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The Best Performing Fuel System Cleaner currently available.
on July 14, 2015
Redline SI-1 is currently the best fuel system cleaner that is readily available. One of the best examples supporting this statement is represented by the condition of my 2003 S2000's engine. I bought the car new and I'm responsible for essentially every one of the 99,700 miles on the clock. The earlier S2000s (1999-2003 model years - called the AP1) are notorious for oil consumption through the PCV valve (for a number of reasons), and as a consequence the intake manifold and throttle body will typically develop a nasty coat of carbon saturated goop. In contrast - the intake and throttle body of my S2000 could only be cleaner if I steam cleaned them (or ran a water/methanol injection system). I credit this product's use, in conjunction with using a top-shelf synthetic oil (Amsoil) with keeping my engine not only clean, but essentially free of wear. The last leak-down test performed on my engine (at 90,000 miles) showed less the 2% leak-down in all cylinders, and no more than 0.5% difference between all cylinders (1.25, 1.5, 1.5, 1.75 - cylinders 1-4). I do not drive my S2000 conservatively either, as it gets revved to 9000 RPM 2-3 times every time I drive the car - and my car is geared with a 4.44 final drive. Those are essentially 1/8th mile gears, and contribute to higher than normal RPMs in all gears, when compared to a stock S2000 - and significantly more RPMs on average than any conventional street car.
To give the proper perspective, the age of an engine is not simply a function of the number of miles driven, but as a function of how many average RPMs the engine turns per unit distance (measured in the engines average RPMs turned per mile driven). This is why (generally) a car with mostly 'highway' miles typically has significantly less engine/drivetrain wear than a car with mostly 'city' miles (and why city driving is considered "severe" driving conditions by most auto manufactures). With this in mind, your average Honda S2000's engine turns 1.5 - 2 times as many RPMs per mile as the average passenger car under 'normal' driving conditions. If an S2000 is driven in a 'spirited' manner - that number can be over 2.5 times the average car. So (for example) imagine a Toyota Camry with less than 2% leak down per cylinder with over 200,000 miles on the clock (essentially an engine that is barely broken in) - that would be amazing, and would give a more effective measure of part of the benefit of this product has provided my S2000. So imagine how much your 3 Series, Camry, Accord, Fusion… ANY gas fueled car would benefit from using SI-1 and a quality synthetic oil? It truly does make a difference.
You might ask - "how does a fuel system cleaner reduce wear in an engine?". The full answer is complicated, but the simplified explanation is that the the fuel - more importantly the additives in the fuel - provide upper cylinder lubrication (direct lubrication), and the detergent action in the fuel additives is designed to help prevent and remove carbon deposits in the engine. Deposits due to fuel quality and combustion byproducts are a major source of wear in all engines.
Most top-tier fuels (Chevron/Texaco, BP, Shell, Exxon to name a few) collectively established a self-imposed convention to supply higher levels of detergents than required by the government (a form of self-regulation). However, these fuels supplied with almost twice the level of detergents required by the government still do not provide enough detergent and lubrication to keep your engine clean - especially with the levels of ethanol pushed by the corn lobbies. As a result, deposit build-up is still a reality facing car owners. While deposit formation is not immediate in top-tier fuels - and most certainly not nearly as fast as with bottom-of-the-barrel fuels (Citgo, Raceway, Sams Club… etc), it will happen over time. This is where SI-1 shines: it provides outstanding upper-cylinder lubrication and cleaning action - keeping your engine almost analytically clean, and it does this without chemically breaking down your motor oil (in blow-by products).
One of the reasons this product works better than products from other quality fuel system cleaner manufactures (such as BG and Chevron), is the fact the SI-1's detergent process is more 'gradual', because it's specifically catalyzed by the heat of combustion - and the cleaning process is not solely reliant on strong chemical solvent action. The main components of SI-1 responsible for it's highly effective cleaning process (as mentioned by several other reviewers) are polyether amines (PEA). BG (44K), Chevron (Techron), and essentially most other fuel system cleaners rely heavily on strong solvents (non-polar solvents, of varying concentration and quality) instead of PEAs to remove carbon and other deposits (even though some of these products use low levels of PEAs in their formulation). While the use of quality solvents can be highly effective (again, dependent on the concentration and quality of the solvents used), the unfortunate side effect can be the premature chemical breakdown of motor oil - which is why most fuel system cleaner manufacturers recommend you use their products the tankful prior to a scheduled oil change. How many people are able or willing to schedule/time the last tank of fuel before a scheduled oil change in their busy lives? Not many.
You might have noticed I only mentioned two other capable fuel system cleaners by name (products which I believe are very effective "cleaners"). Their specific mention was deliberate. Other than Redline, BG, and Chevron the only other effective fuel system cleaner that I would recommend to anyone would be the one made by Amsoil (Performance Improver - PI). PI works in a similar manner to Redline's SI-1 and contains PEAs, but I have found Redline's SI-1 to be more effective and economical when compared to Amsoil's PI. The vast majority of other branded fuel system cleaners are essentially "snake oil", using ineffective concentrations or mixtures of solvents and carrier solvents (heavy aromatic naphtha, xylene), heavy petroleum products - and in the worst products, they use heavier alcohols (polar protic solvents) in place of more effective cleaning agents. The use of alcohols and some heavy petroleum products actually does more harm than good and actually creates more deposits. Your car may seemingly run a little better when operating with fuel treated with those products - but the car will rapidly run worse once the product is diluted in the follow-on tanks of gas. What does your average person do then? Buy more and add it to the fuel again (thinking it needs a little more cleaning). The car then runs a little better, but then doesn't (again) when the product is diluted… and I think you get the idea. This vicious cycle doesn't happen with a quality cleaner.
SI-1 Usage: The best way to use SI-1 is the way it was originally designed to be used - by titrating (mixing) a specified amount per tank (depending on how much fuel you fill up with). I personally use approximately 1/10-1/4 bottle per 10 gallons - using a higher concentration if my car's engine needs more cleaning (subjective decision), or if I am forced to use a lower-tier gas due to low fuel and few to no other options.
The instructions on the bottle recommend using a full bottle every 3,000-5,000 miles or so (like most of the fuel system cleaners available) - but not because of a formulation change. The change from Redline's previous recommended per-tank addition of SI-1 to a 3-5k mile interval was pure marketing - because most people are notoriously lazy and unwilling to add something every fill-up, and Red Line's marketing decided to accommodate those too lazy to titrate. While a bottle every 3-5k miles is not at all a bad choice (I occasionally do this to supplement the per-tank titration method), I don't substitute a 3,000-5,000 mile interval for the much more effective addition of SI-1 in every tank.
The main problem with cleaning your fuel system only once per 3,000-5,000 miles is the fact carbon and other deposits build up over the interval between clean-ups - and that build-up increases wear over that time. If you're running a conventional or cheap synthetic oil - that increased wear is happening just as your oil is breaking down, compounding the wear problems. Furthermore, treating one tank-full of fuel with your chosen fuel system cleaner once every 3,000-5,000 miles will not get rid of all the cumulative build-up, and the following interval between clean-ups will accumulate more deposits than the interval before the last (and so on).
SI-1 keeps my S2000's engine constantly clean as it is driven, and build-up (and wear) has never been a problem. Using SI-1 in conjunction with using a quality synthetic oil (such as Amsoil) is the best way to ensure long life and flawless operation of your (gas powered) vehicle's engine.