What is Carbon Buildup and Do I Need To Worry About It?

Think of your engine like a fireplace. When the fireplace burns fuel it releases fumes, waste byproducts of smoke and carbon. In a fireplace the fumes go out the flu and deposit along the flu walls on the way out. The more fuel you burn the more caked on the deposits become, eventually blocking off the airflow of the flu and impacting the fireplace’s ability to warm the house.

It’s similar in a car. When the fuel burns, it releases the same kind of waste byproducts which deposit themselves on the intake manifold.

The problem is that the carbon buildup restricts the airflow to the engine and causes obvious problems.

What are the symptoms of carbon build up?

  • Drivability issues, engine not running smoothly
  • Engine vibration or shaking
  • Car jerking or surging at stops
  • Check engine light may be on
  • Cold start misfires

How to fix carbon buildup.

If you are having engine issues, the first thing you need to do is to take your vehicle to a reputable mechanic and have them check it out. If it is discovered that you have carbon build up affecting your engine, the mechanic will have to remove the intake manifold and manually clean them.

There are several ways to remove carbon build up. Some shops use “walnut blasting;” which is spraying the manifold with crushed walnut shells to in essence scrape out the carbon out of the intake manifold. However, walnut blasting may not get all of the carbon out of the engine, and in addition, errant walnut shells may get into the engine causing friction (and damage) where you don’t want it.

Another way to get rid of carbon build up is through the use of chemicals and this tends to be the most successful option.

How to Prevent Carbon Buildup

  • Get regular oil changes, and use the correct fuel for your vehicle. If you own a German auto, using top tier field (as recommended by your manufacturer) can help, but will not totally prevent this problem.
  • Put the pedal to the floor and “blow the junk out.” If you are mostly driving commuter miles, then it can’t hurt to take your car out on the freeway and let it go. But again this will not totally prevent carbon buildup.
  • Fuel additives: while many fuel additives claim to prevent carbon build up, it’s our experience that none of them really do. The fact is that carbon build up is just a byproduct of owning a direct injection engine and cleaning it out should be one of the regular maintenance items that you shouldn’t ignore.

If you have any questions about carbon build up, we invite you to give us a call. 631-518-3665.

Photo by khunkorn via Canva Pro

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