How the 'deposit control agents' are on a clean-up mission
Just because we can't see them means we often forget about the inner workings of our cars.
Take, for example, your car's fuel system. Just how clean is it?
Obviously, the better the fuel the more likely the system is to be in good condition.
We've heard a lot recently, especially from the likes of Topaz, about "quality fuels". We're told that by filling your tank with these fuels not only will you get more MPG but your engine will be cleaned too. But what does all that mean? And how is that possible?
Let's take a quick look at just one area in particular -additives.
How can they benefit your engine?
In the case of the ones we are talking about the additives are produced by a company called Lubrizol.
You may not have heard of it but one-in-three cars globally use its technologies.
Its lubricants are also used in household products such as shampoo, soap, and even in the soles of running shoes.
Recently Lubrizol opened their doors to Independent Motors to explain the science behind those additives.
Some of the outcomes were impressive - and served as a real reminder of how small things can have a big impact on our cars.
One of the additives is known as a 'Deposit Control Agents' (DCA). Sounds mysterious enough to be a spy thriller, doesn't it? But it is much more down to earth and functional.
Dirt such as carbon can enter your car's system in the fuel and stick to the injectors that release petrol or diesel to the engine. Too much of this debris can slow the release of fuel.
Blockages from such dirt can affect performance so you get symptoms of blockage such as stalling, increased fuel consumption or even engine misfires.
Within the DCA are molecules that enter a car's system while it is being refuelled.
These particles wrap themselves around the debris and remove the carbon deposits. By eradicating dirt from a badly-clogged system there should be a noticeable improvement in performance.
Lubrizol also have what they call a demulsifying additive that speeds the separation of water and oil.
On occasion, water can get into petrol or diesel during transport and development.
Too much water in your tank can cause serious damage to your fuel system, like fuel injector failures and pump corrosion.
The additive separates water and oil and is added to the fuel before it reaches the pump in your local station.
We're told that by the time a customer fills their vehicle, any water in the fuel should have reached the bottom of the fuel pump, which means that none should enter the car.
Surprisingly, it takes just a tiny drop of any of these products in the fuel for them to be effective. For example, a 50mg bottle of DCAs would be enough for approximately 300,000 litres.
So you can see how products such as these may help explain why we might pay a little more at some pumps than others.
It's not just Topaz who improve their fuel, of course. Other companies such as Esso do so as well.
The crucial thing is that they keep your engine clean and reduce the risk of expensive repairs and/or replacement.
They probably do cost more. Which is where you have to decide if the extra cost is worth it - or if you're prepared to risk outlay in the long run.
At least now we, hopefully, know a little bit more about what you are paying for.