Banish Performance-Robbing Crud From Your Engine
If you’re noticing a knocking sound, or a pinging during acceleration, you might be due for a stop at your trusted service center for an inspection.
“An engine knock or a minor rattle may get drowned out by music or traffic noise, but those little nuisances can turn into expensive repair bills if left unattended,” said Tony Molla, vice president of the Automotive Service Association. “Carbon build-up inside the engine can sap your vehicle’s performance and rob it of gas mileage.”
High-performance vehicles are particularly susceptible to problems with carbon build-up. They often require premium gas to operate efficiently. Using a lower octane fuel can reduce overall performance and fuel economy.
Engine gunk, known as carbon build-up, refers to the dark, sticky deposits that form on internal engine components. These deposits are byproducts of normal combustion within the engine. How quickly they accumulate depends on a number of factors, including fuel quality and engine efficiency.
Ignore it, and the problem only worsens, Molla said.
“Excessive deposits of carbon build-up disrupts smooth airflow into the engine,” he said. “Eventually, bits of carbon may break off and damage the engine and catalytic converters, or even affect sensors.”
Molla recommends routine maintenance to head off any potential issues--like a misfiring spark plug or too-rich fuel mixture.
“Deposits form in all internal combustion engines during normal operation, and they are not a problem if your vehicle gets seasonal maintenance,” Molla said.
Below, Molla offers some basic facts about carbon deposits:
- Carbon build-up occurs naturally. Although small amounts of deposits are no cause for concern, excessive build-up may damage the engine or catalytic converter and sensors.
- Know the tell-tale signs for carbon build-up. That includes reduced fuel economy, pinging during acceleration or increased emissions.
- Use the recommended fuel. Lower octane fuel in a high-performance engine increases problems with carbon build-up.
- Clean it out. If you suspect problems associated with carbon build-up, have your service advisor inspect the engine and recommend the best way to remove deposits. The solution may be as simple as replacing spark plugs.
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