'Gas-Saving' Additives Only Subtract From Your Wallet

By Michelle Singletary
Thursday, July 10, 2008

As gas prices continue to soar, schemers are ramping up claims that they have just the right device or additive or some other gizmo for better fuel economy.

But many of the claims are misleading or fraudulent, government agencies and the Better Business Bureau contend.

The BBB says it has seen these scams before, especially during the gas crises of the 1970s. Typically, the schemes are for fuel additives, special gas caps or gas-saving devices that attach to your engine. However, because some of these devices can cost a few hundred dollars to $1,000 or more, you end up spending rather than saving.

In general, many of these products don't produce, said Cathy Milbourn, a spokeswoman for the Environmental Protection Agency.

"Cars are very expensive, and you want to make sure what you are using is going to work," Milbourn said.

The Pennsylvania attorney general's office recently warned consumers about falling for alleged fuel-saving products.

"There is no magic way to instantly boost your vehicle's fuel efficiency, so be careful before you spend money on additives, devices or other products that promise dramatically better gas mileage," Attorney General Tom Corbett said in issuing the consumer warning. "These gimmicks or gadgets may give you little or no return on your investment, and may also damage your car or void your warranty."

When gas prices go up, so does the volume of advertising for gas-saving products, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

The pitches can be enticing to consumers weary of the drain on their budgets. One Web site promises gas savings of more than 40 percent by converting your car to run on a mixture of water and gas. The do-it-yourself manual costs $150 (plus $60 in raw materials), the site says.

"I haven't seen any independent research proving this is a safe, mass-marketable source of fuel for cars," said Dale Dixon, president of the Better Business Bureau serving southwest Idaho and eastern Oregon. Dixon said that even if a gas-saving product works, the gains are small at best.

For example, Dixon said one company was selling a six-ounce bottle of some gas-saving product over the Internet for $40. The company promised an additional five miles per gallon.

"First, there was no third-party verification of the claim," he said. "And you have to save a lot more than five miles a gallon to make that $40 bottle pay off. The math just doesn't work."

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