Given the size and function of fuel injectors in modern vehicle engines, it is pretty amazing that these pieces of fuel delivery equipment don’t have more frequent issues than they do. However, depending on the car and engine type, as well as how it is used, fuel injectors do eventually need maintenance on a periodic basis. Without that, at some point the injectors will start to clog, and that will impact their ability to deliver the right amount of fuel to the engine as needed. The driver will realize this with poor performance while driving as well as the engine cutting out when at idle. That said, with most vehicles, the maintenance involved is not that hard to apply.
How Long Do Fuel Injectors Last?
Used the way they are designed, and assuming the parts are quality and not inferior after-market substitutes, good fuel injectors will likely last somewhere between 80,000 to as much as 100,000 miles of regular use. If the injectors are high quality, they can be expected to pretty much last for the lifetime of the car, such as what one finds with a Toyota or a Mercedes, for example. All of that said, poor driving habits and irregular usage will cut the lifespan of even the best fuel injectors significantly. Turbo engines are a great example of this problem.
With a turbo engine, the ideal driving conditions involve highway speeds for long distances, which essentially keep the fuel lines and injectors clean. If a turbo-driven vehicle is used for a lot of short hops, however, such as typical town driving and rarely used on long drives, the fuel injectors are going to clog up pretty regularly, almost as frequently as every six months. This was common with the Volvo V70T Wagon, for example. It was equipped with a turbo engine, which was great to drive but notorious for clogging up and cutting out at idle because of repeatedly clogging fuel injectors. Worse, the fuel injectors were in the back of the engine versus the front, making them hard to get to and driving up labor costs involved with every repair.
For the average person, however, fuel injector life can be extended by driving the car the way it was designed to be driven, realizing when injectors are not behaving right and getting them cleaned out timely, and replacing them with high quality substitutes when the time comes for a repair.
The Benefit of the Fuel Injector
Prior to the design of fuel injection, cars used carburetors. These mechanisms managed the mixture of oil and fuel, which was triggered by a cable mechanism tied to the throttle. As the throttle pedal was pressed, it would activate the cable which in turn would open up the carburetor, allowing the engine to pull in more fuel and air with the proper mixture. The design worked for decades in the 20th century, but ultimately fuel injectors came along and made them obsolete.
The fuel injector itself is a minute nozzle designed to spray fuel into the car engine cylinders where it is compressed and ignited to power the engine. The movement of fuel is pushed by the fuel pump, and the whole process is measured and timed by the car’s computer system and sensors. Depending on operation, the driver’s commands and sensors, the fuel injection is controlled to increase or decrease as needed. It works extremely well, but it’s also vulnerable to all the sensor information being fed.
Problems Can and Do Happen
Fuel deposits and grit are the primary issues that clog up fuel injectors. This happens when too much fuel is in the injectors and starts to gum up. The gumming effect occurs most often when the car is running at low speeds all the time, poor air control, or the fuel is dirty. As the injectors clog more and more, it affects the operation of the engine, and ultimately the engine cuts out. It will start up again and might even run a bit better after a good drive, but the problem will return again at idle until the injectors are properly cleaned out. Not doing so will ultimately damage them to the point of needing replacement.
Signs of problems start with fuel efficiency. Miscalculations usually err on the side of adding fuel, which ends up creating over-supply and leakage. This comes out in the form of smelling fuel around the car as well as poor gas mileage between fill-ups. As the problem gets worse, the car’s performance per gallon gas or diesel grows worse, and then the engine struggles to run.
While it is possible to stick with manufacturer replacement parts, there are multiple high quality fuel injector alternatives available for most cars today. The goal is to make sure you’re using premium brand parts versus knock-off substitutes. Since the fuel injectors have to work dynamically with the engine, poor quality parts will fail quickly, resulting in a double-cost of repairs. Go with a high-quality replacement to begin with and spend your time on the road instead.
Categorised in: Fuel Injectors
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