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How to Stretch the Gas Budget

by Grassroots Motorsports

Posted on 5/23/2024 at 9:00 AM

Hands holding a wallet with a small amount of US dollars



 A common question heard when discussing gasoline: How can I save money at the pump? 

Instead of looking for a silver bullet that’s bigger on hype than science–the latest fuel savers touted online somehow, magically, only need to be plugged into your cigarette lighter–start with the basics, suggests Zachary J. Santner, senior specialist of quality at Sunoco. 

First, he says, drive with an eye on economy: windows up to improve aero efficiency, junk out of the car to decrease weight, and tires properly inflated to reduce drag. Running a non-ethanol fuel will yield more mpg, he adds, but the price of premium might cancel the gains found on the road. 

Next, take some time to make sure the engine is operating at peak efficiency, he continues. Are your air and fuel filters clean? Ignition components at proper spec? Is the engine running at its ideal temperature, or do you have a cooling system issue? Are you using the oil recommended in the owner’s manual? 

What else can you do? Ensure that your fuel system is clean, Santner says. Running a Top Tier fuel will minimize internal engine deposits, significantly reducing the crud that can collect in injectors and on the backs of the intake valves. 

What about tossing some fuel system cleaner down the filler? Well, not all cleaners are not created equal. Most contain a detergent and/or a solvent–see if the safety data sheets shine any light–and Santner notes that a detergent is more effective than a solvent. Picture a drop of dish soap dispersing the oil from a frying pan versus soaking dirty engine parts in a bucket of solvent. 

To help your research and shopping, he shares two popular, effective fuel system detergents: PEA (polyether-amine) and PIBA (polyisobutylene amine). Solvents – not as effective but very popular in the marketplace–contain various petroleum distillates, things closely related to toluene, kerosene, naphtha, and isopropyl alcohol. 

Why don’t all fuel system cleaners favor detergents over solvents? Well, those detergents cost more to produce.