Fuel-saving hoaxes you should avoid

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A hydrogen generator that guarantees 100 mpg for your car.

This hydrogen generator will not suddenly give your car 100 mpg fuel economy. (Photo Credit: CC BY-ND/Alicia Robbins/BuildHydrogenCar)

Everyone wants their vehicles to get better gas mileage. Not all gas savers are what they’re cracked up to be, however. Here are some snake oil gas-saving devices that numerous automotive industry sources have deemed fuel-saving hoaxes.

Hydrogen generators

Hydrogen generators may run anywhere from a few dollars for a book of plans on how to build one at home to nearly $2,000 for a more elaborate, pre-made device. In theory, this device collects free electricity and uses it to electrolyze water into hydrogen and oxygen, which is pumped back into the car’s engine, saving gas. Rather than guaranteeing 100 mpg, Popular Mechanics found in multiple tests that hydrogen generators did nothing to aid fuel economy.

Vortex generators

Rather than putting a tiger in your tank, why not try a tornado? That’s the theory behind vortex generators. Forcing an air vortex into the intake track of your car’s engine supposedly betters the fuel-air mix to improve combustion. In truth, such devices tend to reduce overall engine power and increase fuel consumption.

Ion generators

When the makers of the Electronic Engine Ionizer said that their device would carry the “corona charge” between the spark plugs of an engine – supposedly allowing the added energy to improve fuel combustion – perhaps they meant Corona the beer. You’d have to have quite a few Coronas in you to believe that a device without capacitors and made from molded rubber could do anything other than interfere with an engine’s normal function.


Just a spoonful of Acetone will supposedly help the gas in the tank burn more completely, which in turn increases mileage. The chemical solvent is supposed to change the surface tension of gasoline droplets as they enter the cylinder, helping them to evaporate more quickly. However, considering that the unburned fuel left in vapor form is only measurable in parts per million, even improving that by a huge amount would still have no discernible effect on fuel economy. Evidence that acetone does anything other than damage fuel system seals, injectors and fuel pumps is almost entirely anecdotal.

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Until 2006, a company named BioPerformance Inc. sold mothballs called “BioPerformance pills.” The Texas state attorney general shut the company down and ordered refunds to all customers who bought into the idea that these mothballs would “modify fuel’s molecular structure and liberate the energy contained within.” Rather than liberating energy, all that the naphthalene mothballs do is degrade octane, which may damage an engine.

Fuel-line magnets

Magnets have been labeled cure-alls for nearly everything; why should automotive fuel economy be excluded? Sure, magnets may be used to free foreign metal objects from the stomachs of cattle, but when attached to the fuel line near the engine of a car, the magnetic force does little to align gasoline molecules so that they’re easier to burn.

Water injectors

Water/alcohol injection has been proven to work well in aircraft technology when a safe boost is needed on a supercharged piston engine running at high altitudes. However, the automotive variation is more of a vacuum-operated affair, rather than a calibrated pump. Hence, the auto version can’t add water as needed, such as when the throttle is wide open. One device, the Aqua Tune, is supposed to be able to separate hydrogen and oxygen via ultrasound. According to Popular Mechanics, it simply reduces engine power and causes heat buildup.

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