It seems that no matter the price of gas, it’s always more than anyone wants to pay. There is a plethora of devices and tinctures on the market that take advantage of this feeling. They claim to improve fuel economy or boost horsepower. The Environmental Protection Agency has a program that tests these claims. Here is a list of a few to avoid so you don’t end up wasting money trying to save money on gas.
- Intake vortex generators. For the most part, all these do is restrict airflow to your engine, which is the opposite of what you want to do. People think they work because they kind of look like parts off a turbocharger.
- Magnets. These claim that putting magnets on the fuel line aligns the molecules for better flow, thus increasing fuel economy. The idea is the magnets break up hydrocarbon chains, making them more efficient to burn. Breaking hydrocarbon bonds is combustion, so you don’t want that happening in your fuel line.
- Fuel and oil additives. Fuel standards are already high, meaning there is very little in them to gum up your injectors. Good synthetic oil is going to do a lot more than some random miracle jug. Few, if any, will really improve performance or mileage. A fuel stabilizer is good if you plan to leave your vehicle sitting for a while or live in a cold climate and have a diesel engine vehicle. Other than that, these additives are more likely to cause a problem than solve anything.
- Spark intensifiers. There is some merit here if you have an older, carbureted motor. Back then, with mechanical fuel delivery, it could help to have more spark in the cylinder. Now with computer-controlled injection, the fuel-to-air ratio is so precise that these are overkill. Buy what the manufacturer recommends for your vehicle if you need to replace spark plugs.
- Hydrogen generators. Yes, there are hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Yes, they are very efficient. These are not fuel cell vehicles. These are a small amount of water being electrically separated into hydrogen and oxygen. It is a middle-school science experiment bolted to the engine. It doesn’t produce enough gas to affect anything.
- Fuel ionizers. These often plug into the car’s 12-volt socket. There is no connection from that socket to your engine. If anything, adding another electrical device to your vehicle is going to cause less fuel efficiency by adding strain to the electrical system.
- Vapor injectors. Your vehicle already runs on fuel vapor. Adding a second one won’t help. Worse is that some are supposed to be placed in the exhaust system—to trick the car into thinking it’s not burning all the fuel being injected. Vapor injectors installed before the engine are redundant; those installed after are wasteful.
- Fuel catalysts. Like the magnets, this is not backed by any real science. Some of these bolt into your fuel line, others are just supposed to be tossed into the gas tank. Never put solids in your gas tank.
- Engine ionizers. Like the magnets and fuel catalyst, these are supposed to change fuel on a molecular level. These usually stick to the spark plug wires and cover your engine in an aura or corona of ions.
- Water injection. This one is last because it has real science behind it. WWII aircraft had huge turbocharged motors that ran extremely hot. It was found that injecting cold water into the cylinders helped boost power output and reduce backfires. It won’t work on a minivan. There just isn’t enough power. The radiator already installed was designed to keep your engine at an ideal temperature. Adding a complex system is just weight you don’t need.
There is one true way to magically save money on gas—drive calmly. Avoiding heavy braking or fast accelerations can save 33% on the freeway and 5% around town. That is way more than the one or two gallons most of these gizmos promise.