Lightning in a Bottle?

Let’s cut right to the chase: Fuel additives have a bad reputation in our world. They go by all sorts of names–modifiers, enhancers, boosters–but one unifying term seems to stick to them like glue: snake oil. Like those supposedly medicinal liniments peddled at 19th-century sideshows, they don’t work, they’re overpriced, and they’re sold by con artists.

Or are they?

A new advertiser of ours, EFS Combust, says they’re different. They claim that their fuel additive isn’t snake oil, just science–and that it actually works. We decided to put their claim to the test using a dynamometer.

Focus on the Additive

We decided to put EFS Combust to the test on a dynamometer.

Face it: Strange, neon-green bottles of mystery liquid don’t exactly scream, “Trust your car’s engine to me!” This point was driven home when we walked through GRM headquarters asking for someone to volunteer a project car for the test. There weren’t any takers, with excuses ranging from “My car is already blown up” to “My belts squeal” to “Uh, no.”

We needed to find another way to get a test mule for our test. Just renting a car would be sort of boring, so we decided to try something new: car sharing. And no, that doesn’t mean we asked a neighbor if we could borrow their minivan.

We signed up for Zipcar, a company that rents cars by the hour. Their slogan is “Wheels when you want them.” Well, we wanted them, and we got them. A nearly new, automatic, naturally aspirated Ford Focus would be our guinea pig for just $7.50 an hour.

As usual, Superchips generously allowed us to use their Dynojet chassis dynamometer, which measures engine power and torque. They also loaned us two of their employees–Chris and Pat–who would ensure we didn’t break anything. With a bottle of EFS Combust fuel additive in hand, we were ready to get started.

Before we poured anything strange into the Focus’s tank, we had to pour in something familiar. We filled the tank with standard, 87-octane fuel and then drove the car 50 miles to make sure the system was clear–after all, an industrious past Zipcar driver might have poured something strange in the tank.

With the Focus’s fuel essentially “reset,” we strapped the car to the dyno and did three baseline pulls. The result: 146 horsepower and 133 ft.-lbs. of torque at the front wheels. (Yes, even seemingly meek cars have gotten powerful.)

Next, it was time for a shot of EFS Combust. We followed the directions on the bottle, adding a chaser of more 87-octane gas to make sure we hadn’t left any additive in the filler neck.

EFS Combust instructed us to run an entire tankful of the additive-spiked gasoline through the Focus before we did another dyno pull, claiming this step was necessary for the ECU to adapt to the new cocktail. That was all well and good, but we’re huge fans of controlling variables in our tests. Driving the car 300 miles and then bringing it back the next day seemed like a poor way to do that.

So we skipped that step. We never even unstrapped the car from the dyno after pouring in the additive. Instead, we ran the car from 30 mph to 80 mph and back to 30 again for about 5 minutes–no resistance.

We didn’t expect this to be sufficient for the additive to take effect, but we figured we might as well test the car again before doing anything more elaborate. We did three more pulls on the dyno. The result: 151 horsepower and 138 ft.-lbs. at the front wheels.

Wow. We were surprised, especially after we realized that the car had made more power everywhere, not just at the peak. It was like the entire power and torque curves had been picked up and moved five points higher.

The dyno operators were speechless. They’d never seen a fuel additive actually work before. They begged us to leave a few bottles of EFS Combust for them to try on their own cars. Then we all sat down for a spell and attempted to figure out what variable we hadn’t controlled well enough. We couldn’t come up with anything.

We know what you’re thinking: Of course GRM is going to say EFS Combust works, because it’s sold by one of our advertisers. Well, that isn’t how things work here. EFS didn’t get any special treatment, and we actually planned on the additive doing absolutely nothing–and told the company that’s what we were expecting this story to prove. We were surprised when the company said, “Go ahead anyway,” and this result explains their confidence.

Now What?

The dyno numbers looked good: More horsepower and torque. But don't worry, we aren't finished mythbusting this one yet.

Where does this leave us? We seem to have found a fuel additive that actually does what it claims to do: increase power and torque.

But this is Grassroots Motorsports, and we’re never content to provide results without explanation. We are, however, short on pages. In a future issue, we’ll get to the bottom of why EFS Combust works and try it out on something a little more exotic than a Ford Focus.

Think you know the secret of EFS Combust? Feel free to discuss it on our forum, which can be found here.

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View comments on the GRM forums
12/8/14 12:52 p.m.

A lot of them are just pure snake oil, surprised to see one of the few that actually work.

Rupert HalfDork
12/8/14 1:00 p.m.

Results?? Along with enough content and details to verify the results with please!

bravenrace MegaDork
12/8/14 1:00 p.m.
MNTuningGuru wrote: I would love to see some results from Race Gas, I have been using it for almost 2 years and absolutely love the stuff! Check it out and let me know what you guys think - (canoe link removed)

I don't see how a canoe could make any use of that stuff.

ebonyandivory SuperDork
12/8/14 1:32 p.m.

In reply to Tom Suddard:

Isn't there a write-up in the latest GRM issue?

bmw88rider HalfDork
12/8/14 3:42 p.m.

I'd be very interested to see what the difference would be with 93 octane in the tank as the baseline. With the way Ford does their engine mapping now, it may be running on a less optimal tune with the 87 octane in the tank.

pinchvalve MegaDork
12/8/14 3:49 p.m.

I'd like to see a comparison with actual snake oil. I have never been able to find any, I mean, how hard is it to press a snake for oil anyway?

Sine_Qua_Non Dork
12/8/14 4:04 p.m.

6 months later without any results? Must have been labeled snake oil early on

dculberson UberDork
12/8/14 4:10 p.m.

The article shows the dyno results. Link at the top of this page.

if you didn't see it at the top.

ebonyandivory SuperDork
12/8/14 4:22 p.m.
pinchvalve wrote: I'd like to see a comparison with actual snake oil. I have never been able to find any, I mean, how hard is it to press a snake for oil anyway?

If you get olive oil by squeezing the E36 M3 out of olives, how do you get baby oil?

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