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Comparing Diesel Fuel Additive Choices: Are They All The Same?

Posted by: Erik Bjornstad

Diesel fuel has changed dramatically over the last ten years. It doesn’t behave like it used to. It’s storage life is significantly lower than it used to be.  The removal of sulfur has all but eliminated its prior resistance to fuel microbes. And it doesn’t burn as cleanly as it used to.

Dee-Zol.pngThese changes have given rise to all manner of new fuel additives from people you’ve probably never heard of (and some that you have).  They all claim to do a host of similar things. And they all claim, of course, to be the best. How else are they going to set themselves apart from their competitors?

So much noise in the market from people yelling “I’m the best! Me too! Me too!”  has inevitably led to consumer confusion.  They don’t know which fuel treatments are the best.  They’re not at all sure which claims to believe or even if any of them are worth anything at all. They all seem to be the same.

So Many Fuel Additives Create Confusion

If they’ve determined they need to look at a fuel additive, diesel fuel users have certain kinds of benefits in mind.  Some of their expectations in this flow from what they think their fuel should be doing (I should be getting better mileage than this). Some expectations come as specific responses to fuel problems they have determined are present (My filters are plugging quicker than usual).  Still other expectations fall under the category of “I didn’t know I needed that, but now that you mention that, it’s a good idea”.

Given the most common issues with today’s diesel fuels, there are certain things that should be included in the benefits portfolio of a good diesel fuel additive. If a benefit should be included, that necessarily implies that it can actually be accomplished through using a fuel additive. 

This is an important point. The fuel additive industry has a reputation for “snake oil” because of bogus and exaggerated claims.  These claims create expectations in the consumer, who doesn’t have any reason not to believe what’s being told to them. Why should they? They’re not a petroleum chemist or a fuel expert. They’re busy running a business and getting the job done.

So the consumer buys into the claims, which then aren’t fulfilled. The consumer is disappointed and feels stupid for having been fooled.  The consumer then forms the opinion that fuel additives are all a waste of money. They’re all garbage, a bunch of snake oil. I won’t be fooled again.

You can’t blame them for feeling that way.  But there are fuel additives out there that do deliver on their promises. Chemical treatment of fuel (which is what you’re doing when you use a fuel additive) is known within the industry to be able to do specific things, like (among other things) enhance stability, improve a fuel’s lubricity rating, or increase its cetane rating.  This isn’t alchemy, after all. Refineries use fuel additives to make sure the fuel they’re sending out meets legal specifications. So they’re not all snake oil.  But it does help to know a little more about what some of the bigger names are claiming and if those claims are obviously false or if there’s something to them.

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This post was published on April 19, 2016 and was updated on April 26, 2016.

Topics: Diesel