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Published:March 10th, 2006 18:09 EST
For increased gas mileage, perhaps try nail polish remover

For increased gas mileage, perhaps try nail polish remover

By Jennifer Gibson

ATLANTA – Acetone can do a number of things.  It can remove thick, ugly nail polish.  It can be used as paint thinner.  People can sniff the fumes for a quick high. In addition, if you believe the Internet, it can significantly increase the gas mileage of your car.

The idea of adding acetone to gasoline is not new.  Racecar drivers began using it in the 1930s to enhance their cars’ performances on the track.  Since then, there have been reports of people who have tried it with varying results.

In an article for SmartGas.net, author Louis LaPointe extolled the virtues of acetone as a fuel additive. 

“Acetone not only improves mileage but cuts pollution dramatically and gives longer life to engines,” he wrote in “A Study of Dimethylketone or Propanone”.  He went on to say that, the addition of only one to two ounces of acetone per 10 gallons of gas could increase gas mileage by up to 35 percent.

A blogger on the Chevrolet Impala SS Forum did not share LaPointe’s enthusiasm for acetone.

“It’s just an urban legend,” said the writer, who goes by the name Stonebreaker.  “Last year it was mothballs in the gas, this year its fingernail polish remover.  Next year it will be Vick’s Vapo-rub.”

Vance Matherene, a former chemical engineer, believes the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

“I believe there is something to it,” he said.  “But I don’t know of any definitive studies.”

It is this lack of conclusive evidence either way that keeps many people from trying it.

“Gas prices are definitely an issue for me because I’m driving long distances every day,” said customer service manager Joseph Paulling, 26.  “Increased gas mileage would save me a lot of money, but I wouldn’t try the acetone thing unless I knew it would work.”

Another reason people may be reluctant to try it is the somewhat high-tech explanation for how it works.

“Acetone drastically reduces the surface tension,” wrote LaPointe.  “It has an inherent molecular vibration that stirs up the fuel molecules to break the surface tension.”  Finding a simpler explanation than this can be a daunting task.

It could be well worth it, though, with gas prices expected to remain at or near current levels.  According to the U.S. Department of Energy Web site, www.fueleconomy.gov, the price of regular gasoline will average out to about $2.46 per gallon for 2006 before dropping slightly to $2.34 per gallon in 2007.  A 35 percent increase in gas mileage for a vehicle that gets 300 miles per tank could mean an extra 105 miles per tank.

No one should jump on the acetone bandwagon, though, without first researching it, said Matherene.

“The properties that acetone is supposed to impart make sense,” he said.  “Whether the results are valid is in question.  But there are several decent links to sites about acetone as a fuel additive.”

No matter what can be found on the Internet, Paulling chooses to remain skeptical.

“It sounds kind of weird, kind of like science fiction,” he said.  “I’ll only try it if it’s proven to work.”

For more information on the function of acetone in gasoline, see www.smartgas.net or www.lubedev.com.