© Zak Keith 2009
Ca-40g fuel additive supposedly increases your MPG (miles per gallon, or KPL, kilometers per liter for the metricated). Its producers over at CMH Industries Inc., claim that it increases fuel efficiency by up to 25%, improves lubricity and reduces harmful emissions; that it can be used for vehicles powered by gasoline, bio-diesel or diesel, using either carburetor or fuel-injection systems.
Now that’s quite a claim. Please God, I thought to myself, don’t let this be a hoax! Anyone interested in saving a buck, or in preserving the environment ought to be interested, and that means pretty much all of us, right? Wow! Can we actually do both—save money AND cut down on greenhouse gases? Fuel prices are up, and the economy is down, so anything that reduces fuel consumption that significantly ought to be making BIG news. Everyone should be talking about CA-40g—the low-tech way to better mileage.
So why hasn’t it made a splash on front-page headlines yet?
The tiny scattering of user reviews on Internet forums are awash with rumors of conspiracies by oil companies to discredit the inventor, a supposedly altruistic man concerned only with bettering the environment and not in making big bucks like them bad ol’ oil companies. Some point to the significant number of distributors CA-40g has as an indicator of its being legit, while others point to the lack of backing by big companies as proof of it being yet another snake-oil product. Some say they’ve tried it and it works. Others aren’t so sure. And yet others call for independent scientific evaluations, not just mere testimonials. One particular “third-party” site has so much information it probably wasn’t a third party site at all:
“Calcium supposedly bonds to hydrocarbons within the fuel, causing it to burn more efficiently. The result is a longer, stronger push on the piston, causing an increase in horsepower. CA-40 has been shown in tests to increase the lubricity of gasoline by nearly 200 percent, and the lubricity of ultra-low sulfur diesel by 300 percent. Emissions are reduced by CA-40 because more of the hydrocarbons are burned in the cylinder. Vehicles using CA-40 have been tested showing zero un-burnt hydrocarbons at the tailpipe. Emission tests have indicated a reduction of 15 percent CO2 and nearly 50 percent nitrogen oxide in vehicles using CA-40.”
Fuel additives which supposedly increase mileage are nothing new. People who have been using them for years swear by them. The BBC recently aired a program about these miracle products and their claims, testing several popular brands sold throughout gas stations in the UK. To prevent contamination, the tank and engine they used was carefully emptied and cleaned before each product was introduced and mixed as instructed.
None of them actually did anything to increase mileage; in fact, some additives actually caused a decrease in efficiency.
As a healthy skeptic—someone who doesn’t blow about with every wind of doctrine but yet doesn’t want to be closed-minded—I knew I had to look into it for myself. Being both a sucker for saving a buck and a very environmentally-concerned individual, my resistance was waning. And the pricing was set perfectly for breaking down the resistant-but-curious.
Pricing is an art—it is done by people who know the psychology of spenders. Many TV-shop products don’t make it to mainstream markets, simply because they aren’t that durable or interesting as products—they are flimsy or boring things which most people will tire of within days and never use again. Yet, what makes them sell so successfully is that they are priced high enough so people will be convinced they’re something of value, and low enough so curious first-time buyers will be willing to give it a shot. Money-back guarantees are thrown in your face to convince you to part with your money. However, the pricing level and return policy is perfectly calculated so you won’t likely go through the trouble of asking for your money back. Should you, the average buyer be dissatisfied, you’ll come to the fork in the road: do I repackage this, cart it to the post office, pay for return shipping at $20 and wait for 6 weeks to get me my $45 back... or do I simply keep it and hope to get some use out of it? Sellers of cheap-n-nasty mail-order products know this all too well: the product doesn’t have to be good—just cheap enough so you won’t bother to get pro-active and return it if you don’t like it.
When I discovered that Ca-40g was only available through mail order in Sweden, and that its price was set at just below this dissatisfied-proactive customer threshold, that raised a flag for me. I knew that if I was dissatisfied, I probably wouldn’t do anything about asking for my money back. Still, I found myself proceeding with the purchase, badly wanting it to be true.
My vehicle of choice is a motorcycle, a Yamaha XVS 1100 Dragstar (carburetor engine, equivalent to a V-star in the US, but better designed) and had been seeing a steady consumption of 1 liter per 16.6 km. for a mix of highway (100km/hr) and city (50km/hr) driving. (For swedes who calculate it the other way around in Swedish miles, that’s 0,6liters/mil.) This 16.6km/liter consumption has been fairly consistent, whether I drive mostly on highways or spend hours in city traffic jams. The only time this consumption rate ever gets significantly higher is when I’m speeding on German autobahns at 140km/hour while carrying a passenger and heavy camping equipment. The Dragstar is simply not designed that kind of driving, so the 40% increase in speed + the more than doubling in weight + wind-drag factor sometimes brings the mileage down to as low 13km/liter on German highways.
