The Best Fuel Injector Cleaners: Improve Your Vehicle's Performance
Cleaning out your vehicle with fuel injector cleaner can be a great option for you.
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BY Heather Fishel / LAST UPDATED ON July 12, 2021
It’s no secret that the key to getting your engine to hum like a dream is a smooth combustion system. You can have a ride looking like it’s straight out of Fast and Furious, but without a good fuel injection setup, the sputtering motor will give you away pretty quickly. Now, everyone knows about fuel injector cleaners — you’ve probably passed by these auto fluids in gas stations or hardware stores and wondered how they work. Giving your tired car a boost, it’s a matter of chemically (and physically) adjusting the contents in your fuel tank to provide optimum combustion efficiency.
However, fuel injector maintenance is about more than just a few drops of fluid here and there. If you really want to get a boost, there are fuel injector cleaning kits that can help your older model run like a dream. Whether you’re polishing up an old junker or want your new ride to really sing, this breakdown details the best fuel injector cleaners that will get the job done right.
Coming in a set of six, this fuel injector cleaner is designed for older vehicles. Compatible with manufacturer warranties, this cleaner is safe to use and works well.
- Works on rides with more than 75,000 miles
- Helps prevent future build-up
- Reduces overall exhaust emissions
- Clear bottles make contents vulnerable to light
- Each bottle only works for a single fuel injector cleaning
This product cleans fuel injectors and improves fuel injector spray patterns. A 5.25-ounce bottle treats up to 25 gallons.
- Simple to use
- Reduces exhaust emissions
- Boosts overall performance
- Some users don’t notice a difference in fuel economy as product promises
Eliminating water from your system, this chemical formula avoids the use of alcohol to provide safe, consistent results. It works to keep fuel injectors clean and optimize engine performance throughout the year.
- Comes in a set of 12 containers
- Treats up to 21 gallons with a single bottle
- Works with vehicles that have a capless gas setup
- Each bottle works for just one cleaning
- Doesn’t have a very long shelf life
- Comes at a higher price than some other models
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Benefits of Fuel Injector Cleaner
- Restored performance. When your engine isn’t delivering the power it previously exhibited, a fuel injector cleaner is one of your best allies. You can add injector cleaner into the fuel system to get rid of any clogs or caked-on residue, two factors that can hamper your engine’s performance. With these cleaners, your engine can work with better efficiency and less difficulty, helping it show off its power on the road.
- Quicker, smoother acceleration. In addition to improved engine performance, fuel injector cleaners can also benefit your acceleration. When these products clean up the gunk inside your fuel system you’ll often notice speedier, faster acceleration thanks to the more efficient and powerful engine you’re working with.
- Improved fuel efficiency. If you’ve noticed your fuel system isn’t as efficiently putting gasoline to use as it did previously, a fuel injector cleaner can help restore your lost efficiency. These cleaning agents can deliver better gas mileage, helping keep gas moving smoothly through the fuel system and eliminating clogs or other problems. As a result, you’ll likely find you can travel farther on a tank of gas — and you’ll save money as you fuel up less frequently.
- Less maintenance. With the helpful cleaning agents found in fuel injector cleaners, you can cut down on the frequency of your vehicle maintenance. Using these cleaners regularly can eliminate contaminants and problems while also working to prevent future clogs or buildup. Over the long run, this can help you spend less on maintenance and repairs while keeping your vehicle in its best possible shape.
- Versatility. While fuel injector cleaners are designed for getting your fuel injectors back in tip-top shape, these products can also do more. They’ll tackle your whole fuel system, offering improvements, cleaning, and quick maintenance each time they’re used. This means you’re getting a whole lot of versatility out of a single fuel additive — and that's a worthwhile investment.
Types of Fuel Injector Cleaner
Most fuel injector cleaners are formulated to be dissolvents — which means they literally dissolve the contaminants, grime, and clogs that are gunking up your injectors. Once they’re added into your fuel tank, dissolvent formulas use chemical detergents (like polyetheramines or PEAs) to break down the carbon and other types of contaminants present. They eat away at and dissolve any impurities, then they leave your vehicle’s fuel system via the exhaust system. Though they dissolve these contaminants by breaking them down chemically, they work quickly.
A detergent fuel injector cleaner is a product that’s made with cleaning agents (or ingredients). This kind of fuel additive is meant to “clean up” contaminants and build-up as it moves through your vehicle’s fuel system. However, it’s unclear how exactly these detergents work to clean your fuel injectors and other components. They can vary in amount from product to product, and they’re supposed to force carbon deposits out of your system with activated chemicals. But they can actually leave behind a residue of their own, which means they’re less “clean” than dissolvents.
A company with roots dating back to World War II, Gumout came to existence with the United States enlisted a Pennsylvania company to remove varnish from its supplies. The flagship product remains on the market to this day, though this brand’s line of formulas has expanded over the last century. One of its most popular selections is the Gumout High-Mileage Fuel Injector Cleaner for its ability to work on older rides.
Though it only hit the market in 2014, Autool has quickly grown into a leading OEM product manufacturer. With roots in Shenzhen, China, this company offers both modified and factory-designed products. Started by vehicle enthusiasts with maintenance expertise, it’s focused on crafting products that make vehicle repairs and upkeep easier. Among its leading offerings is the Autool Automotive Fuel Injector Tester and Cleaning Kit.
Chances are, you’ve seen this brand before (especially since it’s been around since 1954). Acquired by Energizer Holdings in 2018, this STP has been on the market since 1954. Though a lot of time has passed, the formula of, STP, short for Scientifically Treated Petroleum, remains consistent. It continues to be used to prevent system wear, along with other supplies like the STP Water Remover All Season Cleaner.
