After a while, your car might not accelerate as quickly as it once did, the engine may not run as smoothly as you remember, or the fuel economy may dip – but everything else may otherwise work fine. If that happens, it might be time to treat your engine to a fuel injector cleaning. Your engine has a lot of moving parts and if there’s gunk and grime buildup inside, it has to work even harder to get the job done. A clean engine is a more efficient engine (and also a more powerful one), so a fuel injector cleaning is an important part of maintaining your car.
While you can always visit a mechanic to get this service done, drivers can save a bunch of money by doing it themselves. Fuel injector cleaners are probably the easiest engine additive to use and drivers can do it even if they have no tools or a garage. These products allow you to simply apply a fuel injector additive to your fuel tank, cleaning out the inner workings of your engine’s fuel system and reducing the chance that you’ll need to perform costly maintenance work sometime down the road.
Drivers looking for fuel injector cleaners are spoiled by a huge amount of options, but we’ve made a list of the best fuel injector cleaners on the market today to make your buying decision easier. These are among the most popular and highest rated fuel injector cleaners from around the internet, so you can buy these products knowing that they have been tested and approved by other consumers just like you.
Updated 04/22/2020: The number of recommended items has been reduced from 13 to 10.
Table of contents
- 1. Editor's Pick: Chevron Techron Concentrate Plus
- 2. Red Line 60103 Complete SI-1 Fuel Cleaner
- 3. Royal Purple 11722 Max-Clean
- 4. Liqui Moly Jectron Fuel Injector Cleaner
- 5. Sea Foam SF-16 Motor Fuel Treatment
- 6. Lucas Fuel Treatment
- 7. STP Ultra 5-in-1 Fuel System Cleaner and Fuel Stabilizer
- 8. STA-BIL 360 Performance
- 9. Gumout 510011 Multi-System Tune-Up
- 10. Marvel Mystery Oil 50665 Ultimate Fuel and Motor Treatment
- Everything You Need to Know About Fuel Injector Cleaners
- How do fuel injectors work?
- How are fuel injectors getting clogged up?
- What does a fuel injector cleaner do?
- How does it work?
- What to look for in a fuel injector cleaner?
- When do I use fuel injector cleaner?
- How often should I use fuel injector cleaners?
- How will I know that my engine needs a fuel injector cleaner?
- What can I expect after a fuel injector cleaner treatment?
- What type of fuel injector cleaners are there?
- How to Use Fuel Injector Cleaners
- How to Use Fuel Injector Cleaners: A Step-by-Step Guide
- Q & A
1. Editor's Pick: Chevron Techron Concentrate Plus
This is the best selling fuel injector on Amazon, has excellent user reviews, is one of the most popular names on the market, and is often recommended by car manufacturers as a solution for cleaning the fuel injection system. It works on lighter vehicles of all types, carbureted or fuel injected engines. It will also work on your two-stroke motorcycles, just be sure to put lower amounts in the tank – as much as it says on the instructions on the bottle.
According to the company, it will clean and restore the entire fuel system, including the fuel injectors, intake valves, and combustion chambers. Recommended usage is every 3,000 miles for cars and trucks, or right before oil change. For engines that don’t have a counter, like your lawnmower, use it as needed.
Many users claimed this additive made a noticeable difference in their car’s performance.
2. Red Line 60103 Complete SI-1 Fuel Cleaner
Most of the fuel injector cleaners have the same basic chemicals, but Red Line (the No. 2 bestseller on Amazon) has patented a formula that puts it in front of the competitors. Thanks to that, their Complete SI-1 Fuel Cleaner can clean your injectors and the carbon build up in the engine, but also lubricate the upper part of the cylinder and reduces the need for high octane gasoline. In other words, it will not only clean your engine, but it will make sure that it’s lubricated properly and that it works fine with lower quality gasoline.
The company recommends using one bottle per tank. It can be used on all kinds of vehicles, including cars, trucks, off-road vehicles, motorcycles, marine engines etc.
This additive also got high user reviews, though not as high as the Chevron option.
3. Royal Purple 11722 Max-Clean
This fuel system cleaner and stabilizer, as the company calls it, is a little on the expensive side but it’s definitely worth it if you want a clean engine. It will reduce the emissions of your vehicle, help it run smoothly and even improve the power and mileage. The Royal Purple Max-Clean will also stabilize the fuel when you don’t drive your car for longer periods of time. One can of this fuel injector cleaner is to be used on 20 gallons of fuel. It can be used on any vehicle with gasoline or diesel engine, 4-stroke or 2-stroke.
