The general ingredients of your engine’s combustion process, despite its myriad of complexities that act behind the scenes, are actually quite simple. You mix together a precise volume of fuel and oxygen, ignite a spark, and you’re off to the races. If anything, fuel injection has made this process so much more efficient. In maintaining that, you’re left wondering as to what is the best fuel injector cleaner.
But why bother cleaning your fuel injectors in the first place? Well, if you’re fastidious about cleaning after yourself, then why not that very thing helping your car to move? Keeping your fuel injectors in tip-top shape won’t just mean your car works, but also make sure that it can run as performantly as it can, while also keeping fuel consumption at a minimum. It’s vital to look after it from time to time.
So, just what is the best fuel injector cleaner, and why should it matter? Well, let’s find out…
What Do You Need To Know About Fuel Injection, Anyway?
Before we look at all the would-be candidates running to win the top spot as the best fuel injector cleaner, it might help to have some context as to what fuel injection is. So, what does this seemingly magical component do for your car? In layman’s terms, you can think of fuel injection like a tiny and robotized syringe. Instead of vaccines or a flu shot, replace that fluid in the tube with fuel.
That’s basically what fuel injection does, in a nutshell. Generally speaking, it sprays a precise amount of fuel – be it gasoline or diesel – into the engine. The volume of how much fuel to inject is dependant on your car’s computer brain. It’ll tell the injection system how little or more fuel to spray, and as to when the best timing or intervals are to start spraying. It doesn’t just spray fuel willy-nilly, mind you.
Once it’s being injected into your engine, the sprayed fuel becomes pressurized. In older cars, it may inject the fuel mixture into the intake manifold. This is where fresh air breathes into the combustion chamber, which will now be mixed in with the fuel. Among the crucial parts of how an engine works are to ascertain the right air-to-fuel ratio for the best burn, in balancing performance and efficiency.
Typically, the default air-to-fuel ratio is the stoichiometric mixture of about 14.7:1. This means that for every gram of fuel that is sprayed into the mixture, you’ll need 14.7 grams of air for a good burn. In an ever-evolving pace of engine designs, most recent cars have direct injection. To get even better fuel efficiency and lower emissions, fuel is instead injected straight into the engine’s cylinders.
Why Does Your Engine’s Fuel Injectors Fail, And Why Do You Need The Best Fuel Injector Cleaner?
So far then, that clears up the basic functionality of your engine’s fuel injectors, and we’ll talk more about how the best fuel injector cleaner can restore its vitality. For now, it should be crucial for us to discuss some of the ways in which it could fail. Given its importance for an engine’s operations – it’s the one thing that supplies the engine with fuel to burn – how could it possibly fail?
Well, it turns out that you needn’t have to worry too much about how your fuel injectors are doing. They’re quite robust, and if you take good care of them through regular servicing and maintenance, they should easily last the entire lifetime of your vehicle. However, it’s typical that with wear and tear, the fuel injectors undergo an immense amount of stress, made worse by a lack of attention.
Under those circumstances, the potential lifespan of the fuel injectors will drop to around 50,000 to 100,000 miles on average. Although it’s significantly easier and less stressful to maintain compared to old-school carburetors, fuel injectors aren’t immune to everything. Here’s a quick rundown of the factors that could wear out, damage, or clog up the fuel injectors far sooner than you’d like it.
1. Filling Up With Poor Quality Fuel
The quality of the fuel is often the primary determiner for how long your fuel injectors will last, and whether or not you’ll have to concern yourself with finding the best fuel injector cleaner. Remember that fuel isn’t always in pristine condition, depending on where you are in the world.
If the fuel has too many impurities or is contaminated by debris, it can effortlessly clog the narrow tubing within the fuel injection system. Nevertheless, it’s not often that you’d come across poor fuel quality these days. That said, it’s a good reminder for you to swap out your fuel filter.
2. A Build-Up Of Heat Soak In The Fuel Injectors
‘Heat soak‘ is what happens when the fuel in your toasty hot engine evaporates into a gas. Commonly, this fuel residue will build up the gaseous evaporation by the nozzles of the fuel injectors. This ought to be harmless, right? Well, not really, as the fuel vapor evaporates into a sort of waxy substance.
