Can fuel additives improve fuel economy and increase horsepower?

Arif · Mar 28, 2021 10:21 AM

Can fuel additives improve fuel economy and increase horsepower? 01

Preying on the naivety and impulsiveness of the average car buyer are fraudulent products that claim to save fuel, increase power, or improve the handling of a vehicle.

There are so many products out there with substantial claims that make it really hard to differentiate the legitimate from the fraudulent. One of the products you may have thought of purchasing are fuel additives.

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This DOES NOT WORK

What are fuel additives? Are fuel additives legit? Can fuel additives save you money? Well, we’ll try to answer those questions in this article.

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Can fuel additives improve fuel economy and increase horsepower? 01

Another product that DOES NOT WORK. The fan only disturbs the airflow.

What are fuel additives?

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Fuel additives are substances that you add to the fuel to change its property. Some are able to clean the injectors, some claim to give you a power boost, and some claim to improve your fuel economy.

Although fuel additives may sound like a third-party product, the fuel that you use to fill up your car usually already contains them. Some Petronas fuels, for example, contain the "Pro-Drive" additive. 

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Fuel brands have their own off-the-shelf additives too which claim to either boost performance, improve fuel economy, or clean the engine.

Are fuel additives legit?

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Of course, they are. The only problem is that third-party additives often have exaggerated claims of their effectiveness.

Depending on the formulation, fuel additives can serve the following purpose:

  • Gasoline stabilizer
  • Corrosion inhibitor
  • Fuel injector cleaners
  • Anti-gelling additives
  • Fuel-line anti-freeze
  • Octane booster

Anti-gelling and anti-freeze purposes are clearly meant for colder climates. Some car brands have their own additives as well for one or more of the above mentioned purposes.

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Mercedes-Benz fuel additive

Can a fuel additive clean an engine?

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Fuel injector cleaners are one the common types of fuel additives. They won't give a shiny finish but they will clear the passage in the injector.

If it’s the matter of cleaning the engine of carbon deposits, there is some truth to that claim. Fuel additives that can “clean your engine” contain detergents such as PIB, PIBA, and PEA.

Fuel injectors get clogged over time, and using detergent fuel additives can help extend injector service life. The best way to clean an injector is to disassemble it and dump it in an ultrasonic cleaner. A detergent additive is a less effective method, albeit easier.

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Fuel injectors get clogged over time. Photo: Lethal Injection

Most additives are only effective in cleaning the injectors and valves. Although some are to be able to clean the combustion chamber, the claims are usually exaggerated from the actual results.

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Some sludge on the piston head can be removed by fuel additives. Photo: Chris Fix

Does it clean your engine still? Yes, it does, but more specifically, the fuel delivery system. The benefits of detergent-type fuel additives are only felt by older vehicles with high mileage. There’s not much point getting detergent fuel additives for a fairly new car.

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Detergent fuel additives can clean the valves too. Clearly this is from an old car. Photo: Nates Interactive Auto

Can a fuel additive increase your horsepower?

Well, if you’re starting with an old, high-mileage engine, you might be able to restore some lost horsepower. As for fairly-new engines, there’s really no need for third-party detergent additives.

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The engine is clean and if you continuously use high quality fuels (which already contain additives anyway), you won’t even have to consider off-the-shelf additives in the future.

Fuel additives might be able to restore horsepower in some older cars, but the benefits for a brand-new car are almost zero.

What about octane boosters? Don’t they increase power?

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An octane booster mainly serves to increase the octane rating of the fuel. That will only reduce the chances of knocking, which is a problem more associated with older cars.

If you’re looking to extract more power from your car on budget, you might want to look into upgrading the intake and exhaust system. A fuel additive won’t give you a power boost from an already healthy standard engine.

Can fuel additives improve fuel economy?

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Just like how fuel additives can restore lost horsepower in old vehicles, the fuel economy can also be restored. How does this work? Well, a cleaner fuel delivery system does wonders to the efficiency of an engine.

Conclusion

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So, there you have it. Fuel additives do work, but just not as extreme as some brands exaggerate them to be. If you have on older car, a cleaning additive could restore some life to it. Just don’t expect too much.

The normal fuels you use at the gas pumps already contain additives which are good enough to keep your car running well.

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Arif

Writer

Previously an engineer in an automotive manufacturing company and a highway concessionaire. A part-time research student on biofuels and diesel engines. Obsessed with vehicle electrification and the future of transportation.

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