With $4.00 a gallon gasoline weighing heavily on everyone’s minds, and major news sources like CNN constantly making reference to the coming energy crunch, fuel economy has taken on a new importance for many drivers. Pickup truck operators in particular feel the pinch more than car owners, as trucks are usually less fuel-efficient than cars. Not only that, but many truck owners use their trucks to tow trailers or haul heavy cargo, and both of these activities take their toll on fuel use.
It’s not surprising that now more than ever, those fuel saving gadgets and additives that used to be exclusively advertised on late night TV have suddenly become mainstream products. With everyone looking for an edge on gas mileage, you might have been tempted to purchase one of these devices and install it on your car or truck. Is it possible that any of these products live up to their promises, or is it all just snake oil in a box?
Sadly, it seems that almost all of these miracle cures for poor fuel mileage don’t add up to much more than marketing hype.
The ‘Turbonator’ is a device which is designed to be fit into the pipe that brings fresh air into the engine. Essentially, the makes of the device claim that by placing a stationary fan blade inside of the pipe, it can create a ‘vortex’ which will more efficiently burn fuel, increasing both mileage and horsepower. The makers of the Turbonator claim mileage increases of as much as 33%. Lofty claims like this one are an easy way to spot fakes and frauds. To begin with, if it were that simple to dramatically improve the fuel mileage of a vehicle, then Turbonators would all come stock on every car sold around the world. Unfortunately, automotive engineering is a lot more complicated than a one-size fits all vortex generator.
Another popular set of ‘fuel savers’ are devices which claim to use the power of magnetism to somehow improve your miles per gallon. These devices usually stick onto the fuel lines heading into the engine bay and make pseudo-scientific claims that the magnets ‘align’ the fuel molecules in order to promote quick burning. Sadly, magnets do not affect non-ferrous materials, negating any effect they might have on your engine’s performance. Even if these magnets were able to somehow re-arrange the molecular structure of fuel they way they claim, there still would not be a noticeable improvement in engine performance, as there is no evidence that this type of effect provides any real benefit.
The list of fuel additives and mileage increasing devices is quite long, but nowhere amongst any of those vaunted products will you find anything that will affect the efficiency of your vehicle more than a program of regular and consistent maintenance. Things like maintaining the proper air pressure in your truck’s tires, regularly changing your oil, spark plugs and air filter, and cleaning the carbon out of your intake manifold will not only increase your fuel mileage, but also lengthen the life of your truck. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of snake oil any day of the week.