Friday, May 16, 2008

Fuel additives - do they really make a difference?

Do gas additives work? A lot of folks are asking this very question now-a-days. Read on to see what I have discovered...
In California, the current price of gas is over the four dollar mark and rising almost daily. Few people, if any, are thinking about fuel additives. Folks are having a hard enough time just paying for a gallon of gas, let alone spending more for an additive. Now that a bottle of gasoline additive is about the same price as a gallon of gas, one would speculate that more would sell. After all, I still see zillions of portly SUVs racing around, gulping down barrels of OPEC's finest. The owners of these thirsty machines obviously don't have a problem with the price of gas, right?

Before I sold my Sucks Unbelievable Volumes of gas (my Suburban), I would at least drive slowly, to try and conserve as much fuel as possible. Of course, this was as useful as putting lipstick on a pig, because all I would get was angry looks and blaring horns every where I went. Welcome to Southern California! Even though my Sub (literally) went through tons of gas, it was one of the most reliable vehicles I had ever owned. I never had a fuel system problem with it, even with over 250,000 miles on it! From the first tank of gas to the last, I had always used an additive as needed. For fuel injected vehicles, I was sold on the benefits. Benefits? What benefits? Let me explain...

Many years ago I was an Assistant Parts Manager at a Jaguar / Saab Dealership. As some folks know, both Jaguar and Saab switched to fuel injection years before the domestic car companies, putting them at the forefront of this "new" technology. One of the more common problems on the early injected cars was clogged injectors. A Jaguar technical guru claimed it was because of the different "blends" of gasoline being used. While this was probably true at the time, the injector design might have had something to do with it also. The result was a technical bulletin from Jaguar that instructed that a bottle of Chevron Techron fuel additive be installed at every service. We got the stuff in by the truck loads, and religiously poured a bottle in every tank of every Jaguar that was being serviced. I can tell you first hand that it made a big difference. The benefits were clear: engines were running smoother, performance increased, in some cases mileage increased , and most important to us, customers had fewer complaints. There was such a marked improvement that we started using the additive in the Saabs as well. I worked at that dealership for over five years and saw what a difference adding a simple bottle of fuel additive can make.

There are different types of fuel additives available, so which one is right for you? Most of them contain the same ingredients, but the exact ingredients seem to be a trade secret. Some labels referenced a "CAS" number. CAS stands for Chemical Abstracts Service. This appears to be a service that costs money to look anything up, so I was not successful in finding out the chemical makeup. But every bottle that I did look at contained "petroleum distillates". Just what the heck are petroleum distillates anyways? It sounds like oil that comes in a Sparklets bottle! Defining petroleum distillates is about the same as trying to define liquids, because they can be many different things. Petroleum distillates are liquids, but so is water. They both fall into the general category of liquids – yet they are both different. Most folks are mystified by the name “petroleum distillates”, but that is exactly what they are – products made from crude oil that have been distilled in a refinery and then usually processed even further and then purified in some mystical ritual. Because most people mistakenly believe that all petroleum distillates must be similar, they find it hard to believe that there are so many different types, many of which have completely opposite characteristics and uses. So where does all this leave us, the unassuming consumer? Because petroleum distillates is such a broad term, each brand could potentially have a different "liquid" in it. I believe the majority of the fuel additives are formulated the same, but who can say for sure with single listed ingredients like "petroleum distillates". There are a few exceptions, like Shell, who also lists "Amines" in their additive, and Techron, who, along with the generic petroleum distillates, lists "Stoddard Solvent" and "Proprietary Additive", which is a technical term for a trade secret. Good luck finding out what that is.

While I was shopping for fuel additives, I ran across a product called "Gas Mileage Improver" marketed by Gumout. As expected, the shelf was almost empty. Seems everyone these days wants to stretch their mileage, and at $4.00 a gallon for gas, who can blame them? Gumout's fuel additive contains "Hydrocarbon Solvents". These solvents could literally be anything from Benzene to Xylene. My research tells me it is probably Xylene, as some data has shown that Xylene combined with Acetone will increase gas mileage. Of course, there is an ongoing debate about Acetone as a fuel additive. Years of research and documentation has shown that Acetone causes fuel to burn better and more completely. Acetone, Xylene and other methyl-carrying hydrocarbons are among the slowest burning chemicals known. They also carry high octane properties. They survive the heat of combustion for a very long time although they vaporize quite readily. By their fierce vibrations, they break apart the massive fuel fragments that surround them. Thus they encourage great vaporization, which is the key to great mileage. The purpose of adding Xylene is to protect the Acetone and let it do its job of vaporizing the fuel and helping fuel to combust completely.

As you have probably guessed, I have done a lot of research into fuel additives, especially Acetone. There is a lot more to be said, but Acetone as a fuel additive is an article by itself. Purchasing additives is definitely a personal choice, but it looks to me like the worst a bottle of fuel additive can do is keep your injectors clean. If you have ever priced an injector and the labor to install it, you already know how much money you are going to save. Think of it as cheap insurance for your fuel system. I don't know about you, but I could use that extra money to fill up my gas tank!


  1. The only way to get rid of this price increase is , we should stop using the gadgets run with fuel.

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  2. I am really sick of this high increase in fuel prices.

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