In all capitalistic societies, scams that loot your money pop up every day like mushrooms after rain. Discussions and debates fire up on the internet about many possible scams. In the automotive world, a debate-triggering maintenance procedure is fuel induction service.
Claiming to eradicate the carbon deposits inside an engine, the fuel induction service rose to fame in recent years. Many manufacturers like Toyota produce their own solutions that help in conducting a DIY fuel induction service.
But, if you sift through YouTube videos and blogs about fuel induction services, you can encounter vividly contrasting opinions. One crowd feels that the fuel induction service is necessary for the long life of the engine. The other crowd disagrees, maintaining that it is a useless process marketed to squeeze more money out of uninformed car owners.
Let us put an end to this debate. In this story, we dig deep into the fuel induction service process, its benefits, and its costs. Finally, let us decide if it is necessary to spend money on it.
- What is a Fuel Induction Service?
- Which engines need it the most?
- Does your vehicle need it?
- How is it done?
Fuel Induction Service
Any combustion produces waste. Burning wood produces charcoal, which is mostly carbon. Everyone who is familiar with the functioning of internal combustion will also know this. Apart from the exhaust gases produced from burning fuel, it also produces carbon deposits. These deposits stick onto different internal components as the engine ages.
Over the lifetime of the vehicle, it is bound to develop carbon deposits over different internal parts. These carbon deposits bake onto key engine parts including piston crowns, injector nozzles, valves, throttle bodies, and more.
In modern engines that measure fuel by droplets to improve efficiency, unwanted deposits like these can easily work against them. This stops the engine from performing at its best, and in the end, reduces fuel efficiency.
Fuel induction services arrive as a savior to this chocked machinery. They claim to degrade these deposits away, restoring the original health of these engines. The fuel induction services include the usage of special fluids that are administered into different parts of the powertrain.
They clean up their respective areas, clearing out the deposits from them. Well, at least that is what they claim to do.
What Is Fuel Induction Service
Simple science is what vouches for anything that clears out carbon deposits from an engine. These carbon deposits are detrimental to the performance of the engine as well as its life in the long run.
Over time, they can build up from the impurities in the fuel and fuel additives. This can slow down, or in worse cases, choke, the free flow of fuel. The rest is simple logic. The engine runs on fuel. If there’s not as much free flow of fuel, the engine will perform less efficiently.
This drop in efficiency can be witnessed across the spectrum of engine performance. Be it outright acceleration, emission outputs, towing capacity, fuel efficiency, or general reliability, you can see its effect clearly. This should easily establish that the carbon deposits are bad.
Fuel induction services are looking pretty sweet right now, are they not? Carbon deposits are bad. Anything that gets rid of it is good. So, fuel induction services, overall, should be good. We wish it were. But, sadly it is still a long debate. Let us explain why.
Fuel System Cleaning Worth It
Till this point in this article, you have read through the arguments of the pro-fuel induction service side. Countering these claims, the other side has a valid claim too. Gasoline. Yes, the good old gas. Fuel induction services are done for gas-powered engines. And gasoline is a remarkable solvent and cleaner.
With its impressive cleaning properties, gasoline can wash away the carbon deposits inside an engine. In conventional gas-powered engines, the fuel injectors are mounted at the intake. This kind of engine is called a Multi-Point Fuel Injection engine or MPFI engine for short.
In an MPFI engine, the fuel is sprayed into the intake of the engine where it mixes with the air. The thoroughly mixed air-fuel mixture flows onto the intake valve and then, into the combustion chamber. This fuel flow over the intake valves clears out the carbon buildup in that area. This leaves the valves spick and span.
But here is a catch. The gasoline in an MPFI engine flows only over the intake valves. Though this can ensure the cleanliness of those valves, the other areas where carbon is likely to build up remains untouched. Or what about other gasoline engines that work differently? This is where the debate sways in the direction of fuel induction services again.
Do I Need A Fuel System Cleaning
Yet another pro-fuel induction service argument is that all gasoline engines are not the same. The conventional MPFI engines, as we discussed before, are very good at keeping carbon deposits away from the intake ports. But MPFIs are not the only type of gasoline engine around.
Many modern vehicles use a different type of gasoline engine that is completely different from what we are used to seeing. Gasoline direct induction (GDI) engines are growing to be the norm in modern cars. These GDI engines operate in a similar manner to diesel engines.