Fuel Injector Cleaner Pricing
- Under $10: At this price point, you will find very small quantities of fuel cleaner, typically reserved for use with smaller engines like lawnmowers and dirt bikes.
- $10 to $30: This is the most common price for one bottle of the best engine cleaner additive. They are usually sold in 12- to 20-ounce containers, but the exact number varies by brand.
- $30 and up: If you see fuel cleaner over $30, it’s most likely not just a single bottle. These can be packs of multiple bottles of the same product or sets of complementary additives that one brand offers.
Polyetheramine (PEA) Detergents
When you’re picking out a powerful fuel injector cleaner, you want to make sure you’re grabbing one that includes polyetheramine (PEA) detergents. These ingredients are the most important inclusion in a fuel cleaner additive — they’re what dissolves carbon deposits. PEA detergents actually bond with contaminants in the fuel system, which allows them to eliminate those harmful additions. As powerful active ingredients, they make a difference in just how clean your fuel injectors and system will actually get. For the best potential and most noticeable improvement, you need PEA detergents.
Easy Pour-In Application
In order for a fuel injector cleaner to work properly, it needs to make it easy for you to get the liquid where it’s needed. That’s why so many of the best products are easy-pour options that allow you to add the cleaner right into your fuel tank. Some are made for capped or capless fuel tanks; some will work seamlessly with both. Consider which will make it easiest for you when you’re buying your injector cleaner.
In addition to PEA detergents, you’ll also want to consider just how concentrated the cleaning formula is when you’re picking out a fuel injector cleaner. A more highly concentrated formula tends to include more active chemical ingredients — which are the powerhouse ingredients that can dissolve and remove gunk, contaminants, and dirt in general. Look for a concentrated formula if you haven’t cleaned your injectors in a long time, or if you drive a vehicle that’s lost performance and is experiencing rough idles or starts. Lower water content means you’re getting a more potent solution.
- Frequency. The frequency of use depends on several factors. While it's important to consider the product's suggestion and mechanic’s advice, it mostly depends on your individual vehicle. How your car performs and reacts to fuel cleaner is very important when deciding when to use it.
- Driving Conditions. If you live in colder climates or often find yourself stuck in traffic, your car may be subject to more carbon buildup. These conditions are less friendly to a vehicle’s fuel system and may require you to use cleaners more often.
- Fuel Quality. Another disputed claim about fuel systems is whether or not using regular gas or premium gas is better. Ignoring the price factor, using regular gas is a worse option in terms of purity. So if you often use cheaper fuel, then using fuel cleaner could significantly improve your driving experience.
- Time Constraints. Filling up your tank and adding in a fuel injector cleaner might take less time, but it won’t deep clean like a hardware system that distributes an electrical pulse. Consider doing a more comprehensive cleaning occasionally to improve your overall fuel system and reduce the frequency of necessary treatments.
- Mileage. Overall, the manufacturing year of your car isn't a big determining factor in whether or not your fuel system will have more carbon buildup. The mileage of your vehicle, however, matters a lot. The more miles you drive without cleaning your car’s fuel system, the more time that impurities have to build up.
Best Fuel Injector Cleaners Reviews & Recommendations 2021
- There are significant signs to look out for to know whether or not you need fuel injector cleaner. If your vehicle has trouble starting, sounds rough when idling, or begins to lose fuel economy, then a good cleaning would definitely help.
- Make sure to follow the company's guidelines on the usage of fuel cleaners. Not using enough of the product may not achieve the best results and using too much can have a negative effect on your vehicle's overall performance.
- If you own a diesel vehicle, make sure the fuel cleaner you buy will work on diesel fuel systems. Reading the product description will tell you if a cleaner is for gasoline and diesel engines or just gasoline engines.
- Depending on the amount of buildup your vehicle has, it may take more than one use to start seeing the additives' effects. Our suggested products have the best injector cleaner reviews in terms of seeing results fast.
- Be sure to store your fuel injection cleaner in a safe and secure place. Since these are aggressive chemicals, they are tough to clean up—especially from your car's interior.
Q: How do I know if I need fuel injector cleaner?
There are a few tangible signs that you might need to use a fuel injector cleaner. If you’re experiencing rough idling or rough starts, your injectors could be dirty or clogged. If you’ve noticed your fuel economy has decreased, or your acceleration is less powerful than it was previously, these are also key signs that your vehicle could benefit from the use of a fuel injector cleaner. Adding the cleaner into your tank could help smooth out or resolve these issues.
Q: Will using fuel injector cleaner increase my car’s gas mileage?
Yes, fuel injector cleaners are made to get rid of the excess build up of impurities that are found throughout your fuel system. Clearing this debris will allow the engine to work more efficiently and reduce fuel consumption.
Q: Can I use an old bottle of fuel cleaner that’s been sitting in my garage?
First, it’s important to check the container to ensure it has not been damaged or compromised in any way. If the fuel cleaner has been sealed and kept in a dry climate, the product shouldn’t expire or separate.
Q: Can I use a fuel cleaner with a turbocharged engine?
Yes, these fuel cleaners are designed to keep any gasoline engine clean and running at optimal performance.
Q: If I previously used another fuel cleaner, will it hurt my engine to switch to a different brand?
Not at all. As long as you follow the suggested amount and frequency, using different types of cleaners won’t have any adverse reaction.
So, now you know the art and science behind finding the best fuel injector cleaners around. Maybe you’ve got an older ride and want the Gumout High-Mileage Fuel Injector Cleaner or want to save a few bucks in the long term with our value pick, the Sea Foam IC5 Fuel Injector Cleaner. Wherever the road takes you, there’s a fuel injector cleaner to help your engine hum.