No shortcuts to saving money on gas
Experts say proper tire inflation best way to increase fuel mileage
By Talya Tibbon and Greg Hunter
Soaring fuel prices are enticing drivers to look at products that claim to help cars get more miles per gallon of gas.
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Liz and Rocky Rothwell, a retired couple from Orlando, Florida, thought they could save money on gas by dropping a little green pill called BioPerformance in their car's tank.
"When it goes in your gasoline, it disperses out. It's supposed to increase the mileage in your car from anywhere from 25 to 30 percent," Rocky Rothwell said.
The Rothwells had such high hopes for this product that they went to a company presentation and signed on as distributors in a multilevel marketing plan.
But the pill turned out to be a dud, according to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.
Abbott had the pills tested. He concluded that the pills didn't work and he found they were made mostly of naphthalene, the same stuff that used to go in mothballs.
Abbott shut down the Texas-based BioPerformance and is suing the company and its owners for allegedly running a scam that cost people such as the Rothwells thousands of dollars.
Responding to inquiries via a letter, an attorney for Gustavo Romero, one of BioPerformance's founders and owners, writes: "It is our expectation that additional scientific testing will answer the issue once and for all."
At a time when gas prices are near record highs, many people are searching for ways to make their gas money go a little bit further. And there are a number of products on the market that claim to stretch a few more miles out of a gallon of gas.
CNN teamed up with Popular Mechanics magazine and auto mechanics from the Universal Technical Institute in Houston, Texas, to run individual tests on a couple of other "gas-saving" products.
First, we determined the base line by running vehicles without any of these add-on products.
Mike Allen, an automotive guru and senior writer with Popular Mechanics, then installed a set of magnets that are supposed to align the molecules in the fuel so it burns more efficiently.
"This is one of the more elaborate fuel line magnets I've ever seen," Allen observed. "It's got three really powerful bar magnets, and it sort of straddles the fuel lines so the fuel goes through the middle."
But when we ran the engine with the magnet installed, the vehicle's gas mileage decreased by about 10 percent.
"We're theorizing that the magnetic field is so powerful it is interfering with the wiring in the fuel injectors," Allen said.
Energy Cel, the company that makes the magnets, said its product works and that it has been tested "... with positive results."
"We are dismayed that your mechanics did not have the proper training for placement and testing of our magnetic device," the company said. "We always welcome testing of our products by qualified, trained personnel that use the proper procedures. If tested correctly, our product works."
Next up was the Tornado, a device that turns air inside a car's air intake valve into a mini-tornado. The manufacturer -- Tornado Air Management Systems -- said it makes engines burn fuel more efficiently.
In the test, the Tornado reduced a Lincoln Navigator's fuel mileage by just under a mile per gallon, from 18.4 mpg without the device to 17.5 mpg with it installed.
But the manufacturer stands behind the Tornado: "We have more than 100,000 satisfied customers. Our product works."
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency did not test the same products that we did, but it has checked out more than 100 products that make similar gas-saving claims over the last 30 years and none has worked, according to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson.
"It's a scam," Johnson said.
Experts said the best way to squeeze more miles per gallon out of a vehicle is to ensure that tires are inflated properly. They said this simple step can save as much as 10 percent on fuel mileage.
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