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Fuel injection vs Carburettor: Which is better?

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Updated 11 Oct 2019

Joel Ilton

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As vehicles have become more reliant on technology to operate, fuel injection has become the most common way of providing fuel to the engine.

But the question still remains - which is better, fuel injection or the old-school carburettor?

To really look into this question, we need to go back to the early 1900’s.

Believe it or not, fuel injection and the carburettor were invented around the same time - the start of the 20th century - but the complexity of fuel injection limited it to diesel engines and aircraft, where gravity-fed carburettors wouldn’t function correctly.

By the time the 1950’s rolled around, fuel injection had become easier to implement with the advances in technology, and became more mainstream - especially on the race cars of the day.

These early systems fitted the fuel injector into the throttle body, essentially copying the operation of the carburettor but with greater efficiency.

By the time the 1970’s rolled around, tension between the United States and the Middle East due to oil production and importation caused oil prices to skyrocket.

Combined with Japanese carmakers introducing cheaper, more fuel-efficient vehicles utilising fuel injection instead of carburetion, this pretty much spelled the end for the carburettor on mass-produced vehicles.

Now that we’ve (briefly) looked at the history of both methods of fuel delivery, we need to look at the pros and cons of both to see which is better.

With the ever-increasing focus on clean energy and reducing our impact on the planet, most car manufacturers have strict emissions targets their vehicles have to meet before they are allowed to be sold.

Carburettors are not as accurate in supplying fuel to the engine, in part due to the effects of weather variations.

Modern fuel injection relies on a number of sensors to accurately measure air temperature, fuel temperature, air flow and the efficiency of the engine and can adjust the amount of fuel needed hundreds of times a second.

Combined with a catalytic converter in the exhaust, the reduction in harmful exhaust pipe gasses compared to a vehicle fitted with a carburettor is massive - a clear win for fuel injection.

Another point to consider is the cost and complexity of both systems.

If the carburettor fails on your vehicle, a set of simple hand tools and a can of ‘carby cleaner’ could have you back on the road again.

However, if a sensor or fuel injector fails on a newer vehicle, expensive diagnostic equipment may be needed to locate the issue. This is a win for the carburettor.

A point that most enthusiasts will think about is how much performance they can get out of their engine.

In the past, if you wanted to make your car go faster, you could remove the factory carburettor and fit something larger, whether it be from a better model or an aftermarket performance option.

However, these were difficult to set up, leading to increased fuel consumption and often to drivability issues, especially in cold weather.

While not as easy to change, fuel injection can handle small increases in performance without needing to change injectors, and often the Engine Control Unit (ECU) will factor in any changes without any effects on drivability or fuel consumption.

This is a win for fuel injection.

While both systems have been around for over 100 years, the massive leaps and bounds in technology have all but killed off the humble carburettor.

Reliability when starting, fuel economy and performance under any conditions are all things vehicle owners expect, and fuel injection provides these in spades. What more could you ask for?

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Written By

Joel Ilton

Finding a passion for cars from a young age, Joel carried out work experience as a mechanic whilst at school before starting an apprenticeship after finishing year 12.

After almost 10 years on the tools and in customer service, he moved into the IT realm as a Data Analyst and In-House mechanic at AutoGuru.