Carburetors vs Fuel Injectors: What’s The Difference?

Every automobile works on a similar principle. Fuel and air are ignited by sparks to trigger combustion. That combustion process produces gases that cause engine pistons to move, generating power and torque that operates the drivetrain, axles and wheels. Carburetors and fuel injection systems both enable combustion to take place, but what’s the difference between them? In this brief guide, you’ll learn how each of these systems works. 

A Quick Overview of Carburetors

Vehicles produced before the mid-1970s are equipped with carburetors. They enabled engine combustion by using vacuum forces to pull in fuel through a port called a jet. Meanwhile, the carburetor uses a throttle plate, also known as a choke, to regulate how much air enters and flows to the engine. 

Just like today’s fuel injectors, carburetors can develop serious problems. A faulty carb often causes the air/fuel mixture to be too lean or too rich. Either way, that’s bad news. You may notice some telltale symptoms: 

  • Sluggish engine performance 
  • Rough idling
  • Acceleration difficulties
  • Backfiring
  • Overheating engine
  • Fuel flooding inside the carburetor

Thankfully, you can still find standards and racing carburetors for sale. These components can help you restore an older vehicle’s fuel delivery system. 

How Fuel Injection Works

Fuel injection systems supplanted carburetors beginning in the 1970s. Carburetors did their jobs well but were plagued with lots of common problems: clogged jets, engine flooding or decreased fuel efficiency. With these issues in mind, the benefits of fuel injection were evident. 

Fuel injection uses a different method to deliver fuel and mix it with air in the engine. You probably remember that your vehicle’s fuel pump draws fuel from the tank and sends it through the fuel line. Eventually, it enters the fuel rail where fuel injectors can draw from that supply and spray it into the intake as a fine mist. From there, the misted fuel and air mix in the engine to keep combustion going. 

Nearly every vehicle on the road today uses fuel injection. Most contain the stock system that was installed into their vehicles when they rolled off assembly lines. However, upgrade options are available. You can find performance fuel injection systems by Holley, FiTech, JEGS, and other specialty manufacturers. 

A Quick Word About Air Intake

Proper air intake is just as critical in vehicles with fuel injection systems. Your vehicle’s air intake system pulls air in through a plastic tube and a filter. Once the air is mixed with fuel and enters the intake manifold, it can power engine combustion. But how does your vehicle know the proper amounts of air and fuel to pull in? A network of sensors plus your vehicle’s throttle body performs that job, pulling in the air in response to your pushing the gas pedal.  

Carburetors and Racing Applications

While most vehicles are fuel-injection capable, some hot rods and muscle cars still use carburetors. Fortunately, their stock carburetors can be replaced with more powerful and capable versions. The Holley Sniper EFI is a popular option, bringing the capabilities of electronic fuel injection to carbureted vehicles. Some reputable aftermarket retailers carry the Holley Sniper for sale.

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