Everything You Need To Know About Cleaning Your Fuel Injector
Keeping your car properly maintained is one of the essential things that you can do as an owner. Many of us tend to get caught up in the bliss of a car purchase that we forget to protect one of the most significant investments of our lives. Fuel injector cleaner can help you keep your car running smoothly.
Before we get to the details of fuel injectors and how they are cleaned out, let's expand a little bit on why you should keep your car's components as clean as you keep the interior and exterior. In fact, you can keep your car as dirty as you want on the outside, but if you have a clean motor, it will run faster and more efficiently.
Of course, an internal combustion engine is a relatively complicated piece of machinery, so there are quite a few parts to ensure are clean. The very process of internal combustion is one that is inherently dirty so cleaning the residue off of your engine's components is not something that should be taken lightly.
There are many benefits to keeping your car maintained, and if you want to see your automotive investment last, you will take care to do so. Let’s take a look at the fuel injectors themselves before we move on to the matter of keeping them clean and how you can do so.
WHAT IS A FUEL INJECTOR?
To understand what a fuel injector does, it is essential first to understand how an internal combustion engine operates. Your vehicle moves because of hundreds to thousands of little explosions that take place inside of the engine every minute; most people know this.
But how does small-scale combustion get your car moving? The pistons are one of the most integral parts of your engine, and they work together with the camshaft to create and transport the kinetic energy from the engine to the wheels of your car. Your pistons are located in the cylinders of your engine.
We’re not going to get into every detail of how a car runs, but let’s go over the part of the motor where the fuel injector is used: the combustion chamber. This chamber is the space between the cylinder head and the piston, and it is where combustion takes place, as you may have guessed.
The combustion chamber also has the spark plug located opposite to the piston, and the fuel injection nozzle is sitting at an angle relative to both of them. As you may have guessed by the name of the part, the fuel injector is the part of your engine that adds fuel to the combustion chamber.
When your car is on, it creates the movement that gets translated into rotational energy by the movement of the pistons. As your vehicle starts, the pistons start moving, and they begin to compress a mixture of fuel and air in the combustion chamber (as fuel won't burn without oxygen).
Air is brought into the combustion chamber through one side, and the fuel is sprayed into that air by your fuel injector, creating that fuel-air mix. The compression of the top of the piston against the cylinder head means that the pressure rapidly increases in the combustion chamber, and then the combination is finally ignited by the spark plug.
When the spark plug creates a spark, the fuel-air mix combusts and pushes the piston, creating the force that is sent to the camshaft, and then further down to the driveline. Once the rotational energy reaches your driveline, it is transmitted to the driving axle (sometimes both, in the case of AWD), and then the wheels.
As you can see, the fuel injectors play a crucial role in your car, and there are as many of them as there are pistons in your engine since there is no need for more than one per cylinder. Without fuel added to the air in your car’s combustion chamber, there is no way for it to possibly ignite.
So you may now know exactly what a fuel injector does, but why should you keep it clean? Let’s go over some of the potential problems that you may have with your car’s fuel injectors should you choose to neglect them and leave them poorly-maintained.
COMMON ISSUES WITH CAR FUEL INJECTOR
There are many problems that you may find yourself facing when you neglect to use a fuel injector cleaner to keep your automobile’s internals running fine. Some of these issues are relatively minor, and they may even be beneath your notice, but other problems will be much more severe, so let’s look at them.
REDUCED FUEL EFFICIENCY
One of the more common problems associated with a dirty fuel system in your car is your gas mileage having been reduced. Of course, it makes sense that a fuel system that is filled with clogs and deposits of residue will reduce the amount of usable fuel that makes it to combustion.
The difference won’t be very noticeable at first, but as the build-up continues in your fuel supply system, things will start to get noticeable. In the long run, a less fuel-efficient car can end up costing you far more money, so it pays for you to keep your fuel injectors and all of the related lines clear.
Other than increasing the amount of gas that you will have to buy over the period that you own your car, an unclean fuel system will also be worse for the environment. As your vehicle will operate more wastefully, it will burn more gas than it needs to so that it can keep driving.
Cleaning your car’s fuel injectors with fuel injector cleaner is one of the best ways that you can get back your fuel efficiency. Upon first using one of these products, your miles per gallon should improve by at least a few percent, provided that there is fuel line build-up in your car in the first place.
