The Truth About Fuel Additives and “Snake Oil”

Fuel additive. What exactly is that and what does it mean?

Well if you are like most of us at BG, anything labeled fuel additive should at least clean fuel injectors, remove engine deposits, and maybe lubricate the upper cylinders (maybe).

Hmm, sounds simple enough, but is it true for all fuel additives? That is the question we need to ask!

The fact is, most fuel additives are probably safe and compatible with gasoline and your entire fuel system. But not all fuel products actually clean fuel injectors, remove engine deposits, and lubricate the upper cylinders. And that, my friends, is why the term snake oil is tossed around.

What is “snake oil”?

At BG, we cringe when we hear snake oil. It’s an insult! Snake oil is a very old term, but in our business, it means: a product of little real worth or value that is promoted as the solution to a problem. Since 1971, BG chemists and automotive technicians have worked tirelessly to prove the effectiveness and quality of our products, which are the complete opposite of snake oil. In summary, BG products are not, never have been, and never will be, snake oil. I’ll get off my soapbox now.

Why do people think “snake oil” when they hear fuel additive?

Like I said, not all fuel products actually clean fuel injectors, remove engine deposits, and lubricate the upper cylinders. It’s true, some fuel additives really are snake oil. Unfortunately, some low cost products are made from low cost machine oils or cheap solvents like kerosene. You can probably find them on the shelf at the local gas station. Many have no cleaners or poor quality cleaners at best. My guess is, they spent too much money on label design and marketing and not enough on the chemistry.

How is it legal to sell fuel additives that don’t work?

With regard to fuel additives, we’ve seen it all:
“A great tune-up in a bottle!”
“Cleans and lubricates the fuel system!”
“Neutralizes low sulfur fuel problems!”
“Increases power and miles per gallon by burning excess exhaust emissions!”
“Increases the life of pumps and injectors!”

Unfortunately, these types of claims sound great (if not confusing) to the average person. But if actually tested to see if they hold true, many fuel additives would fail miserably. Who’s going to risk that!? According to the EPA, fuel additives just have to be registered. It doesn’t matter if the product contains grape juice. If it’s going through the fuel system (combusted in the engine and exhausted out the tailpipe) its only requirement is that it has to be registered. And we wonder why people call it snake oil. There’s no proof of performance.

Most fuel additives are probably safe and compatible with gasoline and your entire fuel system. But not all fuel products actually clean fuel injectors and remove engine deposits.

Without proof, how do we know what’s snake oil and what’s not?

Legitimate companies should be able to prove their fuel additives do what they say they do. And they can do that with professional tests from ASTM.

ASTM International is an organization that develops and publishes voluntary consensus technical standards for a wide range of materials, products, systems, and services.

Fuel additive tests include: ASTM D5500, a BMW 318i Intake Valve Deposit (IVD) test, and ASTM D6201, a Ford 2.3L IVD test. Both tests determine whether the fuel additive you are using will actually clean anything. Proof!

Thankfully, there are some fuel additives available that have passed tests like these. And it just so happens that BG 44K® Platinum® ranks at the top of a very small group of elite products to do this!

BG 44K® Platinum® has not only passed the two professional standards above, it has also been tested in a San Diego Yellow Cab fleet, where engines were dismantled and examined to see if BG 44K® Platinum® actually kept the engines clean. It did.

That’s why BG 44K® Platinum®, with its patent-protected cleaning technology, is unmatched in the fuel additive market. BG 44K® Platinum® is thoroughly tested and has passed tests on cleaning catalytic converters, fuel filters, oxygen sensors, and fuel pumps.

Do you think low cost fuel additives have passed extensive (expensive) performance testing? Probably not! If you want something that won’t harm your fuel system, but won’t help it either, keep pouring in the cheap fuel additives (snake oil). But if you want to pour in the fuel additive that has been proven to clean your fuel system and improve performance, find a BG shop near you and ask for BG 44K® Platinum®.

By Michael Belluomo
Technical Service Manager
Mike has 35 years of experience in fuel and lube technologies. He manages all product-related inquires and assists with BGU and Distributor-specific training. He is a regular contributor of articles on product understanding and technical industry trends.

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