates the problem significantly.
Cleaning Up Your Decision
Nowhere are these non-combustible components more damaging than in your fuel injector. The fuel injector sprays a fine mist of gasoline into you air intake to create the highly explosive mixture that powers your engine. If your injector is clogged with debris like an old shower head pumping hard water, the quality of your combustion plummets.
A gunky injector results in less power, poor idling, impacted fuel mileage, and dirtier emissions. The detergents present in the gasoline you purchase are intended to reduce the build-up of gunk in your fuel system, but, given the presence of the ethanol, they can only do so much. Fuel system cleaners can take care of the rest.
That gunk is mostly made up of carbon built up from those dirtier ingredients' exposure to numerous heat cycles in the engine. Fuel system cleaners contain detergents, most often a detergent called polyetheramine, or PEA, that specifically target carbon deposits. Those deposits can cleanly pass through your exhaust system in the natural combustion process. It's a lot like using laser to break up kidney stones into more comfortably passable sizes.
To deliver the cleaner into your fuel system, most products pour right into your gas tank. These tend to work best when added just before a fill-up, right there at the pump. As you consume that tank of gasoline, the cleaner passes consistently through your fuel injector, scrubbing away at any built-up deposits throughout. These systems have the injector as their primary point of focus, leaving some other areas of the fuel system less treated.
The other delivery method, comprised of much the same solution, comes pressurized in a can with a long, thin hose attached. The other end of that hose enters your vehicle's throttle body through the fresh intake hose. You'll need an assistant to actively use this system, as it requires another person to start the car and, depending on its idling point, keep the engine at 500-1,000 RPM. These solutions also often include lubricants to keep additional gunk from building up over time.
Some systems come with a combination of gas tank-based fuel injector cleaners and engine system cleaners and lubricants, and the latter are certainly the more intensive treatments. If you're a novice when it comes to your vehicle, or you're a consummate loner who doesn't have anybody you can ask for help, you want a solution that will requite as little mechanical knowledge or physical assistance as possible, so keep away from the more complicated cleaner systems. If you have even a modicum of competence in the garage, the more comprehensive systems should be a breeze.
Refined To The Point Of Contamination
It took nearly 200 years from the conception of the internal combustion engine for anyone to actually build one that worked. In the 1860s, a French scientist named Alphonse Beau de Rochas patented a design for a four-stroke engine, but he never completed its build.
In 1878, Nikolaus A Otto completed the build of a four-stroke engine that actually ran. It's a great name for an engine builder, even if the term 'Otto-mobile' didn't catch on. Still, his engine and the two-stroke engines that came out in that same year were either too big, too slow, or both. They weren't commercially viable products.
1889 saw the introduction of a four-stroke, carburetor-regulated engine with its cylinders aligned in the shape of a V. This engine came at the hands of Gottlieb Daimler engineering out of Germany. The developments from this point forward led to the industrial advancements on the assembly line in America and to the explosion of the automobile industry worldwide.
In the years since the, gasoline itself has become increasingly pure, as methods for refining oil gained more and more scientific precision. In the last couple of decades, however, we've seen the introduction of new chemical agents and alcohols sold to us as solutions to problems that weren't there, which create new problems for our engines.