As it sits in the ports of your fuel injectors, the waxy leftover fuel can harden into a deposit. This, in turn, would clog up the fuel injectors. Ordinarily, fuel – both in gasoline and diesel – has detergents in them to remove these deposits, and then washes them away.
Nonetheless, there are some instances where it can’t sufficiently clean them. For example, if you only take a lot of short drives, the engine might not have the chance to circulate enough fuel around to clean them all out. Should the clogging be too serious and not cared for, the fuel injectors could fail.
3. Too Much Blow-By In The Engine
Another jargon to get past, ‘blow-by‘ concerns fuel and motor oil residue, when they’d blow past the pistons. In this case, they could get into the engine’s crankcase during the compression process. Your car may have something called a PCV system, or ‘positive crankcase ventilation’.
This is a device that ventilates gases and vapors out of the crankcase. As we’ve established already, a build-up of vapor could lead to an unwanted build-up of residue. There’s another side of the story here, where the PCV system could directly cause the fuel injectors to fail.
The PCV sucks out all the blow-by, which every engine emits, and is quite normal. However, if the air filter fails to trap the blow-by, or if the PCV system is faulty, all that waxy and sludgy residue could instead clog up the fuel injectors. If not cleaned in time, the injectors would fail.
4. Faulty Fuel Injector Solenoid
There are various components that make up your car’s fuel injectors. Among them are the solenoids, which create magnetic fields to pull up the fuel injector pintle. When it does so, gasoline or diesel is safely sprayed into the combustion chamber.
While rare, the solenoid itself could break. There might be a short in the electrical system, or if the solenoids themselves are jammed in place. Either way, the fuel injector won’t work at its best, or might not work at all. Over time, the injectors will begin to fail.
5. Leaking Or Damaged Fuel injector
Once again, it’s uncommon to come across this, but it can still happen. The fuel injector might be the one at fault. It may have somehow sprung a leak, has cracked, or if numerous components within the injection system have failed altogether.
As a consequence, it can’t feed a sufficient air-to-fuel mixture into the combustion chamber. Initially, you’d notice this as the performance of the engine suffers significantly. After a while, and if the issue isn’t looked into, the fuel injectors will fail completely.
6. Glitchy ECU Misinforming The Fuel Injectors
Remember, your car’s fuel injection system isn’t an autonomous being. Its operations – that being the art of opening, feeding and pressurizing the right volume of fuel, and then closing again, are being managed by your ECU. That’s the computer brain we spoke of earlier, the ‘engine control unit’.
In this scenario, the fuel injectors themselves are fine but isn’t otherwise working as it should since it’s getting poor input from the ECU. The ECU might be glitchy or has faulty programming, where it feeds the wrong signals to the injectors.
In other words, it can’t tell the fuel injectors as to how much fuel it needs to inject into the engine, or when’s the right timing to do it. Without the right mixture of air and fuel, your car’s performance will begin to wane. It may not wear out the injectors, but it’s worth understanding for troubleshoots.
What Are The Symptoms Of A Bad Fuel Injector, And When Is The Right Time To Find The Best Fuel Injector Cleaner?
Another point that we’d like to touch on is the symptoms of a bad fuel injector. After all, when is the right time for you to look out for the best fuel injector cleaner? Just now, we’ve just discussed the potential causes of why fuel injectors could wear out prematurely, fail, or get clogged up. This time around, we can see what happens as a side effect of those key failures.
Here are just a few of the symptoms that you need to be wary of to notice whether or not your fuel injectors are at their breaking point. This should tell when the right moment to be checking out the best fuel injector cleaner for your car. Besides, your fuel injectors are responsible for firing fuel into the engine upwards of millions of times throughout the lifespan of your car…
Loss Of Engine Power – As the fuel injector can’t work properly to feed fuel to your engine, you might naturally sense a lack of performance. You’ll especially notice this as delayed acceleration.
Engine Misfire – Misfires happen when one or more cylinders in the engine aren’t combusting the fuel and air correctly. Or, they might fail to combust them all in a given cycle. This occurs as the fuel injectors might not have delivered enough fuel into the mix.
