Why Fuel Additives Won't Improve Performance and Gas Mileage

Tim Boyle/Getty Images
Tim Boyle/Getty Images

The simple truth is that fuel additives won't do much, if anything, to improve your vehicle's performance and gas mileage, but there's more to the story, so I want to give you the real scoop behind fuel additives.

Gas Additives Are Just Not Necessary

Gas additives have gain popularity over the years because of their claims to improve performance, reduce emissions, and save fuel. In general, if you have a healthy vehicle, you should not need any of these to enjoy the performance, emissions, and fuel savings you were meant to.

There is no magical elixir that is designed to make your engine magically become more efficient and powerful. About the only time these additives may work is if you are not using the right octane rating fuel as your vehicle requires and you increase it to what it is supposed to be using an additive.

There is no benefit to using more octane than what is required...and the mystery in Marve Mystery Oil should be left at just that...a mystery. The plain simple truth is these gimmicks simply don't offer what they claim and in some cases they can even be dangerous to you, your car, and the environment.

Using Octane Boost Instead of Premium Fuel

While store bought additives are in general fairly safe, only a handful of them actually improve your octane by a reasonable amount, the rest simply take your money. If you own a high octane sports car and are contemplating using the low octane gas and adding octane booster to compensate, you really need to think if that will be a worthwhile decision.

First, you will have to find an octane booster that actually boosts octane by a measurable amount, then you will have to decide if you are actually saving anything considering the expense of the booster as opposed to just premium gas. You should also know that most experts will tell you that quality gas is most always preferred over an additive of any kind.

A Few Worthy Gas Additives

There are a few occasions when an additive may be beneficial to use. Just so you don't think that all additives are evil, these are a few worthy specimens, although don't expect them to improve gas mileage or performance.

Gas additives can take the form of oxygenates (alcohol or ethers), which can reduce the carbon monoxide expelled into the air by your vehicle. Octane boosters and anti-knocking agents sometimes work, but if you need to use them to have a smooth running engine, then there is a problem with your engine that needs a mechanics attention.

Fuel stabilizers and antioxidants can be helpful if you do not use a vehicle very often, as these will help the gas from getting old and stale and subsequently performing sluggishly. Fuel system cleaners can also be helpful on occasion to clean-up harmful build-up and keep your engine running as it should.

Fuel cleaners will not give your vehicle anymore power or fuel efficiency that they were meant to have, so don't let their tricky advertising fool you. Gasoline additives can also be used to inhibit corrosion and lubricate the upper cylinders, although in general these should not be necessary under most circumstances.

Fuel efficiency cannot be bought in a bottle, it is something that must have come with your vehicle in the first place. Don't use these additives as band aids to fix real problems that need either a mechanic, or perhaps a different vehicle all together.

[i]Feel the need for sustainable speed? See what eco-engineers are doing to create super-charged but low-impact cars, bikes, and planes on Planet Green TV's Mean Green Machines.