Basic components of the fuel delivery system
- Fuel tank. Besides serving as a fuel reservoir, the fuel tank contains the fuel pump assembly as well as fuel tank pressure sensor, fuel level sensor, and other emission-related components. It’s worth mentioning that the fuel tank is prone to get contaminated with water, mud, and other elements that could harm the fuel delivery system.
- Electric fuel pump. Depending on the EFI technology there could be one or more electric fuel pumps in the system. The fuel pump is without any doubt the heart of the fuel delivery system since it is responsible for providing adequate fuel pressure to the system. Consequently, a faulty fuel pump will hinder fuel injectors’ performance and hence driveability.
- Fuel pump filter. In order to protect the electric fuel pump from debris, dust, and other elements present in the fuel tank every pump comes with a fuel filter, also known as pre-filter. If this filter gets clogged will affect the fuel pump’s suction and therefore its overall performance. In other words, this component could potentially produce the same symptoms as a faulty fuel pump when it gets clogged.
- Fuel lines. As the name implies, the fuel lines are responsible for connecting the fuel tank with the rest of the fuel delivery system.
- In-line fuel filter. Usually located in the fuel lines or near the engine, the in-line fuel filter has the crucial mission of trapping harmful contaminants present in the fuel. Its inherent function makes this component disposable since its destined to get clogged over time. To prevent fuel pressure issues due to an obstructed filter is suggested to replace it every 48,000 Km (30,000 miles) or sooner if needed.
- Fuel pressure regulator. This important component is in charge of maintaining fuel pressure as stable as possible by means of automatically regulating variations in the fuel line. A bad fuel pressure regulator could cause a rich or lean condition depending on how it gets damaged.
- Fuel rail. While in older EFI systems the only mission of the fuel rail was holding fuel injectors in place, on newer Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI) vehicles it also plays an important role in fuel delivery.
- Fuel injectors. Arguably, the best-known component of the fuel delivery system, fuel injectors are responsible for delivering gasoline to the engine. This component is so crucial that it deserves a more detailed explanation in the coming sections.
How does fuel injectors work?
In simple terms, a fuel injector is a solenoid valve whose activation is controlled by the Engine Control Unit (ECU). As mentioned earlier, fuel injectors’ main job is delivering the necessary amount of fuel to the engine, and additionally, they should also ensure homogeneous atomization of the air-fuel mixture. To accomplish that goal they count with a highly accurate “spray tip” that is calibrated at the factory using cutting-edge tools. As you might guess, if this tip gets clogged with fuel impurities, the injectors won’t be able to deliver the desired amount of fuel nor the necessary spray pattern. Since fuel injectors are the components most susceptible to carbon buildup, keeping them clean is crucial to avoid performance loss, increased fuel consumption, and many other issues directly associated with clogged injectors.
Different Types of Fuel Injectors
You may be wondering, why it is important to know about different types of fuel injectors. The answer is simple. Modern vehicles use a relatively new fuel delivery system type called Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI). Although GDI injectors bring a plethora of benefits such as unsurpassed fuel economy, higher horsepower per litre, ultra-low emissions, and smaller engines, they also have an Aquiles’ Heel. Carbon deposits. Pre-GDI systems, also known as Multi-Port injection (MPI), were not immune to carbon deposits, however, their peculiar design allowed them to withstand the issue way better than current GDI systems. The location of the multiport injectors was designed in such a way that, when activated, the fuel would literally spray the intake valves. Due to the high temperatures of the intake valves, once the fuel reaches them it “vaporizes” and thus mixes much better with the air. However, there was another reason for this design. The gasoline was meant to cool and clean the inlet valve thanks to fuel’s detergent agents. Now, back to GDI injectors, since their operating principle is delivering the fuel directly to the combustion chamber (hence its name “direct injection”) they don’t spray the intake valves anymore. Without the help of fuel detergents, the carbon buildup process is faster and more aggressive in GDI systems, therefore, direct injectors require special care to prevent unwanted issues such as mechanical engine issues.
Carbon Deposits, And Why They Matter
Carbon buildup on fuel injectors and intake valves can become a real issue. But what are carbon deposits, and why should you worry about them? Carbon deposits are the result of impurities present in the fuel and motor oil that once heated begin to adhere to the surfaces with which they come into contact. The higher the temperature, the worse. Although carbon buildup is nothing new to internal combustion engines, newer vehicles that use direct injection systems suffer more severe consequences than older multiport injection vehicles. Moreover, the heat that GDI injectors have to withstand inside the combustion chamber is considerably higher than on older MPI systems, making GDI injectors prone to buildup carbon deposits very quickly.
