The aisles in most automotive parts stores are overflowing with specialty chemicals for all kinds of applications – everything from oil, fuel and coolant additives to cleaners, protectants, waxes and polishes. New products are always being introduced that provide additional benefits over existing products, or fill a niche that had previously been neglected.
Take fuel system cleaner for example. A single product is no longer adequate for the many different types of fuel systems that are on the road today. Back in the days of carburetors, a universal carburetor cleaner was all that was needed. We still have some older vehicles with carburetors on the road including 1980s and older pickup trucks, restored muscle cars and classics. Most vehicles today, however, either have multiport fuel injection or gasoline direct injection.A cleaning product formulated for removing varnish from a carburetor may not be the right product for cleaning a dirty throttle body, or dirty injectors. What’s more, a fuel additive that is formulated for cleaning multiport fuel injectors may not provide much if any benefit for the intake valves in a late model engine with gasoline direct injection.
With multiport injection, the fuel that sprays out of the injectors goes directly into the intake ports. An additive that is designed to loosen and remove carbon deposits will clean both the injector and the intake valves, and depending on the formula, may also help remove carbon deposits inside the combustion chamber. On the other hand, with gasoline direct injection, the fuel is injected directly into the combustion chamber, not the intake ports. Consequently, carbon deposits can build up on the intake valves causing drivability, emissions and performance problems. For these kinds of applications, a fuel cleaner formulated especially for direct injection system is needed.
Many customers need help figuring out which product is going to work best for their vehicle whether it is a fuel additive, oil additive, cooling system additive, or body care product. They rely on your expertise to help them choose a specialty chemical that will meet their needs. So, you need to be familiar with the various specialty chemical products on your shelves, the applications they are recommended for and how they are supposed to be used (including any precautions on the product).
Take something simple like wax – it isn’t just wax anymore. There are waxes for clear coat/base coat paint, for solid enamel/lacquer/acrylic paints, and even for various paint colors. Some waxes are specially formulated to hide swirl marks and scratches on black paint. This type of wax should not be used on any color other than black. Some waxes contain abrasive cleaners, which should never be used on clear coat/base coat finishes.
Another product that should only be used in certain applications is zinc (ZDDP) oil additives. These should never be used on clear coat/base coat finishes.
Another product that should only be used in certain applications is zinc (ZDDP) oil additives. These products provide extra extreme pressure anti-wear additive for older engines that have flat tappet camshafts. Today’s motor oils do not have as much ZDDP as they used to because modern engines with roller cams or OHC cam followers do not require as much ZDDP. Another reason why ZDDP has been reduced is that over time, it can shorten the life of the catalytic converter. Consequently, most ZDDP additives are not recommended for late-model vehicles with converters.
Cooling system sealer is another product that is available in different formulations. Some products are designed to seal small pinhole leaks while others are for more demanding situations such as sealing a leaky head gasket. Choosing the right product is essential to achieving a successful repair.