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and Induction System Cleaning
item that's been popping up in repair shops all across the country
is the fuel and induction system cleaning service. It involves
running a cleaner through the fuel system, throttle body and intake
This cleaner removes carbon and deposits from
the injectors, throttle and intake, and even works its way down into
the combustion chamber and catalytic converter in some cases.
Many people believe that this is just some type
of scam. The fact is that it's a real service with real benefits for
fuel economy, engine performance and lower emissions. In fact, it
wouldn't be overstating things to call fuel system cleaning the
tune-up for the new millennium.
Let's start with the why and why not, and then
we'll discuss how often you should have your car's fuel system
"I never needed my fuel system cleaned
before." Not true. In fact, carburetors often were cleaned very
thoroughly as part of a regular tune-up. The difference was that the
carburetor was wide open, with large passages that the technician
could reach from under the hood.
Most basic tune-ups included cleaning the
choke, throttle plate and all of the carburetor passages using a
highly caustic, aerosol cleaner. This cleaner removed the carbon and
deposits from the entire carburetor and then ran through the engine,
where it cleaned away deposits built up on the intake, valves and
combustion chamber — much like the fuel system cleaning service
What has changed is just how critical this
cleaning service has become. That's because today's fuel systems
work with clearances and tolerances that measure in microns — some
less than half the thickness of a human hair. Even the smallest
deposits on these components can have a dramatic effect on engine
Keep in mind that today's cars must adhere to
very strict fuel mileage and emissions standards. Years ago,
manufacturers could overcome the effects of fuel system deposits
simply by enlarging passageways adding more fuel through the system.
Today that isn't one of the choices: To meet
the standards for fuel economy and emissions, fuel systems measure
fuel more precisely than ever before. There's no room for error —
or for deposits.
"OK," you say, "you've convinced
me. My car's fuel system needs to be clean. But why does it have to
be cleaned by a service technician? Can I just run one of the
off-the-shelf cleaners through the gas? For that matter the gas I
use claims it includes detergents to keep my car's fuel system clean
— why do I need to have it cleaned at all?"
Let's start with the first question: Do you
need to have your car cleaned professionally, or can you use one of
the off-the-shelf cleaners? Most off-the-shelf fuel system cleaners
aren't effective enough to clean the fuel system properly. In fact,
in many cases those cleaners can cause more damage than they
Take a look at the label. Most fuel system
cleaners offered to the do-it-yourselfer market use a base of
kerosene, alcohol, methanol, acetone or ketones. These are highly
flammable, highly caustic cleaners, which cause one of two specific
cleaner's high flammability causes it to burn up long before it
can become effective in the combustion chamber. This not only
reduces its effectiveness, but also can create additional
deposits, compounding the original problem.
caustic nature of these cleaners can damage the fine
electronics, seals and coatings in many of today's injection
Fuel and induction system cleaning is a service
with real benefits. It can improve performance, reduce fuel
consumption and lower emission levels. How often should you have
your car's fuel system serviced? Most experts agree that —
provided you aren't experiencing a problem — you should have your
car's fuel and induction system cleaned yearly to keep it running
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