The consequences of carbon buildup are complex and difficult to handle. First of all, you have the intake valves. Carbon deposits generally pile up in the valve seats, which can produce severe problems such as:
- Hindering the free passage of air into the combustion chamber
- Preventing the valves from closing completely
- Damaging the valves seats
Second, you have the fuel injectors. As mentioned earlier, when the injectors become clogged, they lose their ability to supply the necessary amount of fuel or create a proper spray pattern, but worse yet, the corrosive nature of carbon deposits literally destroys fuel injectors over time. The combined result of carbon buildup over the intake valves and fuel injectors end up producing severe issues such as:
- Loss of engine power
- Decreased fuel economy
- Hard starts
- Rough idling
- Increased emissions
As if carbon deposits weren’t bad enough, they are also extremely difficult to remove. Matter of fact, when it comes to removing carbon deposits from the intake valves, you have only four options available:
- Remove the cylinder heads and cleaning the valves with an abrasive medium similar to to the chemical used for carburettor service and/or an ultrasonic cleaner bench
- Remove the cylinder heads and doing a complete valve job
- Replacing the entire intake valve set
- Servicing the fuel system using a professional-grade fuel injector cleaner like Tecflow Speed Cleaner.
As you might guess, the best option to get rid of carbon deposits is by using fuel injectors cleaners since the cost of the other options is several magnitudes higher.
Why do you need cleaning the fuel system?
Up to this point, you learned what carbon deposits are and why they pose a risk for your vehicle. The logical question now would be, what is the best approach to prevent carbon buildup issues? Ideally, you should not let carbon deposits accumulate on intake valves or fuel injectors. Regardless of the fuel delivery technology, GDI or MPI, once carbon deposits pile up are harder to remove, and therefore you might need to pay for expensive repairs. From that perspective, the best approach would be to keep your engine in top condition by means of performing regular preventive maintenances. In other words, it would be a good idea to pour a bottle of fuel injector cleaner into your tank regularly, change engine oil on time as well as using an air inlet cleaner.
- Benefits of engine oil changes. As it was mentioned earlier, carbon deposits come from engine oil and fuel contaminants, hence changing engine oil on time is a great way to fight carbon buildup. Moreover, chemical components of the newest engine oils, like the API SP, greatly reduce carbon buildup. This is one of the most important features of the lastest engine oil specification, so it would be advisable to take advantage of it.
- Benefits of using fuel injector cleaners. When you use a professional-grade fuel injector cleaner as Tecflow’s Speed Cleaner you are effectively removing not only carbon deposits but also resins, soot, and similar contaminants from the entire fuel delivery system. In other words, it will clean your system from the fuel tank all the way to injectors’ nozzles. If your vehicle uses MPI injectors Speed Cleaner will also clean intake valves’ seats which is a convenient bonus to the service you are doing.
- Benefits of using air inlet cleaners. In addition to fuel injector cleaners, you might want to keep carbon from accumulating on valves’ seats. If you drive a 2015 or newer vehicle chances are that your engine uses a GDI system. In that case, it would be a great idea to use an air inlet cleaner each time you change engine oil.
As you can see, keeping your engine in good condition is not hard. All you have to do is commit to proper preventive maintenance. Always keep in mind that scheduled maintenance also saves you from expensive repairs down the road.
How do fuel injector cleaners work
High-quality fuel injector cleaners such as Tecflow’s Speed Cleaner use a proprietary formula that literally breaks down carbon deposits so they can’t harm your engine anymore. One factor you have to consider though is that not all fuel injector cleaners work that way. Several commercially available fuel injector cleaners are either too weak to dissolve carbon deposits or too strong and hence can damage your engine. Safely removing carbon deposits, soot, and other harmful components from the fuel system is indeed a challenging task. With over 50 years of experience in the automotive industry, Tecflow Speed Cleaner ensures that your engine will be serviced efficiently and without any risk to the engine or other components as oxygen sensors, catalytic converter, or EGR valve.
Types of Fuel System Cleaner
The incorrect use of the term fuel injector cleaner has caused a great deal of confusion among car owners. There are products on the market that have taken advantage of this confusion to call themselves “fuel injection system cleaners” when in fact they are not. You might be wondering, how can I tell the difference?
Basically, there are two types of fuel system cleaner:
- Fuel system additives. As the name implies, additives reinforce fuel properties. This is a broad category since fuel additives can strengthen several fuel properties. That’s how you can find products as diverse as octane boosters, premium gas formulas, fuel stabilizers, seafoam, and multi-purpose fuel system cleaners all belonging to the “fuel additive” family. In the particular case of additives focused on cleaning the fuel system, they tend to reinforce detergent properties of gasoline/diesel to prevent carbon buildup and other contaminants from piing up. Clean Up 101 and Clean Up 201 are the perfect example of fuel additives. Both are multi-functional fuel additives, for gasoline and diesel engines respectively, with the goal of keeping the entire fuel system clean.