4. Liqui Moly Jectron Fuel Injector Cleaner
A very powerful additive for cleaning fuel injectors and carbon build-up, especially for cars with older engines. It’s one of the fastest solutions on the market – improvements can be seen after only 1000 miles or one tank of fuel. It was also tested by the strict TUV (Technical Inspection Association) in Germany, so it’s one of the safest fuel injector cleaner products. The company says that it will also not damage oxygen sensors or catalytic converters. One bottle is good for one tank of fuel. The only downside is that it can only be used on gasoline engines.
5. Sea Foam SF-16 Motor Fuel Treatment
This additive is the No. 1 bestseller on Amazon in the Engine and Oil category and is one of the best for cleaning very heavy carbon build ups. It will also clean your fuel system and lubricate it so it will last longer. It is very effective on older engines with a lot of deposits inside. It works with gasoline and diesel engines, 4-stroke or 2-stroke, which is a plus and it’s not very expensive either. You can also use it in conjunction with other Sea Foam products, which are placed directly into the intake, for the best deposits clean up possible.
6. Lucas Fuel Treatment
If you want one of the best treatments for carbon build up, Lucas Oil Deep Clean should be your choice. It’s very successful at treating every metallic surface inside the engine and cleaning it of deposits, as well as treating your fuel system. Considering that, it can improve performance and mileage of your car, as well as reducing NOx emissions. The only drawback with this solution is that it can only be used in gasoline engines, but on the upside, it is cheap.
7. STP Ultra 5-in-1 Fuel System Cleaner and Fuel Stabilizer
This is a cheap 5-in-1 solution that will help clean your fuel system, stabilize the fuel and prevent rust inside its metallic components. It has 3x the amount of detergents compared to other products, helping it remove 61% of intake valve deposits and restore the injector to 95% of its original performance. It is also very cheap and can be used on a full tank of fuel (around 20 gallons). The only downside is that it doesn’t work with diesel engines.
8. STA-BIL 360 Performance
This fuel system cleaner can efficiently fight carbon deposits and prevent gum and soot on the intake valve in addition to the combustion chamber. It will also help against corrosion damage by removing water in the fuel. It works with gasoline and diesel engines, but it is best used with ethanol blended fuels. A 10 ounces bottle of STA-BIL 360 Performance can be used on up to 50 gallons of fuel, which makes it very cheap.
9. Gumout 510011 Multi-System Tune-Up
Cheap fuel injector cleaner that is very good at restoring injectors to their previous glory. It’s not as good at removing deposits from inside the engine like some other products, but it’s very cheap to buy and can be used on any kind of engine: gasoline, diesel, bio-fuel or ethanol/flex fuel. If a simple injector cleanup and staying on budget is key, this is a perfect pick.
10. Marvel Mystery Oil 50665 Ultimate Fuel and Motor Treatment
This Marvel additive is a cheap solution to cleaning deposits inside the engine, as well as cleaning the fuel lines and injectors. It can also be used in the engine oil to improve lubrication and works great with any type of fuel, like gasoline, diesel, biodiesel and ethanol blends. One bottle of the product (12 ounces) is enough for around 16 gallons of fuel, or 1 ounce per 1 gallon of fuel in motorcycle engines.
Everything You Need to Know About Fuel Injector Cleaners
Photo credit: Banglens via Shutterstock
Taking care of a car or truck engine is a task that we almost always assign to our mechanics, which is expected – you can’t really do much on your engine nowadays, besides checking the oil and coolant levels. However, going to a mechanic can be very expensive, even if the problem you have often requires a simple solution.
One of the most common problems with any fuel injected engine is that the injectors that bring the fuel to the combustion chamber can get clogged up. If you think about it, these are one of the vital parts of the engine – no fuel in the chamber means no combustion and consequently a car that will lose its power, have worse fuel economy and increased emissions.
If you’ve never experienced your engine losing power even if it was regularly maintained, you are one of the lucky few. Clogged up fuel injectors are so common that every auto-part shop has dozens of different so-called “Fuel Injector Cleaners” that purportedly can clean your entire fuel system and make your engine work like new again. That is if it doesn’t have other problems already.
Here we’ll talk about everything you need to know about fuel injector cleaners and we try to answer every question you have, like why they are needed in the first place, how to use them, should you use them yourself or go to a mechanic and so on.
How do fuel injectors work?
