The Best Diesel Injector Cleaners: Boost Your Engine’s Performance
Clean and lubricate your vehicle's fuel system with our top picks for the best diesel injector cleaners.
The Drive and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links. Read more.
BY Norah Tarichia / LAST UPDATED ON June 17, 2021
Your car relies on fuel injectors to relay the diesel to the engine. With all the dust in the air, paired with the small particulate in diesel, these injectors take on debris. The gunkier they get, the more your engine struggles. If left unchecked, this impacts the fuel efficiency of your vehicle, but in the worst-case scenario, your engine could get damaged from overworking itself. From stalls to difficulty accelerating, you risk a lot of performance issues without a diesel injector cleaner.
Instead of taking that chance, you can simply apply a diesel injector cleaner to address the buildup. An essential part of preventative maintenance, the quality of the cleaner dramatically impacts its value. So, to save you some legwork, we’ve tracked down the best diesel injector cleaners available on the market today.
Efficiently breaking down residue in the injector system, this formula can help improve your engine’s performance. It comes with enough supply to treat 400 gallons of either gasoline or diesel fuel.
- Works powerfully on diesel engines
- Restores the proper sulfur content
- Helps limit buildup on pistons and valves
- Improves overall fuel economy
- If it spills, this conditioner can leave stains
- Can be tricky to control the concentration
Cost-effective and powerful, this cleaner works as a one-shot treatment for any engine. It improves performance, lubricates the interior components, and eliminates moisture.
- Includes antioxidants to fight corrosion
- Limits carbon deposits
- Prevents issues with ethanol corrosion
- Works on gas, ethanol, and diesel
- Only enough supply for a single use
- Container dents and loses its seal fairly easily
Designed to work in carburetors and fuel injectors, it addresses buildup by liquifying the residues. The chemical formula balances the fuel itself, improving performance.
- Works with all motor oil types including conventional
- Improves cylinder performance
- Powerfully removes deposits by altering their viscosity
- Includes a de-icer gel that isn’t necessary in many situations
Why Trust Us
All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, or practical experience with most products we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Why Buy A Diesel Injector Cleaner?
- Optimize your engine’s performance. When your fuel injector system is clean, your engine can breathe properly. This, in turn, improves its ability to accelerate, helps keep the engine stable when idling, and can even give you a bit more power. A clean burn goes a long way to help your engine work as well as possible.
- Prevent stalls and engine damage. Those stutters your car makes with clogged fuel injectors are noticeable — it’s basically your engine coughing. It results in it compensating for the damage, adding strain, and causing overheating, leading to stalls. Injector cleaner prevents these issues.
- Help the environment. Improving your fuel efficiency means you are reducing your carbon footprint significantly. Since the average vehicle produces over four and a half metric tons of carbon dioxide, a quick treatment once in a while goes a long way to bring that number down.
- Necessary to preventative maintenance. If you are on a warranty, underwriting often includes routine upkeep on the vehicle. Diesel injector cleaner falls under that category; and, if it isn’t done regularly, it can lead to issues if you claim engine damage.
- Fuel economy benefits. Fuel injector cleaner is affordable, and, so long as your car is in reasonably good condition, its effects last quite some time. It results in savings in fuel and repairs you’d need without the cleaner.
Opening its doors in 1989, this California-based company focuses on manufacturing motor and aerospace supplies. It has a proud history of providing supplies to the military during World War I and continued on that trajectory to success. Lucas Industries remains a leading manufacturer of automotive supplies. Among its top selections is the Lucas LUC10013 Fuel Treatment.
Starting operations in the 1930s, the Sea Foam products have come a long way from a petrol salesman’s original vision. After years of work, the proprietor, Fred Fandrei, found the ideal solution. He first sold it in beer bottles to fishermen, earning the formula its namesake. Since then, Sea Foam has come a long way, though it retains its focus on manufacturing supplies to optimize engine performance. One of its popular formulas for diesel engines is the Sea Foam Motor Treatment.
It’s almost impossible not to recognize the Chevron name. With a hand in all types of energy from geothermal to oil and gas, its product lines span from lubricants and additives to base oils. For diesel engines, one of its top selections is the Chevron Techron Concentrate Plus.
