Fuel is the ultimate grudge purchase. You only buy it because, if you don’t, your car is furniture. Everyone hates buying fuel. And most fuel buyers really don’t understand what’s going on ‘down there’ in your engine.
They’re easy marks for fuel-saving con artists.
Miracle fuel savers. Before you click ‘buy now’ with your credit card handy, there’s just one small problem: Fuel savers don’t work. And they don’t work because actual science says they can’t actually work. Let’s count ‘em down:
Here’s how to tell if an fuel saving device is bullshit. The acid test: If you read any claim like this example from those arseholes at Fitch Fuel Catalyst:
THE DODGY CLAIM
“...the Fitch Fuel Catalyst causes more complete combustion…”
-Fitch Fuel Catalyst
Any device that claims its benefit is derived from more complete combustion … is basically a bullshit sandwich with no bread.
Combustion is essentially already complete in a modern engine. Any car that conforms to the Euro 5 emissions standard is required to emit less than one tenth of one gram of unburned hydrocarbons per kilometre.
Think about that claim: if combustion were incomplete, unburned hydrocarbons would be coming out of the tailpipe. The maximum amount of unburned hydrocarbons allowed by regulation is about one one-thousandth of the amount of fuel going in. Seventeen years ago, when Euro 3 came in, it was double that.
So most engines out there on the road today are emitting between one and two tenths of one per cent of the fuel they consume as unburned hydrocarbons. And that means every bullshit fuel saver that claims to work by making combustion (quote-unquote) ‘more complete’ can achieve a maximum of only one to two tenths of a per cent increase in fuel efficiency.
That’s if they actually worked - which they don’t.
Many alleged fuel savers claim to be catalysts. And catalysts are real, chemical things. A catalyst is a material you put in a reaction to get it started more easily.
Platinum is used in catalytic converters in the exhaust for this reason. It doesn’t participate but it helps reform oxides of nitrogen in car exhaust into less harmful oxygen gas and nitrogen gas.
THE DODGY CLAIM
“The Fitch® Fuel Catalyst reformulates gasoline, diesel, fuel oil, propane and natral gas causing the reformulated fuels to produce more energy during combustion than these fuels otherwise would.” - Fitch Fuel Catalyst
Really? So the Fitch Fuel Catalyst violates the first law of thermodynamics. How utterly clever. The only way to reformulate the fuel, allegedly to get more energy from it, would be to put more energy into that reformulation. And - as any first year physics or chemistry student knows: you just can’t do that with a catalyst alone.
That’s kind of a big ‘no-no’ in the fundamental science domain.
Catalysts kick start hard-to start chemical reactions. Unfortunately, internal combustion is not hard to start. Quite the opposite. A great deal of effort goes into producing higher-octane gasoline - the sole function of which is actually to be harder to start than the regular kind.
Because harder to start gasoline allows higher compression, and higher compression makes engines more efficient.
The Rentar fuel catalyst is even more perverse. You install it upstream of the actual combustion chamber by plumbing it into the fuel line and letting the fuel flow through a magic substance.
THE DODGY CLAIM
"In a typical engines combustion process, fuel molecules have a tendency to cluster together… When fuel passes through the Rentar Fuel Catalyst’s patented combination of metallic and rare earth elements, a reaction occurs just prior to combustion that separates the clustered molecules so more are exposed to oxygen." - Rentar Fuel Catalyst
And there you see it: the word catalyst layered over the incomplete combustion myth. That’s what a bullshit club sandwich actually looks like...
FLOW FACTS FOR DUMMIES
Wouldn’t it be great if you could insert a turbine into the inlet air plumbing - to promote swirly goodness in the combustion chamber. The chaps at Hiclone claim to do that.
THE DODGY CLAIMS
"Hiclone’s special fins create a swirling effect, this optimises flow through the air intake system and improves the fuel air mixing to allow a near-complete combustion hence more power and improved fuel economy." - Hiclone
But wait, there’s more.
