Check the shelves of most petrol stations, motoring and motor trade stores and you’ll find a bewildering variety of vehicle fuel additives available on sale. Poured into the fuel tank of a new or used vehicle, they claim to be able to clean your engine, improve performance and even increase fuel efficiency.
But which, if any of these products on display deliver on their promises?
Most fuel additives that aim to increase a car’s performance or fuel efficiency rely on increasing the octane rating of the fuel. UK Petrol stations sell 95 octane unleaded petrol as standard, as well as a more expensive premium fuel at 98 octane. Some drivers choose to add a fuel additive to 95 octane petrol rather than pay the extra for 98 octane at a petrol station. Even though the additive is likely to cost more, choosing 98 octane at the pump will ensure consistency in the fuel content of your tank.
Cleaning additives are designed to work on the carburettor or the exhaust system, removing dirt and corrosion. They are claimed to make your vehicle run more efficiently and cure engine knocking. While these additives may have some effect on an older vehicle, it is unlikely newer models will need them. If your car’s engine or fuel system needs attention, it’s better to have it serviced by a mechanic rather than rely on the fuel additives.
Some specialist additives do have a genuine benefit. For example, adding certain fuel additives to older cars that run on leaded petrol can allow them to run on the modern unleaded fuel, this remove the need to convert the engine to run on unleaded petrol. As you can imagine, converting an engine would be an expensive operation and may make the owner feel the vehicle authenticity has been lessened, it’s also considered to be a vehicle modification and may affect the vehicle’s insurance policy.
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When temperatures are very low, diesel fuel takes longer than petrol to warm up when the engine is first started, this can lead to a sluggish performance from the vehicle. Although this is not a major problem in the UK, drivers in colder climates can use a fuel enhancer to improve diesel performance from colder weather.
Some additives are designed to remove impurities from fuel, like water or contaminants. So, it may be worth trying this type of additive if you believe you’ve received a ‘dirty fill’ from a petrol station, or if your car hasn’t been run for a while and has old fuel sitting in the tank.
As a rule, a new model being driven and fuelled in the UK shouldn’t need any enhancements to improve the purity of the fuel or the cleanliness and efficiency of the engine. You are unlikely to notice any difference in the performance or fuel economy if you use fuel additives.