Fuel injectors are one of the most important engine parts that are used to introduce fuel to the combustion chamber, where it is mixed with air and then combusted to create power. The injector receives the fuel from a high-pressure fuel pump and thanks to a very small nozzle, atomizes the fuel in very small particles so it can mix with air quickly.
The best analogy we can think of is a deodorant – a bottle already under pressure that has a small nozzle that atomizes the liquid into very small particles. The fuel injector works much in the same way, with the only difference being that here the nozzle is even smaller and the injected fuel is almost misty in appearance. Newer injectors for direct injection engines even have several nozzles on the tip to help for a better air-fuel mixture.
This is the way that every new internal combustion engine gets the fuel into the chamber, regardless if it’s a gasoline or diesel burner. The process is controlled by the ECU (the car’s computer), so the injector will always supply the fuel right when the engine needs it. Timing is very important, as injecting fuel too early or too late can cause the engine not to work as expected or even damage it.
Considering the injector is a very delicate part, with very small canals and constantly under high pressure, it needs almost ideal working conditions, like extremely clean fuel and in the case of direct injection systems, clean nozzle tip, and a clean combustion chamber.
How are fuel injectors getting clogged up?
Expectedly, the gasoline and diesel fuels that we put in our cars are never as clean as it should be. Apart from small deposits, the fuel that we get today has small amounts of water and some octane-boosting ingredients.
All of these things can have detrimental effects on the fuel injectors, but the number one enemy is definitely carbon build up. This is something that happens to every engine with time – during the process of combustion, the majority of the carbon leaves the engine through the exhaust system, but some of it stays in the combustion chamber and in time it can block the passages of fuel and air-fuel mixture. Add to that the possibility of the injector rusting from the water in the fuel and some byproducts from the octane-boosting Ethanol that is being widely used today, and with that your car can start losing power and consume more fuel in no time.
This is why keeping your fuel injectors clean is important – you not only lose power, but your fuel economy will fall off too. Clean injectors can save you money!
What does a fuel injector cleaner do?
Fuel Injector Cleaners are additives that are meant to clean all those deposits in the injector as well as in the combustion chamber and help your engine work in optimal conditions, with the right air-fuel mixture. Think of them as detergents for your fuel system.
These cleaners can clean the inside of your injector, but also the carbon builds up in the combustion chamber, behind the intake valve, around the spark plug etc. All of them have active ingredients that help dissolve the deposits into much smaller pieces and then the engine itself ejects them through the exhaust system.
How does it work?
Fuel injector cleaners are a mixture of complex chemicals, most of them solvents that can easily clean deposits. The main cleansing agent of these additives is a chemical called PEA or polyetheramine, which is a nitrogen-based detergent that is great at dissolving carbon deposits. In addition to that, PEA is very resistant to high temperatures, which makes it great for cleaning the fuel injector as well as deposits in the combustion chamber, where the temperature can go up to 1200 °F.
Some cleaners contain other chemicals that the manufacturers claim it makes them superior to others, but scientific studies have shown that polyetheramine is best at cleaning carbon build up and you should always look for additives that contain this chemical.
What to look for in a fuel injector cleaner?
Always look for a fuel injection cleaner that contains the detergent Polyetheramine (PEA), as it is the strongest cleaning agent. Some of the cleaners will have Polyisobutene (PIB), that helps remove water from the fuel and Polyisobutylene amine (PIBA), which is also a cleaning agent, but not as strong as Polyetheramine. Older fuel injector cleaners even have alcohol in them for water removal, but they can damage parts of the fuel system and are best to be avoided.
When do I use fuel injector cleaner?
These cleaners are the easiest to use among any other engine additives on the market. They should be poured into an almost empty tank of fuel just before you fill up at the gas station and then the tank should be emptied by leaving the engine to idle or by driving the car.
This means that they don’t work right away – you need to drive several hundred miles before you can feel the difference. Anyway, always read the instructions on the bottle – some bottles of cleaner are for only a small amount of fuel so maybe you’ll need more than one for a full tank.
If your car was not cleaned for a long time and it has a lot of carbon deposits, one full tank of gasoline or diesel and a bottle of fuel injector cleaner might not be enough to effectively clean the injectors and the combustion chamber. When that’s the case, simply put another bottle of additive in an almost empty tank of gas and empty it by driving.
How often should I use fuel injector cleaners?
There is a difference in opinion on this topic. Some mechanics will advise you to use a fuel injector cleaner every year, or every 12,000-15,000 miles, before the oil change. Additive manufacturers will even instruct you to use it every 3,000-5,000 miles. These are not rules. We would advise against using these additives on new engines, as in that circumstances they can even help build carbon build up, which was scientifically proven in some research.