- Fuel injector cleaners. You can think of fuel injectors cleaners as a subset of fuel additives. They are specifically designed to remove carbon deposits and other types of dirt that have already settled in the fuel and intake systems. So, unlike multipurpose fuel cleaners, their goal goes beyond keeping the fuel system free of carbon deposits. When this product is used it’s because, in fact, such deposits already exist and what you need is to remove them. This explains why the formula is different. That explains why the Speed Cleaner formula is stronger than CleanUp 101 since it has to dissolve carbon deposits.
Benefits of Fuel Injector Cleaners
Aside from being an extremely efficient solution, fuel injector cleaners offer a myriad of advantages such as:
- Better fuel economy. By using high-quality fuel injector cleaners you can improve gas mileage. Since injectors’ nozzles are free from deposits they can create an optimal spray pattern and deliver the precise amount of fuel.
- Lower emissions. When you keep both, the injectors and the air inlet, clean you can ensure the lowest emissions possible making it easier to pass MOT and other emission-related tests.
- Protect the exhaust and emissions systems. Top-quality products like Teclfow Speed Cleaner maintain its cleaning power even after exiting the combustion chamber. The result is that your complete exhaust system will also be “decarbonized”. In a nutshell, the oxygen sensors, EGR valve, and the catalytic converter will also benefit from the cleaning process.
- Prevent engine misfires. When left unattended, misfires can damage your engine. That’s why it’s important to reduce the likelihood of misfires as much as possible. By maintaining your entire fuel delivery system clean, you are effectively lowering misfires occurrences.
- Lower maintenance costs. As mentioned already in the article, carbon buildup puts at risk engine’s internal parts. That’s why performing regular fuel injector cleaning services definitely saves you time and money.
- Increase overall engine performance. Without any doubt, regardless of the fuel injector technology, a carbon-free fuel system will work at peak performance, meaning you will enjoy better driveability, increased horsepower, and better response.
Frequently Asked Questions
How often do fuel injectors need to be cleaned?
That’s not an easy question since there are many factors at play. However, it’s highly advisable to pour a bottle of high-quality fuel system cleaner, such as Tecflow CleanUp 101, every 10,000 kilometres to keep your engine in optimal condition.
Fuel injector cleaner, is it necessary?
Depending on your injection system (MPI or GDI) and how polluted is it, you might require using a professional-grade fuel injector cleaner such as Tecflow Speed Cleaner to remove carbon deposits. Follow label instructions in order to achieve optimal product concentration.
Can fuel injector cleaner turn off my check engine light?
Absolutely. Modern vehicles can lit check engine light when the ECU senses a drop in fuel injector performance and/or inconsistent air-fuel mixture, degraded or clogged oxygen sensors, and more. Although there are plenty of causes that could turn on the check engine light, many of them can be solved by pouring a fuel injector cleaner bottle into your fuel tank.
How often can I use fuel injection cleaners?
It depends. As said earlier, multipurpose fuel system cleaners like CleanUp 101 can be used every 10,000 kilometres but ambient temperature, humidity, and fuel quality can alter that figure.
Are fuel injectors cleaners safe for the engine?
High-quality fuel injectors cleaners such as Tecflow Speed Cleaner are completely safe for your engine. That said, you have to be careful with unknown brands. Always follow label directions and never try to alter the recommended concentration to avoid unwanted issues.
What is best, fuel injector cleaner or octane booster?
Although both are considered fuel additives, octane booster goal is to increase fuel octane rating, mainly for high-performance applications, while fuel injectors cleaners purpose is removing carbon deposits.
What is best, fuel injector cleaner or premium gas?
Premium gasoline contains special detergent agents that aim to reduce carbon buildup. However, using premium gas will not remove carbon deposits already settled on the engine nor keep the fuel system as safe as multipurpose fuel system cleaners. Consider using premium fuel as an additional layer of protection, not a solution to the carbon buildup problem.
Fuel injector cleaner vs fuel stabilizer, which is better?
Professional-grade fuel injector cleaners such as Tecflow Speed Cleaner actually contain fuel stabilizer as part of its formula. On the other hand, fuel stabilizers usually do not contain any fuel cleaner agent.
Fuel injector cleaner vs seafoam, which is better?
Currently, there is a debate in the automotive industry regarding seafoam effectiveness. You will find sources claiming its a miracle solution as well as sources saying quite the opposite. On the other hand, Tecflow Speed Cleaner has been in the market for over 50 years, demonstrating over and over again its high efficiency in removing carbon deposits.