Additives for Your Car: Quick Fix or Waste of Money?

January 7th, 2013

Fuel system

As modern civilized humans, we expect quick results with nominal effort. We want magic weight-loss pills, we want to get rich with the simplicity of buying a lotto ticket, and we want to find love by posting a picture on a dating site.

Of course, there’s no quick way to guarantee any of those things. You just have to work hard and keep your mind intent on what you want. The mentality of instant gratification and quick fixes has fueled many marketing campaigns. Companies have learned how to tap into the minds of consumers and get them to part with their cash in exchange for products that promise to make life easier and better while solving a multitude of problems.

The cars we drive are certainly not immune to such marketing. Products that promise to increase fuel mileage, clean your engine, keep your gas from freezing, and more line store shelves. But are these products worth the money?

Gas-line antifreeze

What could be easier than protecting your engine by pouring a magic liquid into your gas tank? Gas-line antifreeze products promise to provide a quicker start on cold mornings by keeping gasoline in its proper liquid form. However, gasoline doesn’t freeze. In fact, it will still ignite in temps as low as -97 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’re driving around somewhere that gets that cold, may I suggest you move back to planet Earth?

Gas-line antifreeze is essentially a type of alcohol, which is already in most gas pumped from stations across the country. Why pay for something you’re already getting?

Fuel-system cleaners

It’s so easy to fall into the hype of improving performance and fuel efficiency by simply adding liquid to the fuel tank. The Environmental Protection Agency requires all gasoline sold in the United States to contain a minimum level of deposit-control additive to prevent buildup of sediment in the engine and fuel system. Many name-brand fuel cleaners do provide a benefit, but may not be necessary if the fuel system isn’t having any problems.

Oil additives

If you drive an older car with high mileage, you might think you need to add an additive to clean your valves and eliminate sludge inside your engine. Adding a bottle of cleaner just isn’t going to help. Regularly changing your oil and keeping up on maintenance will. Rarely will an engine get enough sludge buildup inside that it seizes, especially if the oil is changed every 5,000 miles or so.

Extended-life radiator coolants

This one is simple: Use the coolant recommended by the automaker, and change it at the required intervals. More frequent changes are a waste of money, and using a coolant other than what’s recommended could even hurt your engine.

Some people swear by products like these, while others steer completely away from them. If nothing else, perhaps the products provide a certain peace of mind to the people who use them. I, however, would warn against falling into a false sense of security or relying on these products in place of proper maintenance.

Do you swear by any additives for your car, or do you swear that they are a waste of money?

-tgriffith

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