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A closeup shows fuel coming out of a fuel injector.

A Beginner’s Guide to Fuel Injector Cleaners

The old maxim still holds true: if you take good care of your car, it will take good care of you. Proper maintenance and service, along with safe driving practices, will keep your vehicle running for a long time and keep it in great condition so it will get you wherever you need to go. Along with common tasks like changing your oil, having your tires rotated and replaced, and changing your spark plugs, you should also make sure your fuel system is in the best shape possible. Using a fuel injector cleaner can help with that, but choosing the right one is important.

Today, I’m going to take a look at some different fuel injector cleaners that are available to see which ones are generally considered the best. First, however, I’ll talk a little bit about your vehicle’s fuel system, what your fuel injectors are, and why they might need a good cleaning. I’ll also address whether you should even worry about using fuel injector cleaners to begin with – though this is a decision that you’ll probably need to make for yourself. In the end, you’ll be fully equipped with the knowledge you need to take good care of your car.

What are Fuel Injectors?

Before we get into fuel injector cleaners, let’s take a look at the fuel system in your vehicle and how it all works. I’m not going to get into too many details here since that really deserves its own article, but I just want to make sure you understand all the “moving parts” here. Your internal combustion engine needs fuel to work – the fuel mixes with oxygen coming in from the front of your vehicle, allowing it to combust.

So, you put gas into the tank at the pump, that part you already know, I’m sure. The fuel sits in the tank until it’s needed for your engine to run, at which point the fuel pump moves gas from the tank through the rest of the fuel system. It passes through a fuel filter just to make sure there aren’t any particulates that can clog up parts of your engine, and then along to a part called a fuel rail. This rail has numerous fuel injectors on it.

The fuel injectors are essentially small valves used to spray fuel into the engine. They’re electronically controlled and atomize the fuel so that it mixes properly with oxygen to get the right balance for your engine to run efficiently and smoothly. So, fuel injectors basically “inject” fuel into your engine.

A hand is shown removing a fuel injector over an engine.

What is a Fuel Injector Cleaner?

Over time, it’s possible that the fuel injectors in your vehicle can get clogged up with dirt and carbon residue. A fuel injector cleaner is a liquid solution that’s designed to be added to your gas tank so that it can run through your fuel system and help clean off some of this debris and other gunk. Think of it kind of like adding detergent to a load of clothing in the wash – it’s basically “soap” for your fuel injectors. It’s specially designed and formulated to help clean things off but not interfere with the normal operation of your engine or the overall fuel system.

What are the Best Fuel Injector Cleaners?

There are quite a few brands of fuel injector cleaners out there for you to choose from, but they’re not all made equally. I took a look at numerous options and narrowed down the best ones for you to choose from. While you might find that one works better for you than another, these three are generally regarded as some of your best options.

    • Chevron Techron Concentrate Plus – Just about everyone interested in fuel injector cleaners agrees that this is the best one on the market. It’s excellent at cleaning your fuel system and the injectors while helping to protect them from further buildup or dirt.
  • Red Line Complete SI-1 Fuel Cleaner – Using a unique, patented formula, this cleaner works very well to deal with dirt and carbon buildup while also lubricating your engine cylinders. This is an excellent choice, and most people that pass on the Chevron Techron Concentrate Plus option go with the Red Line.
  • Liqui Moly Jectron Fuel Injector Cleaner – This is a particularly excellent option if you have an older vehicle with an older engine. It’s specially designed to ensure it doesn’t damage any other parts of your engine, such as the oxygen sensors, and is generally viewed as one of the safest choices overall. One thing to keep in mind is that it’s only for gasoline engines, so don’t use this if you have a diesel.

A hand is holding a fuel injector which is spraying fuel injector cleaner.

Are there Other Options for Cleaning?

Running a fuel injector cleaner through your system is a great way to keep everything running well yourself, but you do have some other options. You typically add this cleaner to your regular tank of gas and let it run through while you’re driving. But if you want a really deep clean, then you can take your vehicle to a service center to have a cleaning solution pumped through your vehicle’s system while it sits in place, like a power-washing for your fuel injectors.

Another professional option is to have your fuel injectors removed from your vehicle and then cleaned separately or replaced altogether. This is a somewhat extreme choice compared to simply adding a bottle of fuel injector cleaner to your vehicle’s gas tank, but it is an option. A lot of manufacturers don’t recommend this, however, unless there’s a serious problem with your fuel injectors that requires a replacement. Your vehicle’s fuel system is meant to be a closed system, so anything that opens that up (other than at your gas tank) creates the potential for bigger issues and problems.

Do I Really Need to Use a Fuel Injector Cleaner?

To be honest, this is somewhat open for debate. There are plenty of people that swear by the use of fuel injector cleaners in their vehicle and will strongly argue that these cleaners help boost performance. The manufacturers of these products certainly claim they can help performance, and if you have a little buildup of dirt or carbon on your injectors, then they can probably help.

The other side of this coin, however, is that you’re probably not going to see a mind-blowing improvement in performance simply due to one bottle of fuel injector cleaner. For one thing, fuel injectors are designed to work well for years, probably the life of your vehicle, so cleaning is not always necessary. Also, modern gas already has cleaning additives in it that are designed to help keep your fuel system clean and efficient. This is particularly true if you choose Top Tier gasoline (available from most major brand names), which is formulated to exceed EPA guidelines and really keep your system running clean.

In other words, using fuel injector cleaner probably won’t hurt anything, but it’s also unlikely to give you miraculous results. That being said, you can certainly view it as preventative care to help avoid dirt and carbon buildup that will definitely hurt your performance. Just be sure to keep a realistic perspective about the benefits of using any such cleaner.