If you’re driving a car or truck manufactured within the past ten years, there’s a reasonably good chance that you’re already using a Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI) fuel system—especially if you’re driving a luxury vehicle.
This technology has seen gradual (but widespread) adoption by the automotive industry thanks to its improvements in overall efficiency. Drivers can enjoy better fuel economy, improved power, and cleaner emissions.
However, this technology is not without its drawbacks. In this post, we’re going to explore how GDI fuel systems work, what they’re good at, and what problems the technology currently has.
If you’re already familiar with GDI fuel systems, the below is still a good refresher, but you can also skip directly ahead to part two of this series, where we discuss mitigation techniques for carbon buildup in GDI fuel systems.
Let’s begin by establishing a broad overview of how a GDI fuel system works:
How Does a GDI Fuel System Work?
The primary difference between a GDI fuel system and a standard fuel system is the manner in which gasoline is delivered. Basically, GDI systems get to skip a step: instead of passing fuel through the air intake manifold as is the case with a standard fuel system, a GDI system allows the fuel to be passed directly into the combustion chamber of the vehicle’s engine.
As you might suspect, this requires precision accuracy—therefore, the fuel is able to be injected at a high pressure at specific intervals into the combustion chamber only with the assistance of an engine management computer. The big benefit is that fuel is only burned when absolutely necessary, significantly reducing fuel waste when compared to standard systems.
That’s not the only benefit. Let’s look at a few more reasons why GDI has been adopted by a such a large part of the industry:
The Primary Benefits of GDI Fuel Systems
GDI fuel systems offer the following benefits:
- Improved fuel efficiency
- Increased power output
- Cleaner emissions
- Better performance with fuel additives or alternative fuels (e.g., e-85)
- Smoother acceleration
- Easier diagnostics with engine management computer
For many consumers, fuel efficiency is the most immediately noticeable benefit of GDI, saving money and resulting in cleaner and fewer emissions. However, the power output, handling, and diagnostic capabilities (and thus repair cost) of the vehicle can experience significant improvements as well.
We’ll look a bit closer at the power output benefits. Improvements are possible because a GDI fuel system pressurizes fuel to a greater degree than a standard fuel system. When the fuel expands in a GDI fuel system, the temperature of the fuel goes down, which is strong enough to cause a cooling effect on the cylinder it was injected into. These lower temperatures allow for manufacturers to increase the timing profile of injections, leading to more power behind the wheel.
The handling of a vehicle will also enjoy a slight improvement with a GDI fuel system. Since fuel injections are managed more precisely than in a standard system, acceleration and speed consistency are improved, resulting in noticeable handling improvements for operators.
Finally, repairs may be easier (and thus less costly) thanks to the onboard computer used for a GDI fuel system. Because the computer regulates the operation of the system, a technician can often use the automated diagnostic output to find out what’s wrong.
The Cons of GDI Fuel Systems
While we’ll be exploring the cons of GDI fuel systems more in part two, let’s take a moment to quickly touch on the basic negative aspects:
- A decrease in reliability compared to traditional fuel systems. While this obviously will vary from one make and model to another, GDI fuel systems require such a high degree of precision that even minor failures can cause performance issues. Engine stalling, acceleration lag, and other similar issues are more difficult to prevent.
- GDI fuel systems are sophisticated… and expensive. Drivers are likely to see a slight price increase with vehicles that use GDI.
- Carbon buildup can result in (very) costly repairs. This will be the focus of the next post in this series, so make sure to read it if you have a GDI fuel system or are thinking of purchasing a vehicle that uses this technology. Fortunately, a little preventative maintenance goes a long way—which is why recently introduced our BG Platinum™ fuel system service for GDI fuel systems.
Learn More About GDI Fuel Systems
We hope that this post has familiarized yourself with how a GDI fuel system works—if you’re driving a vehicle with this technology, it’s information you need to know. Perhaps even more important to read is part two of this series: Gasoline Direct Injection Fuel Systems, Part 2: Mitigating Carbon Buildup.