Rough Idling – Aside from driving, the symptoms of faulty fuel injectors can also be noticed while you’re idling. You could feel a lot more vibrations or roughness when idling, as the fuel injectors can’t stably pump fuel into the engine.
Poor Fuel Economy – If your fuel injectors aren’t able to feed fuel properly, it may be reflected with terrible fuel economy. The injectors might be leaking fuel, or are wasting them away in poorly-timed and poorly-mixed burns.
How Does The Best Fuel Injector Cleaner Work?
But, you might be asking, what do fuel injector cleaners do, anyway? To put it simply, they’re a solvent that helps to clean out the fuel passageways. You start by pouring a bottle into the fuel tank, and the cleaner will start circulating with the gasoline or diesel. As it flows through, it dissolves all the residue and deposits that we mentioned earlier.
Despite the name, its cleaning effects aren’t just limited to the fuel injectors. They might dissolve a bit of the impurity in the fuel lines, too. As fuel injectors are combustible solvents, they’ll burn off in the engine, so you won’t have to worry about needing to extract them. Fuel injectors could be made out of three distinct elements…
Polyether Amine – Could work easily on both gasoline and diesel vehicles. On top of cleaning away residue, it could also remove excess moisture stuck in the fuel lines. This commonly happens when you have old gas or diesel in the tank, which could clog up the fuel line.
Polyisobutylene – It’s similar to Polyether Amine chemically. But for fuel cleaning purposes, it’s a bit stronger. It could be identified with the ‘PIB’ labeling on the bottle.
PEA – If you want the best of the best in fuel injection cleaners, anything with PEA should be your go-to. PEA is a detergent, that when included with your typical fuel cleaner additives, makes it incredibly potent. It bonds with contaminants such as carbon deposits and then dissolves them. For detailed cleaning, PEA is a must-have, although it could be damaging if you’re overzealous with its use.
What Is The Best Fuel Injector Cleaner That You Can Buy Today?
Well, here’s a misconception that might invalidate our argument for finding ‘the best fuel injector cleaner’… There is hardly ever a one-size-fits-all “best” at anything. The same goes for shopping for the best fuel injector cleaner, too. Just because Mechanic A recommends this particular cleaner to clean out the fuel injection system, it might not necessarily make it the most ideal.
There are numerous factors to consider, such as what vehicle you’re hauling, your driving style, the car’s mileage, the quality of fuel at your local pump, and so on. With all that being said, a dash of fuel injector every 1,500 to 3,000 miles will always be better than nothing, given the circumstances. So, here’s a broader view of the best fuel injector cleaner on the market today…
1. The Best Fuel Injector Cleaner For Value – Sea Foam IC5
Usually, some might say that the cheapest products might not always deliver the best results. But in this case, that’s not true. If all you need is a good bottle of fuel injector cleaner that won’t break the bank, Sea Foam’s IC5 is a great option. You can find a 5.25-ounce bottle of these for around $4, or maybe even less with discounts aplenty.
Yet, this one bottle is still enough to treat up to 25 gallons of fuel. It’s easy to use, although it’s mainly limited to just gasoline vehicles. On the flip side, its cleaning effects could boost performance and helps to reduce tailpipe emissions by chewing out those stubborn carbon deposits. Nevertheless, their claimed promise of improved fuel economy hasn’t entirely worked, as advertised.
2. The Best Fuel Injector Cleaner For High Mileage Vehicles – Gumout Regane
If you’re riding in a high-miler, most fuel injector cleaners might not work at cleaning away the really hard-to-get residues that are caked in there. For that reason, you’ll need something a bit more potent, like this Gumout Regane. In fact, the product page advertises this specifically for high-mileage cars. So, if the car in question is on the older side of 75,000 miles, this is the perfect batch for you.
It won’t just clean your fuel injectors, either. Gumout’s mixture is good for cleaning carbon deposits in your fuel lines, the combustion chamber, piston tops, cylinder heads, ports, valves, and anything else that the fuel touches. It’s also formulated to maintain its cleanliness as well and prevent any further carbon residue or contaminants from building up for another 3,000 miles.
