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FUEL INJECTOR CLEANING OPTIONS
Should you clean the injectors in place or remove them and use some type of injector cleaning machine? It depends.
The easiest route is to clean the injectors in place because you do not have to remove the injectors (which can be a real chore on some import engines). Running cleaner through the injectors while the engine is running also removes many of the deposits on the valves and inside the combustion chambers. This eliminates the need for an extra cleaning step if the engine is full of carbon deposits. The job takes only 10 to 15 minutes, and you can usually tell right away if the treatment addressed the problem (engine runs smoother, idle misfire gone, etc.).
When doing the cleaning procedure itself, you must use pressurized equipment to feed the solvent directly into the fuel rail while the engine is running. This means you either have to disable the fuel pump and plug the fuel return line, or install a U-tube so the fuel will recirculate right back to the tank. Disabling the fuel pump can set a fault code on some cars, requiring you to clear the code after the job is done.
Easy as it is, there are some limitations with on-car injector cleaning. One is that badly clogged injectors may not pass enough solvent during a normal cleaning cycle to be thoroughly cleaned. Some baked-on deposits can be very difficult to remove, requiring you to prolong or repeat the cleaning process. And if on-car cleaning does not work? You will have to remove the injectors and have them cleaned on an injector cleaning machine - or replace them.
Another limitation with on-car injector cleaning is that you may have to do some additional tests to confirm that the injectors responded well enough to your cleaning efforts. A test drive may be needed to see if the driveability symptoms have been eliminated, or you may have to check emissions to make sure HC and CO levels are back to normal. A power balance test is another way to confirm engine performance and check for weak cylinders (there should be less than a 10% power variation between cylinders). An injector pressure drop test will tell you if the injectors are flowing evenly or not.
There may be some risk to the vehicle's fuel system when using concentrated solvent to clean the injectors in place. Most equipment suppliers say to disconnect and plug the fuel return line so that solvent does not circulate back to the fuel tank. Strong solvents may attack rubber and plastic components in the fuel pump, regulator and fuel lines, creating additional problems that you don't need.
On-car injector cleaning also involves some risk to the person who's performing the service. You have to disconnect pressurized fuel lines, make sure there are no fuel leaks, and feed high-pressure solvent (which is just as flammable as gasoline) into the engine while the engine is running. Safety precautions should always include eye protection, making sure there are no open sources of ignition (sparks) nearby, and avoiding direct exposure with the cleaning solvent.
Thursday, July 31st, 2008 AT 4:25 PM