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Devices That Improve Fuel Economy - The Good, The Bad, And The Ripoffs!

May 29, 2008
With gas prices raising the roof, there are some devices and modifications you can implement that will improve your fuel economy and increase your gas mileage. Some of the devices that claim to improve fuel economy on the market work great, and others are flat out scams. I'm going to show you some of the most popular offerings and tell you which work and which are a waste of money.

The Electric Supercharger (Fail)

The electric supercharger is designed behind the idea of forced induction modifications such as belt driven superchargers or the popular turbocharger which is powered using exhaust flow. While the idea is great in theory, I have yet to see one with a motor capable of pushing air near as fast as the engine is already consuming it. In other words, these tend to actually SLOW down the flow of air into the engine which can not only cause worse fuel economy, it can also damage your engine by causing a rich fuel to air ratio! Dyno tests on a 1998 S-10 V6 indicated a 7hp LOSS and an average loss of 3mpg.

Vortex Generators (Poor)

Here is a product which I have actually had marginal success with. The "Turbonator" and similar knock-off products basically cause a spinning motion in your air intake hose, which in most cases allows the air to travel faster to the intake manifold. They are easy to install, and they do work to a certain degree, but in my tests I've noticed a maximum increase of 3 horsepower and no noticeable difference in gas mileage on average, which is far under the projected results. Because it's so quick and easy to install, I tested this on 5 different vehicles with similar results from each.

Performance Chips (Good)

There are several Performance Chips available which can not only add horsepower to your vehicle, but also improve gas mileage. These work best with high performance gasoline engines and diesel engines. I have nothing bad to say about the performance chips, other than that they can be quite pricey and generally will require installation and dyno-tuning by a professional performance shop, which itself can be quite pricey. That being said, they DO work. Horsepower increase is the most noticeable with these, but they average around 3-5mpg increase.

Magnetic Fuel Conditioners (Fail)

These inexpensive devices can be had for around $10, and will do absolutely nothing for your gas mileage. You'd be much better off putting that $10 into your gas tank. This is an extremely tiny gadget that you basically zip-tie to your fuel line and you should magically get better fuel efficiency. The idea is that perfectly placed neodymium magnets will align the fuel molecules, and "supercharge" or "ionize" them. Scientifically speaking, that makes no sense! Feel free to try if you're curious, but these get a thumbs down from Bruce!

Mass Air Flow Module (Fail)

There's not really a common name for these, but they are usually a very small box with a couple wires available on various spots on the net for $5-$15. The basic idea is that you will plug this into your Mass Airflow (MAF) sensor or Intake Air Temperature (IAT) sensor, and it will fool your cars computer into thinking that the air coming into the engine is colder than it actually is. This is done using nothing but a resistor that you can buy at Radio Shack for less than a dollar, and that's it! It DOES work in the sense that it fools your computer, but it doesn't improve gas mileage OR power output from widespread testing. Don't fall for this one like my buddy did!

Hydrogen Cells/Water Cells (Excellent)

Why Excellent? Most people are reporting results of 20-45% increases in fuel efficiency. These work by splitting water into "HHO Gas" which is basically Hydrogen and Oxygen separated from each other. The only drawback is that there aren't really any production units available. Most HHO enthusiasts built their own setups. Fortunately it's not terribly complicated and it can be done at a fairly reasonable cost. There are some great plans available that show you exactly how to set this up for your car. I've also personally tested this setup with great results.
This is one of the few devices that improve fuel economy on a easily measurable level.
About the Author
For more information on the Water cell/HHO setup I'm using on my Trans-am and other devices that improve fuel economy, you can check out http://www.squidoo.com/Gas_Mileage_Devices
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