You might not know a lot about modern automotive technologies, but you're probably familiar with the term "fuel injector." As the name implies, this part injects fuel into the cylinder (or the intake manifold, depending on the system) so it can mix with air and be compressed and ignited to propel your car. Fuel injectors feature tiny spray nozzles, and the fuel they discharge is carefully controlled by the on-board computer, which relies on sensor input to ensure proper fuel volume.
When the system is clean, everything should run smoothly. Unfortunately, petroleum products aren't entirely pure, and over time, they can cause corrosion or carbon deposits from unburned fuel, leading to clogged fuel injectors.
When injectors get clogged, they could either release too little or too much fuel, leading to higher fuel demand (and cost), or causing performance issues like trouble starting or accelerating, or rough idling. While significant clogs may require professional disassembly and cleaning (or part replacement), you might want to start with a $10, DIY solution. What is fuel injector cleaner and how does it work?
What is Fuel Injector Cleaner?
Fuel injector cleaner is a liquid product that you pour into your gas tank and run through the fuel system to clean out unwanted contaminants and deposits that could clog your fuel injectors and impact vehicle performance. There are two main types: dissolvent and detergent.
How it Works
Dissolvent products are typically used to deal with carbon deposits, which can build up when portions of fuel don't fully combust. This leaves traces of residue behind that can build up in the cylinders and clog fuel injectors. Typically, these products contain polyether amine (PEA), a solvent that is effective at loosening carbon deposits in fuel lines, pumps, injectors, and more. Polyether amine is particularly adept at treating solidified deposits and leaving no residue behind.
Rather than breaking down carbon deposits, detergents are designed to remove and flush them away, but there is some debate as to whether they're terribly effective. If you find a product with ingredients like polyisobutylene (PIB) or polyisobutylene amine (PIBA), it is a detergent. While it may clean contaminants from your fuel system, it may not effectively remove deposits.
Is This Option Right for Your Vehicle?
There is some debate about the value of DIY fuel injector cleaner. If you use it periodically, before deposits become severe, it could help to maintain performance and minimize buildup of ethanol or carbon over time. If you're already facing serious issues, however, chances are this product will do little to correct significant deposits.
You can try both dissolvent and detergent cleaners, understanding that they serve different purposes, but at the end of the day, you may end up needing professional help to ensure clean fuel injectors and a fully functional fuel system.