In May 2008, I was on a mototour driving from Sweden to Italy and back, and decided that a long journey like this would be the perfect opportunity to evaluate CA40: Would it increase my mileage on the autobahns? What about when riding within optimal Swedish speed limits of 100-120 km/hr?
The result? At times it seemed to work, but then at others it seemed to make absolutely no difference at all—I really couldn’t tell. My driving and the road conditions were actually too varied for a proper evaluation. The only times I thought I did notice some increase in efficiency, were when I had a mixture of 95 (leaded) and Super 98 (unleaded) fuels in the tank. But I never did break through the 16.6km/liter ceiling.
Since I’d already gone and invested in a whole liter of the stuff and there was no dialing back my eagerness to make it work, I continued using Ca-40g stubbornly for the rest of the 2008 riding season, until I put the bike away in storage in December. On occasion, the mileage would hit 18km/liter (0,56liter/Swed.mil), but never as a predictable or consistent result of using the additive. I began to wonder if I was doing something wrong, or if the product was simply an unstable one which worked only under optimal conditions, and what those conditions were exactly: Am I mixing it right? Do temperature variations have anything to do with it working? What about speed or driving methods?
Spring 2009, I pulled out the bike from storage, tried riding around without any Ca-40g for a while, and as expected, there was no deviation from the steady 16.6km/liter mileage ratio. In late April, I decided to go for a long ride to the south of Sweden to visit a friend, and thought it would be an opportunity to test Ca-40g again. I did some really consistent long-distance riding, staying within speeds of 100 to 120km/hr.
Nothing much happened for the first two tankings so I wasn’t prepared for what followed at the third fuel stop. You’re supposed to put the Ca-40g in the tank before adding the petrol, so I injected 5cc. of Ca-40g into the tank in anticipation of filling it with at least 10 to 12 liters of fuel. But to my surprise, the tank was filled to the brim by only 8 liters! I checked the trip meter and did a quick calculation: The bike had achieved almost 22km/liter (0,45liter/Swed.mil)—that’s a one-time 33% increase!
How it happened, I don’t really know. If the wind had been on my back it still wouldn’t explain it. Again, I noticed that there was a mix of 95 (leaded) and Super 98 (unleaded) fuels in the tank. Perhaps that’s the secret to making Ca-40g work for my bike?
Too bad I’d gone and f**ked it up, by adding too much ca-40g into the tank, which, according to warnings in the instructions, would decrease mileage. The warnings proved to be true as promised. Mileage went down to about 14.5km/liter, until I was able to balance out the mix again at the next tanking.
However, for the rest of the drive, I was back to 16+km/liter mileage level, and never could hit that 22km/liter level again.
Now remember, I am just an individual, an Average Joe fuel consumer and not a scientist. I don’t have a lab for testing emissions and fuel efficiency, and I don’t even own several vehicles, but just one measly bike with a carburetor engine. So take my review for what it is—yet another mere testimonial.
Ca-40g works, rarely. On occasion, when conditions (God knows whatever those may be!) are optimal, Ca-40g does work—I know that for a fact now. But most of the time, for me, there’s only a slight increase in mileage. Sometimes it’s so slight I don’t know if it’s just due to factors like my driving extra-gently in my eagerness to make it work. Since there are no reliable third-party evaluators out there (oh yeah, on account of the “petrochemical industry conspiracy”), there is a major risk you’re doing irreparable damage to your engine by using it.
Ca-40g is not the most stable product in the world. The fact that Ca-40g comes as a suspension which should be thoroughly shaken before adding to the tank, should make you realize that it is not a stable, even mixture. Yes, I do try to shake the tank by rocking the bike back and forth before driving.
The fact that Ca-40g—which is already a gooey sludge to start with—gets stiff and coagulated in the cold weather should say something about it having an optimal temperature range. Perhaps Ca-40 worked for all those farmers in Michigan because their vehicles were always warm and constantly in motion? Yes, I do try to warm up the engine before driving too.
When Ca-40g does work, it’s great! But I’m still trying figure out what makes it work and what makes it not. Because I really want it to. In the mean time, I hope I’m not damaging my engine or ruining my spark plugs! And I hope that calcium, one of the key ingredients in CA-40, doesn’t stay settled at the bottom of my fuel tank. (See rip-off report)
Then again, Ca-40g is probably a hoax product and this eagerness by suckers like me to get Ca-40g to work, because we really, really, really want it to, has all been factored into its promotion. Perhaps I’m just not an annoyed-enough customer to pro-actively go around debunking the product because I didn’t spend too much money on it. Perhaps it’s all akin to a placebo effect (I may be unconsciously driving differently). What do I know?
The question is: can placebos affect your mileage?
If not, something is definitely happening, at least some of the time... only when it wants to... entirely of its own accord...
UPDATE Jul 4th, 2009: Went on another long trip to Switzerland and back using Ca-40g. The results were the same: Ca-40g works, but only rarely and for no apparent reason. For all the guarantees given, it is far too unreliable as a product and does not live up to its promises.
© Zak Keith, 2009