As you explore the aisles of your local auto parts store, you'll see shelves upon shelves lined with fuel additives whose bottles promise everything from 20% improved gas mileage to optimized engine performance. With so many fuel additives on the market, all claiming to make your car's engine brand new again, it can be overwhelming to figure out which one to use (or if you should use a fuel additive at all). We'll break down the 5 main types of fuel additives, their uses, and the vehicles they are designed for to help you make the right choice.
1. Fuel System Cleaner
Fuel system cleaners are the most common fuel additives for modern cars. The cleaners, which are poured right into the fuel tank, claim to rid the fuel system of buildup like carbon and improve a vehicle's performance. Not every vehicle will need a fuel system cleaner, but its use is recommended for anyone who drives short distances often, sits in stop-and-go traffic, or drives in very cold climates. All of these conditions can speed up the formation of harmful deposits.
Best Fuel System Cleaner: Chevron Techron Concentrate Plus
The Chevron Techron Concentrate Plus ($7) cleans the entire fuel system to remove deposit build-up and restore performance. The Techron patented formula cleans fuel injectors, carburetors, ports, valves, and combustion chambers. Removing the deposits helps prevent issues such as engine knock, ping, run-on, and cold start problems. This product should be used every 3,000 miles.
2. Fuel Injector Cleaner
A fuel injector cleaner is a type of fuel system cleaner that can be used to remove the carbon deposits that have built up on the fuel injector in order to prevent the negative impact on gas mileage. Fuel injector cleaners are dissolvents that use polyetheramine to break down carbon composites so they are ejected through the exhaust system. Fuel injectors can be used with any type of vehicle to maintain performance.
Best Fuel Injector Cleaner: STP Fuel Injector Cleaner
Thanks to its concentrated detergents, the STP fuel injector cleaner ($5 for a 2-pack) helps dissolve carbon, gum, and varnish deposits. These threats to your vehicle can cause poor performance like hard starts and rough idling. The STP fuel injector comes in easy pour bottles and is compatible with cap-less gas systems for all vehicle makes and models.
3. Fuel Stabilizer
When a vehicle is kept in storage, the gas in the tank will eventually break down as it is exposed to oxygen and moisture. Having a full tank of gas before storing a vehicle helps slow oxidation, but it will not stop it completely. The result can be clogged fuel lines and damage to the tank and injectors. A fuel stabilizer helps to stop the oxidation process to prevent damage. Fuel stabilizers work best when a vehicle is stored seasonally for a few months.
Best Fuel Stabilizer: STA-BIL Storage Fuel Stabilizer
If your sports car is left in storage for months at a time, the STA-BIL storage fuel stabilizer ($4) can help protect it from damage. This fuel stabilizer is made in the USA to keep vehicles running their best, even after prolonged storage. The formula removes water from the fuel tank, prevents corrosion, and cleanses carburetors and fuel injectors to ensure an easy start. It will keep fuel fresh for up to 24 months while a vehicle is in storage and eliminates the need to drain the fuel prior to storing the car.
4. Diesel Additive
When you drive a diesel truck or car, deposits can clog injectors which leads to compromised performance, but a diesel additive can prevent these deposits from causing damage. When the cold temperatures hit, an anti-gelling additive will prevent paraffin wax from forming which can clog fuel filters. Anti-gelling diesel additives can help your vehicle start in extremely cold weather while simultaneously cleaning fuel systems and lubricating fuel injectors.
Best Diesel Additive: Hot Shot's Secret Diesel Extreme
Whether your diesel truck's performance can use a pick-me-up, or you want to proactively keep it running like new, the Hot Shot's Secret Diesel Extreme ($25) is a good place to start. This additive is made from a powerful formula to clean your tank and remove moisture. This concentrated cleaner removes internal diesel injector deposits and contains a top tier cetane booster. It also contains a lubricity additive and fuel stabilizer to maximize your diesel's performance. This additive can be used in diesel pickup trucks, semi-trucks, and even farm equipment.
5. Octane Booster
Not all drivers are familiar with octane boosters, but most car collectors will have a few bottles in their garage. An octane booster raises the octane rating of a vehicle's fuel to generate more power and enhance the burning efficiency. The result is a reduction in engine knocking and pinging. Octane boosters aren't necessary for every vehicle, but if you drive a classic car or high-performance car, it will benefit from an octane booster to enhance performance and prevent engine issues.
Best Octane Booster: Rislone Super Concentrated Octane Booster
Designed for classic muscle cars as well as racing and off-road vehicles, the Rislone Super Concentrated Octane Booster ($6) increases your vehicle's fuel octane rating and allows the engine to run optimum spark timing. The result is increased power and performance, and reduced problems like engine knocking and pinging.