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Snake oil engine treatments

October 8, 2014
By Larry DeHays , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Let's say your car developed a little "hiccup" the other day. You see a product advertised that says it can cure that, and more, by simply pouring it into your gas tank. Come on, admit it. You've done it.

You've said that you probably got some bad gas and you figured that a little additive in the tank would take care of it, so you bought it and put it in. Results vary. Sometimes the problem goes away, sometimes it doesn't. If it went away, you're a genius. If it didn't, you probably tried some more of the additive. If it persisted, you figure you've done everything you can, and resort to asking for help; you call that friend of someone you know who said he knows about cars. If you do what he suggests and it works, he's a genius. If it doesn't, he's an idiot, and what are you going to do now? You can't go to a mechanic. They charge about $100 an hour, or something like that. Maybe you need a different additive in the tank. At least that doesn't cost much. Right?

Before you try that next additive, maybe you should take the advice of our highly successful drug companies.

- Consult with your mechanic before starting a treatment regimen.

- Ask your mechanic if that mystery liquid is right for you.

- Tell your mechanic if your engine has good compression, proper fuel pressure and mixture ratios, or any loose or out-of-adjustment mechanical devices that could affect your engine's performance.

- Before starting the treatment, test for worn spark plugs, plugged fuel filters, weak fuel pumps or clogged air filters that may affect the results.

- Do not use the additive if your engine shows signs of carbon buildup in the piston rings or valve guides, or excessive oil leaks or low oil pressure, as catastrophic breakdowns could occur.

- Stop using and call your mechanic if you begin hearing knocking noises, squeaks, squeals, or rattles that are new.

- Side effects may include, but are not limited to: burned valves, scored cylinder walls, plugged fuel filters and fuel injectors, melted emission control sensors, burned oxygen sensors, plugged catalytic converters, fire and general mayhem, leading to thoughts of suicide for the driver, or in some cases homicide toward the vendor of the magic liquid.

There are two flies in the above ointment:

1. You telling your mechanic about your engine is like you telling your doctor about your liver condition. That's his job, not yours.

2. You obviously don't have a mechanic to tell these things to, or better yet to ask about these things.

If this is true for you, it's your own fault. Mechanics are available. You pick them like you pick a doctor. Ask for referrals from friends, see if they take your insurance, and try them out with small stuff to see if you like them. Then you're set up if something happens to your car.

Leave the "snake oil" on the shelf. It won't fix your car any more than it would grow new hair on a bald head, and in some cases it can cause damage. Modern engines were not designed to use it.



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