Best Diesel Injector Cleaner Pricing
- Under $10: If you’re getting a single treatment chemical cleaner, it will likely fall in this range. For those with larger engines, make sure that it comes with sufficient supply to treat a full tank of fuel.
- $10 to $30: Most diesel injector cleaners are in this category, with the majority including enough solution to treat a full tank. You can get multiple smaller containers or a single large bottle in this price range.
- $30 and up: If you’re going to a mechanic to approach repairs through an ultrasonic cleaning or a rail-induced approach, you will end up paying over $30. If you use a cleaner regularly, you can usually get the same results and pay less.
Types of Diesel Injector Cleaners
Easily the most common type of diesel injector cleaner, it relies on a series of chemicals to flush out the build-up and remove water from the fuel system. Ranging in effectiveness depending on the specific formula, these rely on polymers to get rid of debris. For diesel, removing carbon deposits is essential, though many formulas add extra additives.
Quality cleaners will include a conditioning agent that can stabilize the fuel by regulating sulfur content. When used as a part of a regular maintenance schedule, these cleaners are a good choice. This type is also, by far, the most accessible and cost-effective.
Ultrasonic cleaners are a much more nuanced approach to diesel injector cleaners. It is when soundwaves are used to loosen debris, taking around an hour to complete. It involves removing the injectors and putting them through an ultrasonic system.
The results are excellent, though this method lacks some of the overall benefits of chemical treatment—it won’t lubricate the system and takes a lot more time and effort. Unless you are working in bulk to repair a large series of diesel injectors, it is likely not worth the extra cost and effort.
You will only see this type of cleaning at a mechanic shop, mainly due to the substantial work that goes into the procedure. Sure, it works, but it is usually used as a last-ditch effort after you’ve tried chemical cleaners. It involves a high-pressure cleaner physically removing the debris.
Depending on the flow, it can cause some issues with the filter baskets, but it effectively eliminates the gunk. Only turn to this type of option when other approaches have failed since it is typically quite costly and can be avoided by using a regular cleaner.
Each diesel injector cleaner uses a slightly different formula to achieve results. The most common chemicals used are polyetheramine, polyisobutylene amine, and polyisobutylene, which are organic polymers that work to clear out the residue in your injectors.
Formulas made for diesel engines focus on carbon buildup since it’s a more significant concern with this engine type. Some scrub the debris away on a molecular level, whereas others liquify the buildup. The ideal formula depends on whether it’s a preventative treatment or to fix an engine issue.
Design of Container
Especially if you are getting enough fuel injector cleaner for multiple uses, the container counts a lot. First, clear material enables the chemical to interact with light, a notorious culprit for making chemicals lose their efficacy. This feature involves everything from the seal to the closure to how easily the fluid pours.
Also look for bottles that have a handle and are easy to pour with a funnel. Since some cleaners can leave stains, bottles that prevent spills are important.
Amount of Cleaner
Though the bulk and savings of a large container sound appealing at first, weigh it against the downsides. For one thing, you won’t use it all at once. You need to store it in the meantime, and once the seal is broken, it starts moving towards expiry more quickly. Smaller bottles are usually designed as a one-bottle-per-tank system. It makes measuring it out a lot easier and can avoid getting the wrong concentration when you pour it into the tank.
- Compatibility: Ideally, you can use the injector cleaner on all different types of engines. If you’re after versatility, many options work on both gasoline and diesel. This is perfect if you have multiple vehicles and plan to buy in bulk. In many cases, you can use the cleaner on everything from a boat to your compact car. Always check the specs to make sure it is compatible with your engine.
- Additives: Some formulas incorporate extra chemical additives that are meant to simultaneously address a separate issue. Examples are cleaners with a de-icer added to the formula. Others include an antigel chemical that treats your fuel. Many also act as a fuel stabilizer, addressing shortages in sulfur.