If you did not catch it from its name, gasoline direct injection engines inject gasoline directly into the combustion chamber. Remember, the conventional MPFI gas-powered engines inject fuel into the intake.
The GDI engines do not get the cleaning properties of the gasoline fuel as it does not come in contact with the valves. The fuel goes straight into the cylinder and is burnt.
Due to this, GDI engines are more prone to develop carbon deposits than MPFI engines and may need cleaning. GDI engines are known to build up carbon deposits quicker than what is preferred. More than that, GDI engines work at way higher pressures than regular MPFI engines. This too contributes to the carbon buildup.
So, it may not be wrong if someone recommends fuel induction services for your well-run GDI engine. But there is yet another thing to take care of when you are preparing for a fuel induction service.
Fuel Induction Services Scams
Everyone is out there to make money. It is not a mystery that our society thrives by convincing customers into buying things, both useful and useless. Fuel induction services are not alien to this manipulation.
There are decarbonizing products available at many dealerships and garages that are operated with just one aim. Loot your money. Many users have even complained that these garages suggest fuel induction service even without thoroughly examining the car.
With these kinds of scams present around, it can be difficult to confirm if a fuel induction service is necessary. If your vehicle fits into the following descriptions, it is almost always good to walk away from a fuel induction service.
1. Low Mileage Cars
No matter which engine it uses, a 20,000-mile-run vehicle is not going to be needing decarbonizing. So, if a dealer pitches this to you for your relatively new vehicle, drop it from the estimate and save some bucks for the gas back home.
2. Highway-Run Cars
Cars used mostly on highways tend to have cleaner engines as they run at optimum RPMs constantly. For a car that is driven always in traffic, it can be a different story. But this does not mean that a car driven on the highway will never have carbon deposits. It is just less prone to building them up compared to a car that is always stuck in the bumper-to-bumper hell.
3. MPFI Engines
As we touched on before, MPFI engines have cleaner valves, thanks to the fuel running over them. Thus, it may not need a fuel induction service for a long time.
The addition of fuel into the intake is so important that some manufacturers retained those injectors even in GDi engines. This can help increase the life of a GDi engine, preventing most of the carbon buildup.
In these direct injection engines, a separate fuel injector may spray fuel onto the valves, keeping it carbon-free. In the long run, this can mean higher reliability.
Toyota’s D-4S injection technology is an example of this kind of engine that sports both direct and port injection. They utilize this technology in their 3.5-liter V6, 5.0-liter V8 engines, and the 2.0-liter flat-six engine developed by Subaru.
If your vehicle has a direct injection engine but with an additional port injector, your risk of getting unwanted carbon deposits will be diminished. Hence, a fuel induction service may not be as necessary as it may be for a regular GDI engine.
Signs You Need A Fuel Induction Service
So, if you need to know if your vehicle needs a fuel induction service, there are many signs to look for.
1. Slower Acceleration
This is the most obvious symptom of excessive carbon buildup. Engines with excessive carbon buildup can be sluggish to respond to throttle input. If your vehicle is hesitant to pick up speed, and it has done some significant miles, it may need a fuel induction service. As we discussed, it is more relevant if you have a direct injection gas engine.
But slower acceleration can also mean a plethora of other things. So, consult your mechanic before you jump in and bite on a fuel induction bait suggested by the dealer.
2. Decreased Fuel Efficiency
Engines are designed to work at their optimum efficiency. So, any drop in efficiency can mean a glitch in the whole process. Lower fuel efficiency is easily one of the first signs of uncurbed carbon buildup. If your mpg is seeing a drop in it, a fuel induction service may be able to pick it up.
3. Rough Idling
Gasoline engines are known for their refinement. Many modern engines are so refined that it is hard to determine if you have turned them on. But this refinement can drop as the engine ages. As deposits build up, the engine will start developing vibrations while idling. This rough idle can be an indication for you to get a fuel induction service done.
4. Engine Knocking
An engine with too much carbon buildup can start knocking. It can be an annoying sound, but more than it, it can be detrimental to the health of your engine. Just like other symptoms, engine knocking can mean a bunch of things. Carbon buildup is one of them. Would not hurt to get it checked.
5. Hard Starting
Engines pushing 60,000-70,000 miles can sometimes be hard to start, especially in the morning. This can be a sign of needing a carbon clearing exercise. Enter, fuel induction services.
6. Higher Emissions
Carbon buildup can be terrible for the performance and efficiency of the engine, but it can also affect its emissions. If your vehicle fails to pass the emissions test and you are not sure why this might be your answer.
