Popular Mechanics magazine puts the smack down on ‘fuel saving’ gadgets

Popular Mechanics is one of the best magazines on the market for not only learning about new gadgets and gizmos but also getting the lowdown on what works and, more importantly, what doesn’t.

For many of us the huge increase in gas prices over the last few years has put a definite dent in our budgets and were all looking for gadgets that will help to increase our gas mileage and reduce the staying at the gas pump.

The only problem is that this desperation to save money on gas has allowed a new group of, ahem, opportunists to come along and offer us fuel saving gadgets that they say will do exactly what we want; increase our gas mileage and decrease our gasoline costs.

There’s only one problem; Popular Mechanics magazine has tested most of them and found out that none of them actually work.

They tested all of the gadgets that you’ll find in the next few paragraphs at the Universal Technical Institute in Houston using full-size pickup trucks. They of course did everything like you would expect and measured, quantified and noted everything down. The results of all of their tests are below.

Miracle Magnets. PM tested two of these gadgets but there are literally dozens of them on the market. All of them claim to improve fuel economy while reducing emissions and also increasing a car’s horsepower. What PM found is that neither of the two had any significant effect on either economy, performance or horsepower.  Miracle indeed.

Vortex Generators. These devices supposedly mix your car’s fuel more thoroughly with air and help it to burn more completely, thus giving you better mileage. The problem is that the turbulence that they create actually causes a reduced amount of air to be sucked into the manifold and a resultant decrease in power. Even worse, what PM found is that one of the two that they tested reduced horsepower by more than 10% while another actually increased fuel consumption by almost 20%. It seems that all they generate is frustration.

Engine Ionizer. When PM tested the Electronic Engine Ionizer they noted that the manufacturer refers to something called “capacitor blocks” but, in reality, there were no capacitors in the product. Instead what they found was that, since this device is intended to carry a charge from one cylinder plug wire to the electrodes of the other plugs, it was causing cross firing between the cylinders, something that any car mechanic will tell you is not a good thing at all. Not only that but they didn’t even get through their test before the Engine Ionizer began to melt and fill the engine compartment with smoke. Definitely a bust.

Vapor Injectors. What this device purports to do is convert raw fuel into fuel vapor outside of the engine and increase ‘atomization’ of the fuel. What PM found is that some cylinders were getting more fuel than others, causing some of them to run rich (not good). They also found that there was no change in power and fuel economy was completely unchanged. If you’ve ever heard that someone is “running on vapor” you know it’s not a good thing and neither is this gadget.

Water Injection. Developed for fighter planes during World War II, this technology is being used by a company that makes a water injection system called AquaTune. This is a device whose creators claim that it produces ‘hydrogen rich bubbles’ in your fuel and increases fuel economy. In testing not only did PM find that this wasn’t true but they found that their test trucks were getting 20 fewer horsepower and 20% poorer fuel economy as well. It seems that this technology should have stayed in the 20th century.

When all was said and done the engineers and scientists (and car dudes) at Popular Mechanics magazine had tested quite a few different gadgets and found that not a single one of them worked at all. If you are considering purchasing any type of gadget for your car that says it will increase your mileage, your fuel economy or your horsepower, do yourself a favor and think again. If the guys from Popular Mechanics magazine couldn’t figure them out, what chance do we mere mortals have? (That would be none)

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