Car Main­te­nance

The Washington Post Sunday - - AUTOMOTIVE -

Do fuel in­jec­tors need pe­ri­odic clean­ing?

Clean­ing fuel in­jec­tors is a ser­vice fre­quently rec­om­mended by deal­ers and re­pair shops, but un­less there are no­tice­able signs of clogged in­jec­tors (such as a rough idle, stalling, poor ac­cel­er­a­tion or high emis­sions lev­els) it might not be nec­es­sary. One tipoff is that fuel in­jec­tor clean­ing is not typ­i­cally listed on au­tomak­ers’ rou­tine main­te­nance sched­ules.

Many shops pro­mote a quick/easy in­jec­tor ser­vice that runs a clean­ing so­lu­tion through the in­jec­tors while they’re still mounted in the en­gine. A more thor­ough (and ex­pen­sive) process for se­verely clogged in­jec­tors re­quires re­mov­ing the in­jec­tors and clean­ing them on a ma­chine de­signed for that pur­pose.

Fuel in­jec­tors clog when de­posits build up over time and thou­sands of miles; when that hap­pens, they don’t de­liver the fine mist of gas that pro­vides max­i­mum per­for­mance and ef­fi­ciency. If that hap­pens, you’ll no­tice a loss of en­gine per­for­mance or lower fuel econ­omy.

The type of gaso­line you use also can be a fac­tor. All gaso­line is re­quired to con­tain de­ter­gents that pre­vent car­bon de­posits, var­nish and other gunk from form­ing in the fuel sys­tem, but not all brands use the same amount. Lower-priced brands of­ten use only the min­i­mum, but the so-called Top Tier brands use more de­ter­gents, and some ve­hi­cle man­u­fac­tur­ers rec­om­mend them be­cause of that.

De­ter­gents have been re­quired by the EPA since 1995 be­cause many ve­hi­cle own­ers com­plained of clogged in­jec­tors and fuel-sys­tem de­posits. Not only has gaso­line got­ten bet­ter since then, but so have the in­jec­tors, so prob­lems aren’t as wide­spread as they used to be.

How­ever, gaso­line di­rect in­jec­tion, a more so­phis­ti­cated in­jec­tion sys­tem that op­er­ates un­der higher pres­sure, is be­com­ing com­mon­place in en­gines, and some GDI sys­tems have proved to be more prone to clog­ging than regular fuel in­jec­tion.

That’s why some man­u­fac­tur­ers, such as Hyundai and Kia, among oth­ers, rec­om­mend adding a fuel sys­tem cleaner to your gas tank pe­ri­od­i­cally if you’re not us­ing Top Tier gas on a regular ba­sis.

Many other gaso­line ad­di­tives that are sup­posed to clean fuel sys­tem parts are also avail­able over the counter, and they may help keep things clean enough so that fuel in­jec­tor clean­ing isn’t nec­es­sary. The ad­di­tional de­ter­gents found in Top Tier gas should do the same thing, which might be all your fuel sys­tem needs.

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