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Nothing But Snake Oil. No need to read any more unless you want to.

We have all seen the advertising claims. Some widget added to your fuel line, air intake, or computer is going to give your car better fuel mileage, faster acceleration, etc. Many of the claims are utterly fantastic, while the more professional ads may be almost believable. Best of all, these ad claims are usually reinforced by a series of testimonials from "satisfied customers". WOW! All those people bought it and they are so happy!

Very few web sites for these devices pass my basic BS test. The websites that do pass my BS test are honest enough to clearly state that you need to install their "complete system" before you will realize any fuel savings. Their complete system always includes some additional method of reprogramming the air-fuel mixture, duh.

Sadly, none of the devices work nearly as well as the advertising claims. Most have no measurable effect on mileage, and a few actually REDUCE mileage. None of these devices will ever save enough fuel to pay back the purchase price. How do I know? Because I spent the time, did the research, and found reliable test data for each system that wasn't obviously a scam. If reliable test data isn't available for the system you are considering, ask yourself, "Why Not?" If the system is as great as the claims, certainly someone will have performed an actual test with altered and unaltered vehicles on the same course or dyno.

One type of device really captured my intrest. These devices are hydrogen or Browns Gas generators that are supposed to help your engine burn fuel more efficiently. The key here, that Mythbusters apparently missed, is that the car isn't supposed to run only on the gas from the generator. Obviously, no reasonably portable electrolysis generator system could possibly generate enough gas bubbles fast enough to run your engine. That is completely ridiculous, but there is some possibility that small amounts of hydrogen or Browns Gas could improve the combustion process in your engine. Sadly, while it's an interesting concept, there is still no proof that any of these devices work as claimed. On the other hand, there is plenty of evidence that the devices couldn't possibly work as claimed.

I was very disappointed in the MythBusters episode. Don't get me wrong, I LIKE that show, and fully expected to see a big "BUSTED" sign at the end of each gizmo tested on that episode. But, once again, I was left with the feeling that they didn't give any of the items much of a chance to work. Like many of their shows, I was left with the feeling that there were a few "tweaks" I'd like to try before giving up on the idea. If all inventors worked the way they do, we'd still be in the stone age. It is good to see that show has started taking another more conclusive whack at some of their previous shows.

The following statements are undeniably true:

1 - Basic Human Nature ensures a faithful following for almost any new device.

2 - Anybody can achieve a 15% or better increase in MPG with a simple change in driving style.

3 - Every modern automobile can be reprogrammed to provide better fuel mileage.br>

4 - Reprogramming for better MPG is not transparent. You will be giving up performance or driveability for that improved efficiency.

Human Nature

Testimonials are absolutely the least reliable source of information on anything. Any human being who buys anything is usually going to claim that the device works. Why? It is simple human nature. If they have been convinced to buy something, they are probably going to recommend it to others, unless it fails so miserably that the failure is too obvious to hide. Nobody wants to appear stupid for swallowing the latest snake oil sales pitch. Any increase in mileage will be attributed to the new widget, because they are trying to justify what they paid for it. Funny, most of the more convincing testimonial ads are using paid actors.

Driving Style

If I am thinking about my MPG while driving, I will drive differently, and get better mileage. It is virtually impossible to get valid before and after test results for these devices from the people buying and using them. Very few of the devices have been subjected to any valid test procedure.


You do not need to add any device to a modern automobile to get an increase in mileage. The on-board computers on every modern automobile are factory programmed to provide good driveability under all conditions. These programs are a compromise of many factors such as driveability, power, torque, and efficiency. Obviously, we can change the programming to favor efficiency more heavily than the other factors. Plugging into the conputer with the proper tool will usually allow some reprogramming of factory settings. Even if we cannot crack into the actual programming, we can change sensors or add a resistor to "fool" the computer into being more fuel efficient. Simple, but this reprogramming carries some risk. If we go too far or tweak the wrong setting, we risk running the engine too lean, and causing serious damage.


Don't buy anything based only on advertising hype and customer testimonials.
Save Your Money!

If you are determined to find a way to run a stationary engine or off road vehicle on something other than gasoline, do the research. It has been done. During World War II over a million vehicles in Europe were converted to run on wood gas. A wood gas generator is relatively easy to make out of low-cost materials, and it is possible to run an engine on nothing more than the wood gas vapor that the initial combustion of wood creates. One drawback to this system is the relatively large furnace that you need to somehow attach to the vehicle. I'm not joking, this is real and it was done successfully.

The best application for a Wood Gas Generator is a stationary engine. Partly due to the size of the wood-burning gas generator. A stationary engine also allows heat generated by the system to be used to heat hot water, or even a building. Wood is a renewable resource and when burned in a gassification type furnace, it is burned very cleanly, much cleaner than any conventional woodstove.

Small examples of the gassification type furnace can be purchased in the form of small camp stoves. These units will provide very hot flame from just a few small sticks gathered in the woods. They require no fuel other than a 1.5 Volt battery to run a fan. These units generate the wood gas vapor and then burn it to create a much hotter flame than just burning the wood once.

Another drawback to using a gassification furnace to run a vehicle is they take some time to start and shutting the engine off does not instantly stop the furnace. A search for "Wood Gas Generator" will take you to several sources where you can read up on the process for yourself.

The down side to this system, that may not be accurately measured in some tests is the time and energy used to cut trees into the consistent small sizes used in the generator.


Content and Web Design by K. LaRue — This Site Was Last Updated 31 MAR 2017.

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