Clogged up fuel lines and fuel injectors can do more than just reduce the efficiency of your car’s fuel supply; they can also affect the performance. The degree to which your vehicle is impacted by the fuel injectors being dirty depends on exactly how clogged up the system has become.
Of course, your fuel system’s dirtiness is directly correlated with how long it has been since you last cleaned it out, but there are also other factors to consider. For example, some cars have fuel systems that are designed to filter out a lot of the debris and dirt that ends up getting clogged up in them.
Our point is that every car is different, and it is entirely natural for your vehicle to run smoothly for years while your friend may have to clean out their fuel lines every few months.
You will also have to consider that your performance will be reduced faster the more you drive, as there will be more fuel running through the engine. A more substantial volume of fuel flowing to the fuel injectors means that there will be more residue and deposits left behind.
How exactly is your performance reduced? That depends on your car. The most common sign that your fuel injectors are clogged up is a reduction in horsepower from the factory standard.
When your fuel injectors are specifically blocked, you will have to deal with delays between pressing the pedal and feeling a response from the engine because it will be under-fueled. Motors are not meant to operate when they are starved of fuel, and they may even end up stalling.
Keep in mind that severe issues will only occur in the direst of circumstances, but you will still notice some issues, even if there is a bit of a backup in your fuel system. Of course, performance issues are only a problem if you can get your car started in the first place…
One of the most severe problems that you can face if you neglect to clean your fuel injectors is your car refusing to start in the first place. You may be thinking that there's nothing wrong with the starter, but there is a bigger issue. If you can't get any fuel into the combustion chamber of your engine, then it won't be able to start in the first place.
If you are unable to start your car, you won’t be able to use fuel injector cleaner in the first place, and you may even end up having to bring it to the mechanic for a full engine teardown. Don’t let your fuel system get so clogged that your car can’t even start in the first place, as this is nearly a worst-case scenario.
POOR IDLE PERFORMANCE
This is more of a hint that your car has deeper problems than an issue of in of itself. Since you don’t drive your car at idle, you won’t be able to notice a difference through feel, but very likely through sound. If you hear your engine hiccuping while idle, you may have a fuel supply issue.
While many things can potentially result in a car having problems while idling, there is a solid possibility that it is due to being under-fueled. There are not many common issues with engines that can cause under-fueling as commonly as fuel injector issues, so you have a significant hint.
Even though poor idle performance doesn’t affect you directly, it can be a hint that you will have some problems in the future. You will want to clean out your fuel system as soon as possible, and even if that doesn’t fix the problem, at the very least, you will know that you should get the car checked out.
WHY DO FUEL INJECTORS GET DIRTY IN THE FIRST PLACE?
You may be wondering why such a glaring issue hasn't been fixed in over 100 years of using internal combustion engines, but there isn't that much that we can do. The basic process of combustion simply creates too many byproducts to make for a clean enough method of operation.
The additives in your fuel can play a significant role in how much your fuel supply gets clogged up. Additives are chemicals that are added to fuel to do something other than run your car. For example, some additives ensure that your fuel won’t turn to sludge in near-freezing temperatures.
Of course, fuel additives ensure that your car can operate smoothly and do things that can’t be done with pure, natural fuel, but they also end up coating the interior of your fuel lines. While additives are designed to minimize the residue they leave behind, none of them are perfect.
These added substances in your fuel aren’t the main reason why your fuel injectors get clogged up, however, though they are a significant contributing factor. In the end, you’re better off just cleaning out your fuel lines more often instead of switching to fuel that is additive-free (if you can find it at all).
Even more important than the additives in your fuel is the quality of the gas itself. If you burn nothing but high-quality gasoline in your car, you may find that there are fewer deposits to clean out over time. Of course, this depends on the quality of the fuel and your car's ability to accept it.
In some vehicles, the more expensive varieties of fuel may not make a difference at all. While there is never a point that pricier fuel will harm an engine, it may still end up being a waste of money.
If you own a high-end car, however, it is a different matter altogether. Sports cars and even some luxury cars are made with much tighter engine tolerances (including fuel lines and injectors) than many other vehicles, which requires better fuel to take advantage of.
Should you feed a sports car poor-quality gasoline, you will notice fuel line clogs and other issues with the system in relatively short order. Do yourself a favor and spend a few more cents per gallon on the right fuel for your vehicle if you drive a car that is designed for it.
HOW TO CLEAN A FUEL INJECTOR?
