Carburetor vs. Fuel Injection: Understanding the Pros and Cons

January 27, 2012

Which offers the best performance, carburetor or fuel injection, is highly debated question among car enthusiasts. Many believe that performance is best with a carburetor while others insist that the only way to go is with fuel injection gasoline. To determine which is best for your vehicle, it's important to understand how both components work.

Engine Performance

The carburetor and fuel injection performance is mainly due to the amount of air and gasoline that can enter into the engine cylinders. The cylinders contain the pistons and combustion chambers where energy is released from the combustion of gasoline. The carburetor and fuel injection system will both feed fuel and air into the engine.

The Carburetor

The carburetor contains jets that will push the gas into the combustion chambers. The amount of fuel that can flow through these jets depends completely on the amount of air that can be pulled into the carburetor venture. The main issue with obtaining the best performance using a carburetor is that it can't monitor the air to fuel ratio for each individual cylinder. If there was a carburetor for each cylinder then this would not be an issue. So with a carburetor, the best fuel to air ratio for each cylinder is approximated for the best performance. However, carburetors do last longer than fuel injection systems and are favored in motor sports. Carburetors are also much simpler to install than fuel injection systems, because there are no electrical components or return lines to the fuel tank. The carburetor is currently much less expensive than the electronic fuel injection systems.

Fuel Injection Systems

Fuel injection systems are becoming more popular for those wanting the best performance from their engines. There are two different versions of fuel injection - port fuel injection and direct injection. Port fuel injection is the most commonly used and direct fuel injection is the latest developed fuel injection system. This system was designed specifically for four or two stoke engines. The main benefits to using direct injection is that the amount of fuel and air can be perfectly released and then injected into the cylinder according to the engine load conditions. The electronics used in the system will calculate this information and constantly adjust. This type of controlled fuel injection results in a higher power output, greater fuel efficiency and much lower emissions. One of the main issues is that these systems are sophisticated and will cost much more than a carburetor. Installation is more complicated as it uses an electrical component and custom cylinder head configuration.

Which Is Best?

It is fairly obvious that most automobiles will be changing to fuel injection systems due to the lower emissions. However, unless the cost of these systems decreases significantly then there will still be a massive following that will stick to carburetors. When looking at pure horsepower, the fuel injection system only delivers about 10 extra horsepower at peak. It is the ability to constantly be tuning the fuel and air intake for each cylinder that benefits the performance. The fuel injection systems are the best as they will decrease vibration and help to overcome steep grades that are traditional terrain for off-roading. Again, which one is best completely depends on where and how you're driving.

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