Over the lifespan of your car, you burn thousands of gallons of fuel. Each drop of that fuel must pass through your entire fuel system. On its way to being ultimately burned by your engine, your fuel starts its journey in your fuel tank. From there, it is pressurized and pushed towards your engine through your fuel filter and fuel lines. Next, it is distributed to your fuel injectors via your fuel rail. Your fuel injectors are controlled by your engine ECU, which sends a pulsed signal to quickly open and close a small electromagnetic valve in each fuel injector. As the valve opens, fuel passes through the nozzle of your injector and into your engine.
One of the jobs of your fuel injectors is to deliver fuel to your motor. The other job that they have is to fire the fuel into your engine cylinders in such a way that maximizes its ability to burn. This means that as liquid fuel passes through each injector, the injector acts upon it in such a way to break the liquid up into a very fine mist. This process is called fuel atomization.
What Is Fuel Injector Cleaner?
Fuel injector cleaner is an additive that you pour into your fuel tank. Typically it is comprised of a detergent and lubricant package that is designed to break up grime in your fuel system and lubricate critical fuel injection components as it passes through. To use it, you typically add it to a full tank of gas and drive normally until the tank is empty.
Why Do I Need Fuel Injector Cleaner?
When it comes to fuel injectors, two major things can go wrong. Either the valve gets sticky and fails to open or the opening can get partially occluded which can inhibit adequate atomization and create insufficient spray patterns. In other words, the way the fuel injector sprays fuel into your motor is compromised. This can result in several noticeable problems with your car. You may notice idle problems such as a hunting idle or a low idle or loss of power at all RPMs. You may also notice such issues as hesitation during acceleration or rough running.
The reason some of these issues occur is because fuel isn’t the most stable of substances. In fact, it is notoriously unstable. Over time, it can get gummy and gunky. Furthermore, it’s not always extremely clean. There are lots of microscopic contaminants and particulate matter in fuel that comes from both the fuel itself or become suspended in your fuel after it sloughs off of components in your fuel system. A great example is that fuel can contain small rust particles from the inside of your fuel tank. Unfortunately, your fuel filter does not filter out every single contaminant. As such, these contaminants can build up in unwanted places, such as fuel injectors or fuel pumps.
The reason you need fuel injector cleaner is to counteract this contaminant buildup and corrosion to keep your fuel system performing at optimum levels. The best fuel injectors can be very helpful in extending the lifespan of fuel system components and maintaining high levels of engine performance.
When Should I Use Fuel Injector Cleaner?
There is a common misconception that fuel injector cleaner should be used when you start to notice some of the poor running issues mentioned above. If your car is already acting funny, you’re too late! Fuel injector cleaner can occasionally make improvements in these cases, but it is really intended to be a preventative measure. As such, most people who use it correctly dump a bottle in every five or ten thousand miles of driving generally speaking.
It’s also important to note that buying high quality gasoline can extend your interval. Many high quality gasoline stations (Shell, Chevron, and 76 come to mind) have extensive detergent additive packages in their fuel that also help keep your engine clean. The detergents in gasoline are similar to those in fuel injector cleaner, however they are significantly less concentrated. As such, even if you use high quality gasoline, it can still pay to occasionally run a bottle of injector cleaner through your fuel system but you don’t have to do it as frequently.
The Best Fuel Injector Cleaners
When it comes to actually choosing the best fuel injector cleaner, there are tons of options. Pretty much every major automotive fluid manufacturer carries their own brand of fuel injector cleaner. Many of the brands are brands you’ve most likely heard of…Red line, Royal Purple, Lucas, BG, STP, Sea Foam, Gumout, Sta-bil, Chevron, Penray are just a few of the better known names. Fortunately, we will break it down for you and show you the ones we have had greatest success with over the years to make your life easy. Without further adieu…
Lucas 10013 Fuel Treatment
The Lucas Fuel Treatment is awesome stuff. Lucas is well known in the automotive community for both their fuel additives and gear oil additives. They have a longstanding high reputation and they make fantastic products.
