How Often Do I Clean the Fuel Injector?

by James Junior

You need to have your car's fuel injectors cleaned periodically. Newer, lower mileage cars warrant less frequent injector cleaning than older, higher mileage ones. Cleaning the fuel injectors will keep your engine, and the fuel system that feeds it, happy and healthy for the life of the automobile. The length of time between fuel injector cleanings is more of an approximation than a specific time period. You should take into consideration variables such as the year, model and type of mileage. Short-trip, city-style mileage will generate substantially more engine gunk than highway mileage will. That engine gunk works its way right into the tips of the fuel injectors over time. The newer the car the better fuel injection technology it has, and the injectors are more clog resistant.

Function

The fuel injector plays a vital role in a car's fuel system. The injector is a valve with a plunger and pressurized fuel inside of it. When the valve is opened, by the car's electronic control unit, the pressurized fuel inside is atomized. The fine mist of fuel sprays directly into the engine's intake valves and into the combustion chamber.

Effects

After you turn off the car engine, there is always a tiny amount of residue left on the tips of the injectors that didn't burn off. The residue contains bits of gasoline, varnish and engine tar. Over time, this residue builds up to the point where it begins to impede the flow of atomized fuel from the tip of the injector. This can cause performance problems, bad gas mileage, higher emissions, engine knocking or pinging and even stalling.

Prevention/Solution

To prevent the injectors from clogging up, clean them periodically. If you want to service the injectors without removing them from the car, you can poor a fuel additive into the fuel tank and let it circulate around the fuel system while the chemicals do their magic. The fuel additives are manufactured with jet fuel and concentrated fuel detergents that eat away at the gummy deposits on the tips of the injectors.

Alternatives

Another option for servicing the injectors without removing them is to purchase a fuel solvent made specifically for cleaning injectors. This solvent is stronger than the fuel additives and can greatly reduce or eliminate burnt-on residue. Do not add the solvent directly into the fuel system like you would with the fuel additives. It should be used to spot clean the injectors in the areas that you can reach while they are still attached to the engine. The third and final option is to have an automotive technician remove the fuel injectors from the car and clean them using special cleaning tools. If you can afford the cost, the last option is the best.

Frequency

Automotive manufacturers recommend that you have the fuel injectors cleaned every 15,000 miles by a certified mechanic. While it certainly can't hurt to have them serviced that often, having them cleaned every 30,000 miles or once a year is a good benchmark to use. The quality of the gas you put into the car affects the rate at which the injectors build up residue deposits. If possible, use only the highest-octane gasoline to fuel your automobile. This will extend the life of the injectors, as well as the engine itself.

References

About the Author

James Junior has been a professional freelance writer since 1996. He has written for The Other Woman Catering, as well as several magazines and online publications.