Modern vehicles suffer from carbon build-ups inside the engine, due to a number of factors. If left unchecked, this problem can cause a loss of power and performance, increased fuel usage and even premature engine component failure. The exact cause of this issue is due to a number of factors combining, compounding to create a bigger problem.
Fortunately, we can use a fuel system cleaning product to clean up the internal surfaces of our engine, restoring its performance and improving the fuel economy. But there are hundreds of products on the market, so which one is the best fuel system cleaner to use for your car?
- Do Fuel System Cleaners Work?
- Why do I need to use a Fuel System Cleaner?
- When should I use a Fuel System Cleaner?
- What to look for when purchasing a Fuel System Cleaner
- Best Fuel System Cleaners of 2018
- Which Product Should I Choose?
Do Fuel System Cleaners Work?
Yes, these products work and some make a noticeable impact on the performance of your engine. Based on our testing though, you are unlikely to see a huge difference based upon one treatment of fuel system cleaner. It takes multiple fuel tanks to loosen and remove the carbon build ups in the engine.
Therefore, our ratings of the top 5 products also consider the quantity each product is supplied in. If you have to purchase multiple bottles of fuel system cleaner, then the cost dramatically increases. If you have never used a fuel system cleaner before, then it is likely you’ll have to do even more treatments.
Why do I need to use a Fuel System Cleaner?
Modern fuels have less cleaning and lubrication additives in them, in order to reduce emissions. These fuels contribute towards the formation of carbon deposits on internal air intake passageways, exhausts and even the combustion chamber of the motor.
In addition, it is not always possible to completely burn 100% of the fuel that enters the combustion chamber, the unburnt fuel can mix with the carbon deposits to coat the fuel injectors, pistons, intake & exhaust manifolds, and valves with a layer of soot.
When should I use a Fuel System Cleaner?
Almost any vehicle, whether it is a ride on mower or a sports car will benefit from regular use of a fuel system cleaner. Fuel Cleaners should be used from new, as this will prevent carbon deposits forming in the first place.
However, if you purchase a used car or lawn mower, you should go ahead and start using a fuel system cleaner right away in order to clean internal engine components.
Also, if you begin to experience rough idling, where the engine struggles to maintain a constant idle speed or a severe lack of performance, then you should treat your fuel.
You may notice a drop in fuel economy or a lot of smoke on start-up or whilst under load, these factors can also be remedied with the use of a fuel cleaner detergent. Many buyers online have found that noisy running engines, with knocking or clattery noises sound smoother after the use of a fuel cleaner.
What to look for when purchasing a Fuel System Cleaner
If you cannot find any of the products listed below, this checklist will help you decide on which products are right for use in your fuel tank.
An established brand
When adding chemicals to your fuel tank, you want to make sure that the product is made by a trusted and established brand within the industry.
Some of these products have been independently tested, for effectiveness and safety. If possible, you should go with those.
Money back guarantee
Some fuel system cleaner producers promise a money back guarantee if you’re dissatisfied. This is a plus point as if the company felt they would receive a lot of complaints, they wouldn’t run such an offer.
Polyetheramine is the most effective detergent in breaking down carbon deposits. Look for a product that contains a high concentration of the chemical.
Right now, there are several products that claim to have the highest concentration of this solvent but checking over the manufacturer’s safety data sheet, you can confirm the exact strength.
Non-PEA based products may still work on the fuel system, but they are a lot slower acting and less powerful.
Spending more money on the product doesn’t necessarily mean it will work more effectively. Likewise, some of the cheaper products have less effective chemicals for cleaning carbon build-ups.
Most of these cleaning require multiple treatments, further increasing the price, so factor that in when making your purchase decision.
The easiest to use fuel system cleaners are simply poured into the fuel filler neck and forgotten about. On the more complicated ones, the fuel tank needs to be run almost empty, driven at a specific rpm for 30 minutes and then allowed to cool down, basically, these products are needlessly complicated to use.
Best Fuel System Cleaners of 2018
SeaFoam has probably the most positive reviews online. SeaFoam is safe to be used in almost any concentration, as it is made from an organic and highly refined petroleum.
SeaFoam doesn’t need any special application process and helps to break down varnish deposits inside motors. SeaFoam contains PEA and will increase lubricity inside your engine. It can also be used to stabilize stored fuel for up to 2 years.
Seafoam is also unique in that it can be used on diesel engines, marine outboard 4 stroke motors, 2 stroke mower engines and gasoline engines. It’s very easy to use, requiring no complicated multi-stage application process.
Originally, Seafoam was created for use in outboard motors on boats, but it has proven effective on all engine types. We like that SeaFoam offer after sales care and their website is very informative and useful.