"By spinning the air it also creates a vortex that suck more air in so you get a double whammy, more air and a better mixture." - Hiclone
And why stop at one?
"In most vehicles, petrol or diesel one Hiclone will give you 5-15% increase in power and between 10-20 % better fuel economy, two Hiclones can give you up to 24 % better fuel efficiency and a pre-turbo Hiclone will bring the turbo on up to 600 rpm earlier and give you even greater fuel economy." - Hiclone
Apparently, the sky’s the limit. Well, actually, four is:
"basically 1’s good 2’s better 3’s best and 4’s the ultimate" - Hiclone
That’s simply disgraceful. Think about an engine working hard. Air is rocketing into the combustion chamber - sucked through a filter, down a pipe, past a throttle butterfly, into an inlet runner, then the port, and then it runs into the head of the open inlet valve. This is a convoluted journey.
And it is essential to get the air rapidly tumbling prior to combustion. It ensures a homogeneous distribution of mixture in the chamber. A great deal of effort in R&D goes into getting critical flow dynamics absolutely right.
When the inlet air hits the valve, it’s kinda dramatic. So dramatic that nothing the air does upstream makes any difference. It’s like water pouring over Niagra Falls - nothing you do upstream, before the waterfall, makes any difference to the violent mixing at the bottom.
However - and this is a big ‘however’ - one thing these bullshit devices can easily do - especially if you’re stupid enough to fit four of them - is restrict inlet air flow. And that is a guaranteed way to reduce fuel efficiency and performance.
Magnets are dead easy to fit - just clamp them around the outside of the fuel plumbing with the included zip ties. A politician could do it.
THE DODGY CLAIMS
"Introducing Fuel Saver, it is made of advance-precision-doped technology that produces high quality, high intensity and extremely directional magnetic flux to instantanously break down the complex fuel molecules, rearrange the entangled fuel molecules, ionize the molecules into cationic polarity, Inhibit molecules from clustering." - Fuel Saver
It’s like random keywords from a basic chemistry textbook, almost used correctly. Furthermore, according to those illiterate dicks:
"The end result is a more efficient & complete combustion, saving fuel up to 20% consistently."
- Fuel Saver
Look: the energy in fuel is derived from breaking chemical bonds in the fuel molecules. Fuel conditioned by magnets burns exactly the same as non-magnetically conditioned fuel. Magnets don’t affect fuel in any relevant way.
Combustion is abjectly unaffected by the alleged ‘alignment’ of fuel molecules. Magnets have absolutely no effect on combustion. They just don’t work that way.
SNAKE OIL ADDITIVES
Additives are like non-surgical facelift creams. Once you’re promoting them, you know your acting career is over. Centron Fuel Saver says it works:
THE DODGY CLAIMS
"by reducing fuel surface tension and introducing additional oxygen to the combustion process. Reduced surface tension allows better atomization so more of the fuel molecule to exposed to oxygen during the combustion process." - Centron Fuel Saver
Being exposed to oxygen does help, if you’re trying to burn. There’s no doubt about that...
"Oxygenates enable a more complete fuel burn providing better fuel economy and more power. The improved combustion reduces hazardous emissions and particulate matter (PM) through a more efficient, yet lower, temperature combustion process." - Centron Fuel Saver
Apparently it’s good for 15-18 per cent. That’s amazing. Unfortunately it doesn’t work because combustion is already complete. Surface tension is irrelevant to combustion in your engine. Lower temperatures are the exact opposite of what you want, and there’s already a powerful oxygenator in there too - it’s called ‘oxygen’. It’s in the air. Strongest oxygenator commonly available. So there’s that...
If four Hiclones are not enough, while you’re on the Hiclone website, you could also ‘invest’ (if that’s the right word) in a set of Pulstar high-energy spark plugs. That’s gotta be good. Right? Stronger spark; stronger combustion. What’s wrong with that? Unfortunately, everything.