7. Power Loss While Driving
This can be read along with the slower acceleration. The vehicle can experience a loss in power if the motor is unable to conduct a smooth operation, thanks to the carbon built up in it. In this case, a fuel induction service can do wonders in restoring the original performance of the engine.
8. Not Waiting For Symptoms
This is the last of all the recommendations. A cliché saying goes like “Prevention is better than cure”. It still holds true though. If your vehicle runs a gasoline direct injection engine and it has some good 60-70,000 miles on it, you may want to keep your guard up.
A direct-injection engine can develop carbon as it runs. Fuel induction services are normally not a part of the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule. Yet, it will be a good practice to get your engine and throttle body checked for carbon buildup at this age. If your mechanic feels that the carbon needs clearing, he, or she probably is correct.
Getting a timely fuel induction service into the maintenance schedule can help with the health of your engine. It can breathe fire, and perform smoothly, aiding to its overall health and longevity.
Things to remember are that if you have a conventional gas engine, it may not be that necessary. Or if your mechanic is pushing the service for a fairly new engine, you can safely say no to it.
Fuel Cleaner For Car
Fuel induction services are carried out using manufacturer-approved products. Most fuel induction kits come with three different products
Fuel Induction Service, Product #1: Intake Valve Cleaner
This product is slowly fed into a running engine through a drip system. It runs over the valves and clears out the carbon deposits on them. This essentially performs the cleaning action of fuel which does not happen in direct injection engines. As it needs precision and skill, this part of the service is best left to a professional.
Fuel Induction Service, Product #2: Throttle Body Cleaner
Fuel Induction Service, Product #3: Fuel Injector Cleaner
This product is the easiest to administer. It is a special additive poured into the fuel tank to clean the fuel pump as well as the injectors. You can read more about complete fuel system cleaning here.
This video comes straight from Toyota, explaining how fuel induction service is to be done.
Fuel Induction Service Cost
The fuel induction services are not very expensive, considering the benefits they can bring. The fuel induction services typically cost upwards of $150, depending on the brand of the product used, local labor charges, etc.
The cost remains reasonable because fuel induction services do not require long hours under the car or expensive machinery. But this also paves way for it to be a possible scam as well. Some dealerships may just throw it in your estimate with no rhyme or reason. Most customers will end up opting for it due to the fair cost and the glorified benefits pitched by the service advisor.
Even though fuel induction services can restore the performance of some engines, it is not worth the money for everyone. If you have a new engine and the dealership pitches it to you as a “preventive measure”, fold those dollar bills and slide them back into your wallet. Blow it on a donut later, and no one will complain.
How To Do A Fuel Induction Service
Even though the prices of a fuel induction service are not sky-high, a DIY attempt can slash them even further. Technically, you can buy the products and administer them yourself. Yet, some bits of the process, especially, slowly feeding the intake valve cleaner can be too clinical for a rookie.
If you are not a seasoned grease monkey, or at least an intermediate car repairman, stay away from it. If the valve cleaner is not fed properly, it can do more damage than good.
How Often To Clean Fuel Injectors
Well, unlike critical maintenance processes like replacing the serpentine belt or timing belt, fuel induction services are not that vital. If you skip it for some time, nothing is going to blow up under your hood. But it should not be taken lightly either.
If you have an old GDi engine that shows any of the symptoms, you may have a look at it. At this point, a fuel induction service may not hurt, if done under the advice of a trusted mechanic.
If you run the vehicle even longer without doing anything about it, the symptoms can worsen. You may experience slower acceleration, rougher idle, a steeper drop in fuel efficiency, and more. This can also play havoc with the long-term reliability of the engine.
If you completely ignore all signs and continue to push the vehicle for thousands of miles, things can get ugly. The valves may get clogged up with carbon and this can be hard to undo.
A mechanic will have to open the head and remove the valves to access them. Then they must be put in a sandblasting machine, albeit to be blasted with walnut shells. The softer walnut shells will blast away all carbon from the valves.
Needless to say, this is an expensive process. The bills can easily go up beyond thousands of dollars. So, it will not be foolish to carry out a fuel induction service, if recommended by a trusted garage.
Fuel Induction Service: In Conclusion…
As is the case of almost all vehicle maintenance operations, there will be people out there who use it as an opportunity to scam others. As we have seen, fuel induction services are not any different. Many dealerships recommend it as a preventive measure, even for new engines.