One thing we don’t like about SeaFoam, is the company make a big deal about the white smoke that emits from the muffler after using the product. They say that this is carbon deposits leaving the exhaust system.
However, in reality, this is just sales language, the white smoke is caused by the oils contained within SeaFoam itself.
#2: Royal Purple Fuel Max Cleaner
Royal Purple is the good alternative to SeaFoam. It is currently a little more expensive. This purple fluid is poured into the gas tank and then begins to work on cleaning the fuel lines, carb, injectors, intake valves and combustion chambers.
YouTuber ChrisFix tested a number of fuel system cleaners and found this one had the most effect. Royal Purple contains a high concentration of PEA and can be used on 4-stroke or 2 cycle engines, gasoline or diesel. Royal Purple is compatible with biofuels and ethanol-blended fuel too.
Right now, Royal Purple seems to offer perhaps the most effective cleaning, but at a slightly higher price that means we’ve placed it in second place. This fuel cleaner is for the car owner who is willing to spend a little more, to get the best possible product.
#3: Lucas Fuel System Cleaner
Finally, we have Lucas Fuel System Cleaner. Lucas is a well established US brand, trusted by many enthusiasts, racers, and mechanics. We personally have used Lucas Oil products in the past and found them to be excellent, performing exactly as promised.
Some people spotted a dramatic 2-3 mpg fuel usage improvement. Others commented that the engine ran smoother and seemed to idle more readily. Lucas Fuel System Cleaner helps improve engine oil lubrication and it can be used to help a vehicle pass a smog test.
Lucas Fuel Treatment has a high percentage of PEA and will clean internal engine surfaces effectively. You can also purchase this treatment in 1-gallon jugs, which offers better value for money.
We’d recommend Lucas Fuel Treatment for those who like to purchase from a well established and trusted brand, with all the benefits that give. The solution is made in the USA and is available in a One-gallon jug that offers the best value for money.
#4: Chevron Techron Concentrate Plus
Chevron Techron Concentrate Plus promises to deep clean the entire fuel system and is perhaps the most laboratory tested product in our line-up. Chevron claim that Techron Plus will clean the entire fuel system, from the fuel injectors or carb to the intake valves and cylinder bores.
They also state it can restore lost power, improve acceleration, increase fuel economy and even restore the fuel gauge sensor.
Reviews of the product said that it definitely helped to smoothen out a rough idle, engine surging and engine hesitation or lag. One reviewer noted how clean his old spark plugs where after using the product, stating this is proof it works.
Chevron Techron, like SeaFoam, can be used to stabilize fuel, for up to one year and aid the cold start performance of your vehicle.
It is recommended by the company that you use this solution every 3,000 miles with an oil change. For smaller, nonvehicular motors, you can use it as needed.
We placed Chevron Techron Concentrate Plus in 4th place as it seemed to have the most mixed. Some people found it worked brilliantly, whilst others were less impressed with the level of cleaning. The others said it made little to no difference.
BG44K is strongly marketed towards garage owners and shops. It is well respected in the industry, having been around for four decades now. This product will only work exclusively with gasoline motors and is thus less useful than the other products on our list.
BG44K is said to be one of the quickest acting deep cleaners. This product also contains corrosion inhibitors to help combat the effects of ethanol on the fuel system. This product is non-alcoholic, again crucial for controlling rust within the fuel system.
BG44K is supplied with a neat funnel, making it unique. It will work on all manner of engine issues and degradations, like power loss, poor idling, moisture or rust formation, and poor fuel economy.
One can is enough to treat almost 20 gallons of gasoline, so it goes a long way.
Which Product Should I Choose?
Choose firstly a product that you can get easily, whether that be from your local motor parts shop or online. It’s best if possible to stick to using one product, just in case any of the chemical ingredients react with one another.
Our research suggests that as long as the product contains a sufficient amount of PEA cleaning detergent, then you can essentially pick the fuel cleaner that is for sale at the best price.
Unless you specifically are looking for a product sold in large quantities like Lucas Fuel System Cleaner or one which comes with a money back guarantee, then you should start with SeaFoam and see how you find it.
One final thing to note is some of these products are not available widely in other countries. In the UK and Ireland for example, SeaFoam is not stocked in most motor parts stores, in which case, you might opt for a cleaner like RedEx by Holt or Dipetane – both of which are designed to eliminate Combustion Chamber Deposits (CCDS).
Almost every engine today would benefit from the regular use of a fuel system cleaner as a preventative measure against the buildup of carbon. Doing so can lower emissions, increase power, improve fuel economy and even extend the life of the engine. As of January 2018, we recommend you try SeaFoam as the best fuel system cleaner for preventative fuel system maintenance. Give it a try and let us know what you think in the comments section.