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Last week I looked at ways to save fuel by being aware of your driving habits and how - if you pay some attention to the simple things - you can get more kilometres from a tank of fuel.

However, with the cost of a barrel of crude more than US$100 ($126), it may be time to look at alternatives.

One that springs to mind is a 1992 Kiwi invention called Fuelstar, a fit-and-forget fuel combustion catalyst that provides greater overall engine efficiency by giving more complete combustion. The benefits are improved performance, better fuel economy, a cleaner engine and lower exhaust emissions.

The car-engine unit is about the size of a soft-drink can and is plumbed into the fuel supply line.

When fuel flows through the unit on its way to the carburettor or injection system, minuscule particles of metallic tin are released into the fuel and are carried through to the combustion chambers.

These particles are far too small to damage engine components. The tin changes the combustion characteristics of the fuel, giving a more complete and more prolonged fuel burn, resulting in improved efficiency and performance.

California Environmental Engineering tested a Fuelstar installed in a 6.9-litre Nissan diesel truck and found it reduced fuel consumption by 27 per cent. It also brought down emissions of CO2 by 30 per cent and particulates by 24 per cent.

Ian Cornelius, chief executive of California Environmental Engineering, says the benefit comes in the tender process when pitching the product to multinationals, public authorities and engine manufacturers.

Fuelstar has been successfully tested by many other governmental and non-governmental agencies and is being increasingly used by commercial fleets.

The unit meets compliance and practice requirements relating to modification of vehicles and contains no toxic substances.

In many countries, the supply of leaded petrol has been, or is being, terminated. Fuelstar enables engines designed for leaded petrol to operate perfectly on unleaded petrol without loss of performance.

As well, the particles of tin are oxidised during combustion and form a refractory coating on the valve surfaces. This acts as a flux, interrupting the fusion process which causes valve-seat recession.

Ordinary motorists, as well as trucking companies, have also proved its worth.

Driver Terry Brown says he put one in his 1998 Ford Mondeo diesel which was giving him about 800km on one tank.

The engine runs better with the unit and he now gets about 1000km.

He then installed a unit on his 1991 Toyota Camry. The fuel consumption is normally 8.65 litres/100km but improved after three weeks to 6.37 litres/100km.

"One observation which amazed me was that the turbo, which had not operated for the last 100,000km, resumed operating after just 10km of running with the Fuelstar," Brown says.

Graham Savage, senior lecturer in mechanical engineering at Waiariki Institute of Technology, said tin had lubricant properties and it obviously freed up the turbo waste gate.

In hundreds of thousands of installations spanning more than 15 years, Fuelstar has been proven to achieve an improvement in fuel consumption by 12 to 15 per cent and improve power output and torque by at least 5 per cent. The unit achieves these benefits in petrol, diesel and LPG engines of all sizes.

There is a money-back guarantee that the product will save fuel by at least 10 per cent or increase power output by at least 5 per cent in all engines to which it's installed.

Guaranteed life of the product is five years or 500,000 km (12,000 hours) whichever comes last.

Fuelstar can be installed by any competent mechanic in less than one hour. Full installation instructions included. For more information, phone Ian Cornelius on 0800 383 578 or visit