Reader Question: Fuel System Service?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Jetta Guy asks: My mother’s daily driver is a 2017 Toyota Sienna van. She also owns a small 2012 Toyota Tacoma automatic two-wheel drive that she uses for yard work and taking off the trash and taking the cats to the vet and such. Actually, I drive it more than she does but I’m happy to help out. About a year ago, I noticed that it didn’t accelerate like it should. It seemed to be dragging or holding back or something when I was going down the road. I’m not much of a gearhead, so I recommended that she take it to the Toyota dealer and have the transmission and engine checked out. They didn’t find anything wrong with it and didn’t do anything but maybe change the oil. I had also noticed that my mom’s van kind of drives like the truck. It has that feeling that something is holding it back. I thought it must be how Toyotas drive. Today she took her Sienna in for regularly scheduled maintenance. They recommended that she have the fuel induction system serviced and cleaned, so she agreed to let them do that. Wow! Drives like new. Smooth, no growl when accelerating, no weird holding back feeling in the transmission, instead, it’s perky and responsive. I told her that I think the truck needs a fuel induction service too and that that was what has been wrong with it all along. So what’s going on here and what’s the best way to make sure we maintain the engines in our cars for the long-term? Thanks for all your advice and insight about cars and everything else.

My reply: They basically cleaned the carburetor… if it had one! Instead, the cleaned the throttle body and maybe ran some cleaner through the injectors. It amounts to the same thing, which is to remove any accumulated crud. Fuel injectors have small orifices through which the fuel flows – analogous to a jet in a carb. If that little hole is partially occluded with varnish or such, the result will be less than optimal performance. A dirty throttle body will also cause similar problems.

The cleaning probably also took some gunk off the spark plugs, and now they’re firing properly, too.

As far as avoiding the need for all of this – or reducing the need: Not all gasoline is created equal. Some have better additives than others (e.g., Chevron which I try to use; Shell is also pretty good, in my experience). Avoid off-brand gas. It is cheaper for a reason.

Also – perform an Italian tune-up every now and then. Full-throttle runs will help clean off the varnish, too!

. . .

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  1. We have a 2012 Toy Sequoia and live in TX, where the EPA has mandated 10% ethanol gas unless the gas station has a service attendant present 24/7 . It has been almost impossible to find straight, regular unleaded for years, however, in the last few years a chain of stations called QT have opened up all over central TX and they offer regular, no ethanol gas because they have someone onsite all year. So, I’ve been diligently putting it in my sequoia ever since (about 4 years now). I seem to get better gas mileage and our lawn equipment is definitely running better, so that’s a plus. But Eric’s comment above about newer cars designed to run E10 makes me wonder if my sequoia is one? Am I wasting money by using regular unleaded? Also, is the fuel injection service at the dealership worth since I’m using regular gas? We’ve never had it done and they’re recommending now that the sequoia has 120k miles.


    • Now almost three years after posting this question, I find myself filling up with ethanol-free in any vehicle if it’s available. I haven’t noticed a problem with it and I think it gets better gas mileage which is offset by the higher cost. The reason I think that is that the life-time average MPG read out keeps creeping up over time and the only thing different I do is buy ethanol-free gas.

      Where I live, that makes the expense and gas mileage a wash. I don’t notice a difference in any other way.

      As for Techron additive, I don’t think it works well enough to justify the expense. The reason is the dealership cleaned the fuel injectors again after my mother was using it and her car drove better.

  2. Thanks for taking my question. I appreciate the explanation. It makes sense, so now I get it. I’ll buy some Techron additive since there are no name brand gas stations here.

    One more related question: Would 100% gas also help? I sometimes fill up the truck at the 100% gas place when I refill cans for the lawn mower.

    • Hi Jetta,

      It’s the additives that are the big factor – in a modern car. Defined as any car made since the ’90s, with computer controlled EFI and the ability to tailer air-fuel ratio to accommodate different fuels, including E10. Most newer cars are specifically designed for E10 and may not run as well on 100 percent gas, especially if its octane value isn’t as high as specified by the manufacturer.

      It won’t hurt anything to try a tankful, though and see what happens!


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