You may have heard friends or colleagues talk about carbon buildup and the need to “clear carbon”.
But what exactly do these terms mean?
WHAT IS CARBON BUILDUP?
Carbon is a by-product of the combustion process, which happens as your engine burns fuel.
Think of your engine as a fireplace or barbecue pit. When you burn wood, the by-product is the soot or carbon that coats the sides.
The same is true for car engines. Carbon builds up in the cylinders, intake and exhaust valves.
HOW DO I PREVENT OR REDUCE CARBON BUILDUP?
Today’s petrol and engine oils are formulated with additives to help keep carbon buildup in check. Ensure that you use quality fuels and change your oil according to the manufacturer’s recommendation.
A good engine oil is formulated with a degree of detergency to clean up these deposits. The carbon deposits will then be pulled away from the metal parts and trapped in the oil filter.
This underscores the importance of changing your oil and filter regularly!
HOW CAN I TELL IF MY ENGINE IS CHOKED UP?
If carbon buildup is bad enough, a few symptoms will appear. Rough engine idling is one sign. Poor acceleration would be another.
If your hear knocking/pinging, that could signify very bad levels of carbon buildup.
IF THIS HAPPENS, HOW DO I “CLEAR CARBON”?
If the carbon buildup hasn’t reached these extreme levels, you could use fuel additives. There are a variety of additives available that are formulated to help clean up carbon deposits.
To periodically ensure that carbon doesn’t build up, you should also redline your engine every few hundred km. Redlining or revving the engine till the tachometer hits the limit or redline, helps the motor burn off carbon buildup.
However, you should only do this when the engine is at the correct operating temperature. Do not redline the engine when it is still cold!
IN EXTREME CASES OF CARBON BUILDUP…
Send your car to your trusted mechanic or workshop. There are a few procedures that a workshop can undertake to clear the carbon.
When the carbon buildup actually helps cover cracked engine seals, an engine overhaul may be necessary. In worst case scenarios, a total engine rebuild might be the only way to recover the motor.
Service your car regularly and ensure a good quality engine oil is used. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for intervals and oil grades/viscosities.
Ensure you fill up with quality petrols that help control deposits and buildup.
Rev your motor to redline every so often.
Do direct injection engines cause more carbon deposits?
Should I do an engine flush?
Why does my car need engine oil?
Does your car need fuel additives?
Why did my engine rattle after an oil change?