- Stains and spills: If you’ve ever waxed your car to the perfect shine, only to leave awkwardly colored streaks where you spilled cleaner, you know the weight of this consideration. These chemicals are heavy-duty, meant to rid debris and build-up of a diesel engine. Most can stain, corrode, and are flammable. As such, make sure you can store them properly and that you can pour them out easily. When in doubt, use a funnel.
Best Diesel Injector Cleaner Reviews & Recommendations 2021
- The more frequently you use a chemical treatment, the better the results will be. Aim for once every two months or 1,500 miles.
- Everything from hilly terrain to polluted conditions can impact the frequency at which you require diesel injector cleaner.
- Listen to your engine. If it’s stuttering, stalling, or showing issues with combustion, cleaning your injectors is the first thing to try.
- You can track the fuel efficiency improvements by checking your odometer for distance traveled on a full tank before and after treatments.
- Ultimately, fuel injector cleaner is a part of preventative maintenance. It saves your engine from damage, but it won’t fix leaks or cure severe engine damage.
- Don’t mistake the instant results of the cleaner for long-term effects. It takes a week of use to unclog any debris, so wait until to get a full picture of how well it works.
Q: Does injector cleaner work on diesel engines?
Yes, injector cleaner works on diesel engines, provided it is compatible with that system. Make sure it specifies that you can use the formula on diesel. If you rely on biodiesel, make sure it tackles ethanol issues. Many cleaners work on all types of engines, but if you use the wrong one, it can cause problems.
Q: How often should you use diesel injector cleaner?
Aim to use a fuel injector every 1,500 miles, especially if your car is getting up there in mileage. If you have a newer vehicle, you can stretch it to 3,000. Try not to push it any further, as fuel injector build-up is inevitable. The earlier you address it, the better.
Q: Can you use too much diesel injector cleaner?
While most fuel injector cleaners indicate that they won’t cause harm if you add too much, exercise caution. All the containers state the proper concentration. Look at how much diesel it’s meant to treat and stick to the instructions. This way, you don’t cause damage through the detergent build-up, undoing all the work the cleaner could have otherwise done.
Q: How long does it take for an injector cleaner to work?
It’s a common misconception that the results are immediate. The cleaner gets rid of water within a few minutes of driving, but getting rid of the deposits takes more than that. After a week of regular driving, the cleaner will take its full effect. Take note of when you use it and the impact on fuel mileage at the beginning and after a week. If you notice a difference, the treatment was successful.
Q: What are the signs of a clogged fuel injector?
A few of the signs include an engine that won’t start or gives you trouble before starting, a decreased MPG which points to lowered fuel economy, increased hydrocarbon emissions, and non-firing cylinders. Also, if you open the vehicle’s hood and notice some traces of diesel on the spark plugs, then you know that you have a clogged fuel injector.
Q: How does a diesel injector cleaner work?
Most cleaner fluids work by mixing with the diesel in the fuel tank, and then it’s transmitted by the fuel pump to the fuel rail, into the injectors, and finally into the combustion chambers. Throughout the entire process, the cleaner breaks down solid particles into soluble bits, and cleans any signs of corrosion in the tank. The remaining cleaner liquid is blown out through the vehicle’s exhaust system.
Q: How often should I clean my diesel injector?
First off, you should clean your fuel injector before you start to encounter any issues with the engine or injectors. You should do a deep cleaning of the diesel injector at least once a year or after every 30,000 miles. However, it depends on the age of your vehicle, your driving conditions, and the type of fuel you use. Your vehicle owner’s manual may give you the recommended clean-up period for your fuel injector.
Q: Should I use fuel additives to boost the cleaner?
Fuel injector additives can be used to boost the fuel injector’s performance after you use the injector cleaner. The additives are poured into the fuel tank and increase the life expectancy of the fuel, prevent build-up or corrosion, and keep the injectors lubricated. You should, therefore, use a fuel cleaner to clear up the deposits, and follow it up with fuel additives to help keep the fuel system cleaner for longer.
After careful consideration, we’ve picked the Lucas LUC10013 Fuel Treatment as the winner of this roundup. Powerful, affordable, and long-lasting, it’s a solid choice. Looking to save a bit more? Consider the Gumout Multi-System Tune-Up as a one-shot treatment.