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‘Gas-Saving’ Products To Avoid

By Aaron Crowe

It seems that any time gas prices start rising dramatically, scam artists come out with more products that are supposed to help drivers save gas.

They often don’t work, and even if they do work a little bit, it’s nowhere near the double-digit fuel economy improvement that they promise, according to the Federal Trade Commission and tests by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Some can damage a car’s engine.

While the EPA’s tests don’t check what effect gas-saving products will have on a vehicle over time, any additives or modifications to an emission control system could harm the sophisticated and complex systems that area meant to alert drivers to problems.

For a full list of gas-saving devices that don’t work, check out the EPA’s “Aftermarket Retrofit Device Evaluation Program” results. It tested aftermarket devices and fuel additives that manufacturers claim will improve fuel economy or reduce exhaust emissions.

Many of the tests were done in the early 1980s, and diminishing interest in the program led to the most recent report being issued in 2005.

Here are some of the types of products that haven’t been found to work well, along with some false claims to look out for:

Improved air intake. Products such as the $102 Fuel Genie are simple-looking devices installed into the air intake hose closest to the air filter box, with the idea being that they improve air flow and thus increase gas mileage while adding horsepower and cleaner emissions.

Consumer Reports found the Fuel Genie — a plastic device with curved blades — didn’t result in any significant improvement in performance or fuel economy. A similar device called the Tornado Fuel Saver had the same poor results.

Fuel additives. Some ads claim these products are endorsed by the EPA, which says it doesn’t certify fuel additives. Such additives are required to be “registered” with the EPA, but the EPA doesn’t determine if the fuel additive works and registration doesn’t mean it endorses the product.

There are also aftermarket alternative fuel conversions that the EPA recommends against. Using such gaseous and alcohol fuels will result in fewer miles per gallon than using gasoline or diesel, it says.

Turn water into fuel. The EPA recommends against devices that claim to turn water into fuel not only because it has “no credible and complete data showing a positive fuel economy benefit from these devices,” but the installation instructions for some of the devices are tampering. Tampering with a car’s emissions control system is prohibited by the Clean Air Act and punishable by fines.

Advertisements for such devices claim to use energy from the car’s battery to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen gas, which is then burned with a car’s fuel. Following instructions to adjust the air and fuel ratio, or adjust a know and listen for the engine to misfire, are tampering, according to the EPA.

Fuel line devices. These may be advertised to heat, magnetize, ionize, irradiate or add metals to a vehicle’s fuel lines and increase fuel economy and reduce exhaust emissions. The EPA has found “no substantive effect” on either, and installation of devices that retard timing or adjust the air-fuel radio may be considered tampering.

One of these devices, the Platinum Gas Saver, was found by Consumer Reports to have no change in fuel economy, despite claims to improve it by 22%. The device includes tubing and plastic reservoir that claims to extend engine life by cleaning out abrasive carbon deposits. It connects to a vacuum line leading to the intake manifold and is supposed to add microscopic amounts of platinum to the air and fuel going to the engine, helping burn gas more efficiently and cleanly.

If you’re not satisfied with a product that claims to save gas, the FTC recommends contacting the manufacturer for a refund. Most companies have money-back guarantees.

If that doesn’t work, the FTC recommends contacting your local consumer protection agency or filing a complaint with the FTC.

Before getting into that situation, the best advice is to avoid buying such products and to take real steps while driving that can increase your gas mileage by 20%: Don’t drive with a heavy foot on the gas, coast when you can, drive the speed limit and don’t be an aggressive driver.


Aaron Crowe is a journalist who writes about personal finance topics and auto insurance for