Watch Out for Gas-Saving Scams
Gas prices climbing to nearly
$2 per gallon have prompted marketers to advertise products
claiming to improve gas mileage by, for example, “an extra
6 miles per gallon” or to “improve fuel economy
up to 26 percent.”
On July 12, 2004, the U.S. Federal
Trade Commission (FTC) issued a consumer alert: “Dubious
Gas-Saving Gadgets Can Drive You to Distraction.” The
FTC’s alert focused on potential advertising misrepresentations
and noted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has
tested more than 100 supposed gas-saving devices in laboratories
across the country. The FTC explained that the EPA has concluded
that most devices—including fuel-mixture enhancers and
fuel-line magnets—provided few, if any, fuel economy benefits.
Furthermore, the FTC explained the EPA is concerned some devices
might actually damage a car’s engine or cause substantial
increases in exhaust emissions.
The EPA has evaluated a number
of devices including fittings that bleed air into the carburetor,
vapor-bleed devices that bubble air through a container of water
and anti-freeze mixture, liquid injection mechanisms for the
fuel/air intake system, fuel-line devices that either heat or
cool the fuel before it enters the carburetor, fuel-line magnetic
units that are claimed to change the molecular structure of
gasoline, metals installed in the fuel line to supposedly cause
ionization of the fuel, mixture “enhancers,” a variety
of internal engine modifications, and fuels and oil additives.
The EPA found a few that indicated a slight improvement in fuel
economy, but at the same time they increased exhaust emissions.
Most marketed products were found to not offer the consumer
any benefit. If you are interested in looking at the list, go
Many of the tests were done on
products marketed in the 1980s, the last time gas prices were
historically high. However, the testing data is still useful
because misleading advertising tends to run in cycles. Many
older products that were considered scams before can be re-marketed
successfully because younger consumers aren’t familiar
with the scam, and older consumers have either forgotten about
the scam or the deception is packaged differently.
If you decide to buy a fuel-saving
device, the Better Business Bureau recommends you check with
your mechanic before adding it to your car because it may void
the manufacturer’s warranty or cause serious engine problems.
The FTC also makes several recommendations
to ensure you get the best miles-per-gallon rating possible
for your vehicle. First, use only the octane level your vehicle
needs, as indicated by your owner’s manual.
Second, maintain your vehicle
properly. Keep your engine tuned, make sure your tires are properly
inflated and aligned, change your oil as recommended by your
owner’s manual, and check and replace air filters regularly.
Third, the FTC recommends you
drive as efficiently as possible. Drive within posted speed
limits, use overdrive gears and cruise control for highway driving,
avoid unnecessary idling and jackrabbit starts and stops, and
remove excess weight from the trunk.
All of these recommendations are
useful and may save you some hard-earned money during this summer
and fall driving season.