Our advice is to use fuel injector cleaners on older engines before an oil change, as well as engines that are often used in cold climate and driven on shorter distances or in congested stop and go traffic. In these situations, carbon builds up much faster and using a fuel injector cleaner will help in maintaining the optimal working conditions of your engine.
Using a higher quality gasoline or diesel fuel will also help against clogging up of the injectors and less carbon build up, so be sure that your car always gets the best one.
How will I know that my engine needs a fuel injector cleaner?
Engine with a lot of carbon build up and clogged injectors will start losing power, begin to consume more fuel, rattle at idle and have ignition problems. However, all those symptoms can be due to other parts of the engine, so be sure to always maintain your car routinely by regular oil, oil filter and air filter changes as well as spark plugs in the case of gasoline engines.
What can I expect after a fuel injector cleaner treatment?
You can expect several improvements on your engine after treating it with a fuel engine cleaner, but these results won’t happen immediately — you often have to drive a few hundred miles for it to work. Improvements include regaining power and enhanced throttle response, better fuel economy and fewer vibrations at idle. For best results though, it’s best that you check your spark plugs and air filter as well, as they can also help your engine run better.
What type of fuel injector cleaners are there?
There are several types of fuel injector cleaners out there. The basic ones will only clean the fuel system and the carbon build-up inside the combustion chamber. However, there are cleaners that will also stabilize the fuel or even boost the octane value to help the engine run smoothly even on lower quality gasoline.
Some of them will even have lubricants that can help maintaining the fuel system of your car for longer periods of time. You can recognize all these products right away – they will either have “3 in 1” or even “5 in 1” description on the package. Read thoroughly on the benefits of every single one before buying.
How to Use Fuel Injector Cleaners
Keeping your fuel injectors clean play a huge role in how efficiently your car’s engine is running. Using fuel injector cleaners is an easy way to make sure your car is operating at its peak and also getting better fuel efficiency.
Using fuel injector cleaners is a pretty simple task and anyone can do it – there is no need to go to a mechanic. Before you begin, it’s important to use a fuel injector cleaner on a close to empty gas tank just before you’re about to fill up at a gas station.
How to Use Fuel Injector Cleaners: A Step-by-Step Guide
- Buy the right fuel injector cleaner for your engine: All fuel injector cleaners are not created equally. Most of them will work on any type of fuel, but there are some that will work only on gasoline, diesel, or ethanol blends. Also, you should check if it works with turbo engines, if you have one, or with catalytic converters. Read the instructions on every package thoroughly, so you can be sure that you’ll buy the right one for your engine type.
- Check the instructions for the right amount of fuel injector cleaner you need: The instructions will help with measuring the right quantity you need for the size of your tank as well. Almost always, one bottle of a fuel injector cleaner is enough for one tank, but if you have larger or smaller than the average fuel tank, you may need to put more or less of the additive.
- Be sure that the fuel level in your car is low: Fuel injector cleaners can work even if you put them inside a full tank of fuel, but it’s best to put them inside an empty tank, so they will mix with the fuel better.
- Remove the fuel cap: Remove the fuel cap, as every cleaner should be mixed with gas.
- Pour the fuel injector cleaner into the fuel tank: Open the bottle and pour the fuel injector cleaner. Use the funnel if one is provided with the bottle so nothing spills out. Some bottles have additional measuring devices on them (attached to the bottle) – be sure to fill them with the right amount of cleaner before pouring it into the tank.
- Refill your tank with fuel: After pouring the fuel injector cleaner, you should refill your car with gasoline, diesel or any type of fuel that your car uses. That’s why it’s ideal you are at a gas station while doing these steps. Dispose of the empty bottle responsibly.
- Empty the fuel tank by driving your car: This is self-explanatory, but there are some things to consider if you want the best cleaning.
-It’s best to drive your car at the highway or at higher speeds. In doing this, the pressure in the fuel system will be higher, which can help the cleaner remove the deposits easily. This will also help in cleaning the carbon deposits inside the combustion chamber and eject them through the exhaust.
-Use higher engine rpms. You can do this even when the car is stationary, or when driving. In other words, don’t hesitate to press that gas pedal, as it will help in better cleaning.
- Repeat steps 1-7 if needed: One bottle of fuel injector cleaner usually does the trick if your engine has deposits inside or some of the injectors is stuck. However, if the engine is still not working as normal, you can repeat steps 1-7. These additives don’t have adverse effects on the engine and using them more than one time is not a problem.
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