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The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) already requires all fuel that’s sold throughout the country to contain certain amounts of additive deposits as a means of keeping costs down and the nation’s reliance on foreign oil minimal. The fuel that’s currently sold at gas stations throughout the U.S. is also designed so that any contained additives don’t lead to damage to vehicle fuel systems, which can be costly to repair.
But with all this being said, drivers today can purchase a range of fuel additives, or gas treatments, to supplement the gasoline they’re pumping into their vehicles. Some are designed to keep fuel from going bad, specifically in vehicles that only receive seasonal use. Others are designed to improve fuel economy and to help clean the fuel system. Some are designed to improve engine performance. There are various categories of fuel additives, so it’s important to know what a particular additive is supposed to do before putting it into your fuel tank. This post will take a closer look at the various additives, how to administer them, and what the best ones are to purchase for your vehicle.
Fuel Additives 101: The Basics
Some drivers just want to have more control regarding what they’re putting into their vehicle. For these drivers, fuel additives are an ideal complement to the gas they’re putting into their cars and trucks from the pump. But like we eluded to in the opening, it’s important to first know what you want to accomplish when using an additive and then be aware of what type of additive you need to achieve this. With that said, there are various different categories of fuel additives. Here’s a look at the most popular:
- Stabilizers: These are one of the most popular additives, and they’re designed to keep fuel in good working condition for several months of non-use. They’ll also help prevent engine corrosion and gas separation when said vehicles are unused for long periods of time. Fuel stabilizers are best administered in seasonal vehicles, like classic cars and sports cars, that get stored for the winter. These stabilizers provide an alternative to running out the tank of gas on these vehicles, similar to what you’d do on your lawnmower or snowblower when storing it for the winter.
- Boosters: Generally speaking, the better the octane rating in gasoline, the purer the fuel and the better the performance an engine gets out of it. These types of additives are typically sought by muscle car and sports car drivers as a means of improving engine performance.
- Injector cleaners: If a fuel injector is clogged up, it’s going to impact engine performance. Unfortunately, one of the common side effects of ethanol – a common byproduct in most fuel mixtures – is that it can have this impact on the fuel injectors. Injectors that are dirty and clogged often result in issues starting the vehicle, abnormal idling, a decrease in fuel economy, and an engine that won’t respond how it’s supposed to. Administering an additive that’s designed to prevent the injectors from clogging up and actually help clean them can be enticing for some drivers.
- Anti-gel: At low temperatures, diesel fuel can “gel” together and cause the fuel filter to clog up. As a result, diesel drivers often have to either let the fuel warm up so that it “un-gels” or regularly change out the fuel filter to properly start and drive the vehicle. It’s easier, however, to just administer an anti-gel fuel additive to prevent the fuel from doing this altogether. These anti-gel additives are designed for diesel engines, and they work to lower the cold fill plugging point, or CFPP, which is the temperature where “gelling” occurs in these diesel engines.
Should I Use Fuel Additives?
Though injector cleaners and octane booster additives are used more via personal preference rather than necessity by most drivers, the same cannot be said for anti-gel diesel additives and fuel stabilizers. In fact, these latter two types of additives are often crucial to ensuring engine health and vehicle uptime, whether it’s during periods of non-use or in frigid temperatures, respectively.
How to Administer Fuel Additives
Aside from purchasing a good fuel additive, knowing how much to administer is arguably the most important thing. That’s because if you use too much and overdo it, you could damage things like vehicle sensors and do more harm than good.
Before you add any fuel additives, make sure you thoroughly read and understand the directions on how to administer it. Some suggest adding it differently than others. For instance, with some, you may just add part of the bottle, while for others you add all of it. How you add it may vary as well. The good news is that as long as you’re following the directions, this is a super easy task to complete. Here are the three ways fuel additives are typically added to fuel tanks:
- Blended: This method consists of filling an empty fuel tank up about halfway with gas, administering the additive, and then filling the tank up the rest of the way with gas.
- Full tank: This method consists of filling up the entire fuel tank with gas and then adding the additive.
- Empty tank: This method consists of administering the additive to an empty or near-empty gas tank, then filling it up with gasoline.
It’s also worth noting that you may elect to vary how you administer the additive based on the season you’re driving in and what you want to accomplish.
The Best Fuel Additives to Use
According to various independent tests, much of the fuel additives on the market didn’t live up to their claims. This was particularly true of additives that were advertised as improving fuel economy. Noting this, it’s crucial that you know what you’re putting into your vehicle is a good, quality product – and this all starts with knowing the best fuel additive brands and their particular offerings.
- Best Injector Cleaners: BG44K is one of the best in the industry. It is several decades old and works quickly. It’s designed only for gasoline engines, however. Other good cleaners are Chevron Techron and Lucas Fuel Treatment.
- Best stabilizers: STA-BIL 360, PRI-G, and Star Tron Enzyme are three of the best fuel stabilizers. They all are designed to treat hundreds of gallons of fuel and keep it good for up to several years.
- Anti-gels: Some of the best products in this category include Howes Diesel Treat and REV-X Distance+.
- Octane boosters: If you want maximum performance in a fuel additive, go with Torco Accelerator, anything by Klotz, or Lucas’ Octane Booster.