Now that we have covered everything that you need to know about the fuel injectors themselves and the issues that they face, we can move on to keeping them clean. You have a choice of three options when you decide to clean your fuel injectors, and they all have their pros and cons.
ECONOMICAL OPTIONS - FUEL INJECTOR CLEANERS
Arguably the best option for keeping your fuel injectors clean is a fuel injector cleaner, as you may have guessed by the name. This is a liquid that you pour into your car so that it can clean out your fuel injection system. Several advantages make this the best choice for most car owners.
If you are not that knowledgeable about the technical workings of your car, the last thing that you will want to do is take apart the engine and do it yourself, so a fuel injector cleaner can do it for you. When using this type of product, there is no disassembly of the engine required in the first place.
Of course, fuel injector cleaners are not without their flaws, and they will rarely be able to clean out your fuel injectors and your fuel lines as thoroughly as possible. You also won’t be able to use a fuel injector cleaner if your car can’t start in the first place or if the lines are too clogged up.
DIY RISKY METHOD - REMOVING THE FUEL INJECTORS YOURSELF AND CLEANING THEM
As with anything else in life, you also have the option of cleaning out your fuel system on your own. Now, if you are perfectly qualified to take down an engine and put it back together, then you can go ahead and use this method to your heart’s content, but beginners shouldn’t think this is easy.
If you have never done anything to fix up your car and if you don’t have a 100% working knowledge of how your vehicle’s engine works, then you will likely have problems. As a child, did you ever deconstruct a toy and get lost in the reconstruction process? It’s a bit like that, but with a 20 000 dollar toy.
There are few things more embarrassing than having to call over a mechanic because you got lost putting your car’s motor back together. Of course, you will also face the risk of breaking or losing a crucial part of the engine that will then need to be replaced before the car can run again.
EXPENSIVE OPTION - GOING TO THE MECHANIC
You can also pay someone to clean out your vehicle's fuel system thoroughly, but this will be a pricey endeavor. Regardless, you may sometimes have no choice but to take your car to the garage to have the fuel injectors cleaned out because of how clogged they have become.
Fuel injector cleaner can only do so much for a fuel system that is dealing with several clogs, and it may not even be able to flow at some points. If your fuel injector cleaner can't reach every dirty part of your fuel system, then it won't be able to clean the gunk out from those points.
If your car reaches the point where a visit to the mechanic is necessary, there isn’t much that you will be able to do to resist it besides letting your car sit in your driveway. The best thing that you can do is ensure that your fuel system never reaches that point by consistently using a fuel injector cleaner.
WHAT IS A FUEL INJECTOR CLEANER?
Many substances go by this name, but in short, they are any form of liquid that is meant to be run through your car so that it can clean out the fuel system. Fuel injector cleaner is a much more affordable option than going to the mechanic, but it isn't as thorough when cleaning.
If you are trying to prevent fuel buildup from forming in your car’s fuel system, then a fuel injector cleaner will be immensely helpful. Fuel injector cleaners are made by nearly any company that manufactures supplies for caring for your car, and you will find them at gas stations and auto supply stores.
HOW DOES A FUEL INJECTOR CLEANER WORK?
So what exactly do these substances do to ensure that your fuel system is cleaned out? The process is quite intuitive and straightforward. You first have to drain your car of fuel and then fill it with as much as it states on the instruction for your fuel injector cleaner.
Once you have your car adequately fueled, you can then add the fuel injector cleaner to the gas tank. You may then start up your vehicle; you then will have to leave it to idle for the necessary amount of time before you drive it.
By the time you get behind the wheel of your car, all of the residues in your fuel lines will have been dealt with by your fuel injector cleaner.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU USE A FUEL INJECTOR CLEANER?
This is a tough question as it will depend on a range of variables that vary from driver to driver. Things like fuel quality, the vehicle you drive, and much more will affect the frequency of cleaning. A safe bet would be to clean out your fuel injectors every 1700 miles.
ARE THERE ANY SIDE EFFECTS TO USING A FUEL INJECTOR CLEANER?
There are often side effects present when you use a fuel injector cleaner, but not of the negative variety. Many cleaners include chemicals that will help keep your motor lubricated, preserved, and much more. Check the label of your preferred cleaner to get an idea of what it can do.
We hope that this guide has told you everything that you need to know about fuel injector cleaners. Now that you are more knowledgeable about the topic feel free to move on to our buying guide, in which we will cover some of the most effective and efficient options on the market.