When it comes to their fuel treatment, it works on almost any motor vehicle whether it is for a car, motorcycle, ATV, boat, scooter, or other. It works with both diesel and gasoline as well as with fuel injection and carburetors. Its versatility is nice because it works on so many types of vehicles, but don’t think this dilutes its potential to clean your fuel injectors. It does an outstanding job.
The Lucas Fuel Treatment combines both lubricants and detergents to improve your fuel system performance. There are no solvents in this product, so you don’t have to worry about damaging something in your system that doesn’t play well with solvents. It also complies with federal low sulfur content requirements.
To use it, we typically pour roughly two to three ounces into our fuel tank per ten gallons of fuel per Lucas’ directions. If you add a bit too much don’t worry about it as your car can handle it no problem. Overall it’s a great product that is sure to treat (like our pun?) you well and as such we consider to be the one of the best fuel injector cleaners on the market.
Redline SI-1 Fuel System Cleaner
Redline has been around for a long time and they know their way around automotive fluids. They are extremely well known for their gear and engine oils, and are very well respected among mechanics and car enthusiasts alike.
Their SI-1 Fuel System Cleaner is a testament to their good reputation. It works famously for gasoline vehicles including cars and motorcycles. It is designed to clean your fuel injectors, but will also work well for cleaning carburetors, intake valves, piston heads, and combustion chambers by breaking up carbon deposits that form over time as well.
The Redline contains multiple types of detergents that are active at different temperature levels which means that your fuel system gets an extremely thorough clean. Redline claims that their fuel treatment is nearly 100% efficient in one treatment. The additive package also includes lubricant that will keep the mechanical parts of your fuel system running optimally.
Another great thing about Redline’s Fuel System Cleaner is that it acts like an octane booster. Redline states that it can reduce the need for higher octane fuel by two points, which is pretty impressive. It is also safe to use continually on your motor, so you can add some every time you fill up. Redline suggests that you treat one tank with one bottle if you want to do a thorough cleaning, however you can also use in smaller amounts if you just want to maintain a squeaky clean fuel system.
Overall the Redline is awesome. Tons of people swear by it and it wouldn’t surprise is if you started swearing by it too. It’s definitely worth checking out.
Royal Purple Max-Clean Fuel System Cleaner
Royal Purple is another company that is extremely well known for their engine oils and gear oils. They have long competed with Redline on this front and have been the subject of many a forum debate when compared to Redline. Fortunately, they are both great companies with great products and Royal Purple’s Max-Clean Fuel System Cleaner is no exception.
There are many things that make Royal Purple one of the best fuel injector cleaners around. It is a synthetic cleaner that has lubricants and detergents in it, like both of the other two reviewed above. It works in diesel engines and gasoline engines, and is safe for use with ethanol blended fuel as well as biofuel. It also works for both 4-stroke and 2 stroke motors, so you can use effectively it in both your car and your dirt bike.
Royal Purple claims that their fuel system cleaner offers several advantages and their road tests have verified these claims. Royal Purple has proven its product to increase fuel economy slightly, help you reclaim lost horsepower, reduce emissions, and reduce pinging and knocking.
As far as usage, Royal Purple recommends using six ounces every 3000 miles for maintenance and 20 ounces (one ounce per gallon) every 10000 miles for a deeper clean. This will keep your fuel system running in tip top shape.
Overall the Royal Purple Max Clean does a great job and comes highly recommended. It would be impossible to go wrong with it!
We hope that this guide has been helpful when it comes to choosing the best fuel injector cleaner for your application. With regular use, your vehicle will continue to run great and will require less fuel system maintenance over the long run, so fuel injector cleaner often pay for itself. While we have chosen our top fuel injector cleaners, we know that there are many other great options out there. If not of these quite fit the bill for you, take a look at some of the other options on the market by clicking here. Happy wrenching!