THE DODGY CLAIMS
"Pulstar Spark Plugs generates a much larger spark than normal spark plugs, which reduces overall burn time and burns the fuel more completely. Once created, the spark dissipates over a period of 30 millionths of a second." - Pulstar Spark Plugs
I hope they realise how nauseating this is, for people who studied.
"With increased cylinder pressure, the pistons are pushed down with more force, which, in turn, generates more torque in the crankshaft, more liveliness to the throttle and more power to the wheels." - Pulstar Spark Plugs
Burning that fuel more completely. Again. When the piston approaches top dead centre, and both the valves are closed, it’s a powder keg in there. It’s gagging to burn. A more powerful spark does not, will not, cannot help. Any spark will do.
And anyone who uses the word ‘liveliness’ to describe throttle response deserves to die slowly, in brutal agony.
(I know this because God told me.)
TURNING WATER INTO HYDROGEN
This is my favourite. Kids at high school use the hi-tech miracle of putting electricity in water to split it up into hydrogen and oxygen gas. Electrolysis is very real - but the HHO generator kits you can buy from the likes of HHOkitsdirect.com are bullshit.
The proposition is: you split water into hydrogen and oxygen gasses using electricity from your engine, and you feed those gasses back into your engine where it burns and gives you a purported kick along.
THE DODGY CLAIM
"Mixes along with the air and gasoline (petrol) or diesel fuel of the car. The hydrogen-oxygen gases blend with the normal l fuel inside the engine, and upon combustion, rapidly ignite acting as a "combustion catalyst" , making the fuel burn faster, more thoroughly, and much cleaner."
More thoroughly. Plus a catalyst. Fuck me sideways - it’s like a broken record. If you use electricity from the car to manufacture the products you burn in the engine, the energy you get from burning those gasses can only ever equal the energy you used to create the electricity in the first place.
So, at best, you’re playing a zero-sum game. And that’s only if all the processes are 100 per cent efficient, which they are clearly not. So it’s actually costing you money to do this. And you’re producing a flammable gas cocktail inside your engine bay, inside a dodgy plastic kit you bought online. What could possibly go wrong?
Here’s the conclusive, non-scientific proof that fuel savers don’t work. Most of these bullshit devices claim you’ll save 15 to 25 per cent. And that would be truly amazing.
But if you figured out, tomorrow night, in the mancave - how to increase fuel efficiency by just one per cent - any of the major carmakers would pay you eight figures. Immediately.
So if you could actually deliver these kinds of savings, the options are: Sell to a carmaker and retire right away to Monaco, or sell ones and twos to the gullible for chump change on a two-bit website. I wonder why they all choose to go with ‘option two’? Maybe it’s because carmakers actually know how combustion works.
Thousands of people with big brains work every day in R&D centres and universities, and their job is to make internal combustion more efficient. There’s a race to achieve this, and all carmakers are in it.
Cars don’t come with turbinators or fuel catalysts or magnets or any of that other crap standard. We already know what increases fuel economy: It’s expensive. It’s direct injection, turbocharging, reducing internal friction. If the magnets, et cetera, really worked, they’d be fitting them on the factory floor.
THE GRIM REALITY: HOW TO SAVE MONEY ON FUEL
I don’t blame the people who get sucked in. If you’re not technically trained I get that the claims seem almost plausible. And nobody likes buying fuel. But if you want to save 20 per cent - that’s possible right now, without spending one red cent. Here’s how.
One: accomplish more with every trip in the car. Get more things done every time you go out. Ultimately you’ll make fewer trips, and you’ll save 100 per cent of the fuel you would have burned, during those trips you don’t make.
Two: Remember that your right foot is connected to a tap. The tap drains your fuel tank. Then it empties your wallet. Simply drive more gently, and you will save fuel.
Just do these two things and you will save 20 per cent. Maybe more. It’s not all that sexy, admittedly, but then, the real world tends not to be. You don’t need a miracle, but you do need to work at it.
Both these tips will save you substantially on maintenance too. I wish miracles were real. Really I do. Unfortunately they’re not. And I know that because God told me.