This is where we draw the line between a scam and a legit maintenance procedure. A GDi gas engine with 50-60,000 odd miles on it is a good candidate for a fuel induction service.
This can be done if your mechanic spots carbon buildup in your engine, even before symptoms develop. As it will not break the bank, you are better off opting to do it instead of not.
But, if your dealership recommends a fuel induction service early in your engine’s life, you most probably won’t need it. There is no need for an engine with just 15,000 miles on it to be carbon cleaned.
This is how it turns into a foul scam. Give them a stern no and proceed with your vehicle’s regular maintenance. You will be good for a few more years.
FAQs On Fuel Induction Service
If you want to learn more about a fuel induction service, our FAQs here might help…
What Does Fuel Injector Cleaner Do
As time passes, it’s rather common for carbon deposits, impurities, sediment, gum, and other unwanted products to circulate through your car’s fuel system. Typically, they’re floating around in the gas tank and fuel lines, and get trapped by the fuel filter before they could travel to your engine. However, smaller pollutants can sometimes bypass the fuel filter and make their way to the fuel injectors. Over time, these impurities will clog up and jam the fuel injector nozzles. Thus, preventing them from properly and reliably injecting fuel into the engine. To solve this, you can use a fuel injector cleaner. Simply pour it into your gas tank, and as it makes its way throughout the fuel system, it would dissolve those contaminants. These residues are then burnt off in the engine after cleaning the injectors.
How Much To Replace Fuel Injector
If you don’t practice a fuel induction service before it’s too late, and carbon build-ups clog up your fuel injection system, it might put too much wear and tear on those fuel injectors. Over time, this would prematurely wear out the injectors, thus requiring you to replace them outright instead of opting for a simpler cleaning service, instead. The costs to replace fuel injectors are often very expensive. A single injector could already cost you around $200 just for the parts alone, not accounting for labor charges to get them fitted. Moreover, this is then multiplied by the number of fuel injectors your car has, which is typically one injector for each cylinder. So, a 4-cylinder would have four injectors, oftentimes. Thus, the total fuel injector replacement cost could easily exceed $1,000 or even $2,000 for high-performance cars.
How Much To Clean Fuel Injectors
Before you allow your car’s fuel injectors to clog up with impurities, gum, and carbon deposits beyond repair, it’s worth taking a look at getting them cleaned. Fuel injector cleaning is relatively inexpensive compared to repairing or replacing the entire fuel injection system on your car. For professional cleaning services, you may spend between $60 to $100 at a nearby service center or mechanic to have the fuel injectors cleaned. Or, you could instead buy an off-the-shelf fuel injector cleaner for as little as $10. All you need to do then is pour this cleaner into your gas tank. However, a professional cleaning service will be more thorough, and include a deep clean as well as diagnosis of your fuel injectors, among other cleaning services of the entire fuel system to ensure a more complete restoration.
What Does GDI Mean On A Kia
On a Kia (or its sister brand, Hyundai), GDI stands for gasoline direct injection. Essentially, it adopts a direct (fuel) injection design, which has numerous benefits when compared to more conventional fuel injection systems. In practice, direct injection is where fuel is supplied directly, straight into the combustion chamber, instead of the intake ports. This allows a GDI-spec engine to more efficiently manage the air-to-fuel ratio. Hence, this results in increased performance, better fuel economy, and a much more versatile engine timing. Moreover, as the fuel is being injected at such high pressures and with minimal pumping and mechanical losses, the driver could more effectively use the engine, even in adverse driving conditions. However, GDI is known to suffer from extensive carbon build-up.
Is Fuel System Cleaner Worth It
In the real world, fuel system cleaner can be worthwhile, but not all of the time. These fuel system cleaners are designed to remove deposits, impurities, and carbon build-up, as well as gum, and other contaminants from your fuel system. This not only cleans the gas tank and fuel lines, but also the fuel injectors. Furthermore, besides removing all the existing deposits and impurities, it could also prevent them from forming as easily in the future with regular use. In the long run, you’ll notice slight improvements in fuel economy, and performance, and nets you lower maintenance costs. Although given how efficiently and cleanly modern-day engines run, fuel system cleaners are only worth investing in if your engine has high mileage (say, 50,000 to 60,000 miles), as its benefits are negligible if you have a low-mileage, near-new car.
These tools have been tried and tested by our team, they are ideal for fixing your car at home.