Carburetor Concerns Are a Thing of the Past

Dear Car Talk:

I have a 2018 Toyota RAV4. My car has 10,000 miles on it, and for the last 10 months, most of my driving is under 45 mph and in residential neighborhoods.

Do I need to take it out on the highway once a week to clean out the carburetor? Or does the computer take care of that? -- Jill

You certainly can clean out the carburetor on your RAV4 if you want to, Jill. But you’re going to have to find it first. I’d start by looking in 1979.

I don’t think Toyota’s made a car with a carburetor for at least 25 years.

Like all gasoline engines these days, Jill, your car has fuel injection, which is more precise, more efficient and more reliable than a carburetor. And more expensive to fix if anything does go wrong with it, for which my IRA is grateful.

The idea of “blowing out the carburetor” is an old-husband’s tale that’s been handed down from father to son over the years. It used to have some validity. Carburetors were so crude and gasoline so dirty back in the day, that the small passages inside the carburetor could get blocked up with dirt. And it was thought that opening the throttle for some period of time would keep things clear and moving. Sort of a carburetor high-colonic.

It might have helped a little decades ago when gasoline was much dirtier than it is today. But it’s obviously completely irrelevant now.

There are reasons to drive your car regularly. It keeps the battery charged up. It prevents flat spots on your tires. It keeps lubricated parts lubricated. But 45 mph is more than enough to do all that, and there’s nothing further you need to do or worry about. But do tell your grandfather that times have changed, and send him an article from Wikipedia on “fuel injection.”

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