Additionally, you’ll be able to restore your car’s performance, improve fuel efficiency, and prevents increased emissions. The only downside would be the cost. While you could get a bottle for less than or around $4, you’ll find that one bottle might not be sufficient. At the most, you could barely get away with one cleaning cycle. I guess that’s why Gumout often sells the Regane in packs of six.
3. The Best Fuel Injector Cleaner For Diesels – Lucas Oil LUC10020
“But what if I have a diesel?”, I hear you asking. If that’s the case, Lucas Oil’s LUC10020 is no doubt the best fuel injector cleaner for diesel engines. Plus, it can even clean gasoline vehicles, too. Diesel often creates more carbon deposits and a build-up of residue within the fuel injection system when compared to gasoline, so you’ll need a strong mix to thoroughly clean it all out.
It’s quite affordable overall, with a standard 5.25-ounce bottle coming in at less than $10. Although, you could readily find these on store shelves selling for around $5 if you could get a deal. In return, you get a highly versatile fuel injection cleaner, which could also provide lubricating capabilities for the old-school among those who are still riding on carburetors.
Lucas Oil’s solution can clean away impurities within the fuel lines and the injection port, as well as parts of the internal combustion chamber. These include rings, valves, cylinder walls, pumps, and so on. Extending the longevity of these components isn’t its only benefit, however, as Lucas Oil has formulated the LUC10020 to neutralize the effects of low-sulfur diesel, thus improving emissions.
4. The Best Fuel Injector Cleaner For Direct Injection Engines – Royal Purple 18000 Max Atomizer
As we’ve highlighted earlier, most modern cars in the last decade or so are often found to be running on direct injection. Here, fuel is being straight into the cylinders of the combustion chamber, instead of premixing them with air in the intake manifold. As a result, direct injection is an all-around better system as far as performance, fuel efficiency, and emissions go.
If you’re rocking a more sophisticated direct injection-style engine, the Royal Purple 18000 Max is your best bet. However, be mindful of using them on older cars, as it might not prove to be as potent as it might be. Otherwise, the Royal Purple Max is an extremely versatile option, as it can work on gasoline and diesel engines.
It’s quite potent and could provide a highly detailed cleaning of your car’s innards, wherever the fuel may go. Oddly, Royal Purple recommends that you add a squirt for every fill-up. Although, the bare minimum of one bottle every 3,000 miles is sufficient. You could find a bottle for around $6, but if you’d rather heed their one-bottle-every-refill policy, you could buy a pack of 10 at a discount.
5. The Best Fuel Injector Cleaner Overall – Chevron Techron Concentrate Plus
Above all else, and if you want the absolute best fuel injector cleaner on the market today, we think the Chevron Techron Concentrate Plus is the top choice. It’s among the best sellers for fuel cleaners, and there are quite a few good reasons for this. For a start, it’s endlessly flexible, as it could work on practically any vehicle, be it an SUV, truck, motorcycle, car, or anything in between.
If it’s got a fuel injection system, Chevron’s mix here will clean it. That is, as long as it’s a gasoline engine. Although, Chevron does make a similar cleaner specifically for diesel. On that note, you’ll have to be a bit cautious when checking out with a bottle of these. The Concentrate Plus could be bought just as a fuel injector cleaner, or as a concentrate to clean up the entire fuel system.
The latter is a tad bit pricier than the $5 or so for the luxury of just cleaning your fuel injectors, mind. Overall, it’s quite clear that any of its fuel cleaning solutions have worked wonders after seeing how raving customer reviews are. A bottle can handily treat around 15 gallons of fuel and could clean your car’s entire fuel system within just one bottle.
The Best Fuel Injector Cleaner – Final Thoughts
In all, that there ends our guide on the best fuel injector cleaners that you could gift your engine. In all, the benefits of using fuel cleaning solutions are endless. At the tip of the iceberg, you can notice improved performance, which would’ve otherwise been lost over time as the injectors got clogged up. Accelerations are speedier, and your car would also drink up less fuel.
But after a while, the upsides to regular application of injector cleaning solutions are more profound. The internal componentry is kept in its best shape, and could thus last longer. There’s less strain on the fuel system, without any frequent blockages to wear it down quickly. If anything, an investment as small as a bottle of fuel injection cleaner could even save you a penny in servicing down the line.