Fuel Additives: What They Are, How They Work, and Why You Might Want Them

Besides gas, there are other formulas you can put in your gas tank that might affect your vehicle’s performance. That’s what fuel additives are. What they do and whether you need them, well that depends on the type of vehicle you’re operating. Here’s a quick guide:

Types of Fuel Additives and What They Do

There are a variety of fuel additives available at any auto parts store (and many gas stations), including:

  • Fuel injector cleaners

These additives do as the name indicates—they help prevent or remove deposits that can clot fuel injector nozzles. Some gunk on fuel injectors may not be noticeable in warm weather when the fuel itself is thinner, but in colder temperatures, you may notice more significant hesitation and/or lack of acceleration.

  • Gasoline stabilizers

Vehicle fuels have liquid and gaseous components that, when left to sit for long periods of time, will separate. Gasoline stabilizers help prevent this separation so that vehicles are easier to start when needed.

  • Fuel line antifreezes

Fuel line antifreezes are formulated to keep the water in the fuel lines (much of it the product of condensation) from freezing. Frozen fuel lines can make it difficult to start your vehicle, and possibly damage the hoses, creating leaks and bigger repair issues.

  • Octane boosters

As the name implies, octane boosters increase a fuel’s octane rating, which, in turn, increases the amount of compression the fuel-air mix in your engine can withstand before spontaneously combusting (which you don’t want it to do…you want it to ignite from the spark plug).

These fuel additives may be available for unleaded and diesel vehicles. There are other additives strictly for diesel engines, such as anti-gelling additives that help keep diesel fuel filters clean.

Do You Need Fuel Additives?

Let’s take a look at each additive type in turn to find out if it’s something you need for improved vehicle maintenance and/or performance.

Fuel injector cleaners

There are two ways fuel injector cleaners may work. Some formulas are meant to prevent deposits from building up around the injector nozzles; some formulas can actually breakdown deposits.

So—do you need them? If you notice some sluggishness in your car’s pickup or acceleration, then you might want to try a fuel injector cleaner (a formula that can remove deposits). If it works, great! You’ve just improved your vehicle’s performance. If it doesn’t, you didn’t damage anything, but you may have important trouble shooting information to tell your mechanic.

If you do not have any performance issues and you just want to prevent buildup, then you may try a fuel injector cleaner additive. But, you may also consider buying better-quality gasoline that’s formulated with detergents to remove deposits (if not every fill-up then at least every fourth fill-up).

Gasoline stabilizers

Gasoline stabilizers are only necessary in vehicles that are left sitting for long periods of time—often seasonal vehicles, like boats, lawn equipment, vehicles in storage. If you regularly drive your vehicle, you do not need this type of additive.

Fuel line antifreezes

It actually takes quite cold temperatures to freeze fuel lines, especially full fuel lines. So, this type of additive is really only necessary when temperatures drop and remain below (water) freezing temp (32°F or 0°C) for days. In the greater Albuquerque, NM area, fuel line additives are generally not needed as winters are pretty mild.

Octane boosters

For most modern passenger cars and trucks, octane boosters do nothing. These are primarily useful for classic cars that were built when fuel was formulated differently.

You may have noticed that no fuel additive actually improves fuel efficiency. Some may claim too, but research doesn’t support that claim for any product. Any fuel efficiency gains are insignificant. However, depending on the climate in which you are operating your vehicle, some additives can improve maintenance in other ways, sparing you repair expenses down the road.

If you want more specific recommendations for fuel additives, please contact us. We can let you know which, if any, fuel additives may be beneficial for your make and model.