Gas tank
Image Credit: Pixabay

Dubai: I have been driving in the UAE since I was 18. Basically around 11 years now. My car has been running just fine. My petrol station visits were completely normal and routine.

Suddenly a few years ago, I started getting comments about my car tank.

“Ma’am you need a fuel injector cleaner. You should buy our product,” the petrol attendant would say.

Over the years I just kept hearing the same line every time I went to refill my tank.

The first time I was asked, I wanted to be polite. So I asked the attendant how much the fuel injector cleaners are. He tells me that one bottle is Dh50. I tell him "no thank you, I don’t need it." He discusses it with me a little longer. Insists that it is for the safety of my car. Says that gunk in my tank could cause damage to my car. Then he tries to reduce the price. I insisted that I wasn't interested. 

I admit that I am no car expert, but if this cleaner was something that I needed, wouldn’t have someone mentioned it to me 10 years ago when I started driving?

I was skeptical, but at some point, one of them broke me down and I reluctantly agreed to having one of the petrol attendants use the fuel injector cleaners. I gave them the benefit of the doubt and thought, maybe if I did this, they would stop pestering me for a while.

The whole thing took a few minutes and I dropped Dh100, because he told me I needed two to clean my entire tank (still can’t believe I fell for this).

I went on about my day. A week later, when I had gone to refill my tank. I was told again: “Ma’am, your tank seems a bit dirty and clogged. You need some fuel injector cleaner. Only Dh50.”

I had literally just cleaned it.

Instead of getting frustrated, I asked the petrol attendant, who requested to remain anonymous, why they always insist on selling these products. It turns out that each of them have a target to sell five per day. If we sell five, then we get 10 per cent commission. If we don't sell, they we have a small salary cut."

UAE residents speak out

“I get asked almost every time I go to the gas station whether I need this product,” Karim Bartz told Gulf News. “I usually don’t get told I need it. I get asked if I want it. I know that I don’t need it.”

“Every single time I go to a petrol station I am asked if I want to buy it. One time I was asked right after I got my car serviced,” Danielle Ferns said to Gulf News.

"I often need to lie to them about an upcoming service appointment, because they are so pushy," Sumeetha told Gulf News. 

“My car was a week old when I went to fill it up with gas, and they told me I needed it,” said Leila Gaafar.

“I get asked to buy fuel injector cleaners all the time. I always say no thanks,” said Menna Hani.

“Apparently the attendants are actively pushed to sell them,” Karim Nasr told Gulf News.

So do you really need fuel injector cleaner as often as petrol station attendants insist that you do?

The short answer is: No

But we are going to give you the long answer anyways. Gulf News reached out to car experts to hear what they had to say about it:

Imran Malik from wheels magazine said, “Your car’s fuel injectors generally need to be clean to ensure proper engine function and efficiency. If your engine is seriously spluttering and stalling then the injectors will need high concentrations of cleaner to be pushed through them using specialized equipment which will remove all the gunk and heavy deposits.

The fuel pump in your car’s tank – which operates at around 10-15 psi - won’t have the required pressure meaning those cleaners won’t really be of too much use. To properly clean the fuel system it would have to be disassembled and thoroughly cleaned.”

“I used to work as a service engineer. You only need to clean your fuel injector once or maximum twice a year,” said Samer Khalaf, a car expert and former employee at a local automotive company. “Fuel injector cleaners have corrosive chemicals that might damage the coating of the fuel tank, or damage the fuel injector cleaners, so you should be careful about using too much of it. They try to sell you the product so that they can make a profit. It depends on your car, but generally you just need to do it once a year and that's it. Just do it when your car is being serviced.”

Alexandru Khisaf, an executive who works in the automotive industry told Gulf News “Fuel injector cleaner to a car is the same as detox juice is to your body. You have kidneys and a liver that automatically detoxes your body for you. If they don’t work properly, then you get sick, or you die. Your car has fuel filters already. You may choose to get it cleaned once a year, but I wouldn't use these products. They are made to make more money."

Osama Sherif, a communications manager working with luxury car companies in Dubai, tells Gulf News, “Fuel injectors should be used every now and then. I personally use them every 2,000-3,000 kms but each brand of fuel injector cleaner has its own instructions on how to use it. Your fuel injectors tends to build up dirt from gas impurities and the injector cleaner makes sure all this dirt is burned up with your fuel. It’s not so much necessary, as it is preventative care for your injectors. If your injectors are super clogged, you'll need a mechanic to clean it for you. A bottle of injector cleaner will not help much.”

The science behind it explained

There are two types or grades of petrol available in the UAE - Special at 95 octane and Super at 98 octane. Car enthusiasts have long butted heads in debates over which of the two allow their car to deliver a better performance.

Many argue that petrol with a higher octane value increases power in vehicles, delivers less pollution and helps to maintain a cleaner engine. Others counter that there is barely any difference in car performance and that using a higher octane value fuel is actually detrimental to the engine.

Petrol companies have themselves said that while all fuels that you pump into your car contain cleaning additives, those with high octane levels contain more or better detergents to keep the injectors clean.

So you might notice that if you ask for Special 95, you are more likely to get the question about whether you want to buy fuel injection cleaner.

So why are they selling me things I don't neccessarily need?

Petrol station attendants try to make commission by selling products while you are filling gas. I've been approached by people selling salik cards, perfumes and tissue boxes. Fuel injector cleaners are the current product being pushed to customers. And they are being pushed hard.

All the experts I spoke to recommended that if you needed fuel injector cleaner, not to buy it from petrol stations in the first place. There are many brands that you can find for much cheaper in car accessory stores for Dh20 to Dh30 instead of the Dh50 - Dh60 ones you get from petrol stations. Or just request that your car service provider does it for you.

And now you know.