If you get a hot rodder born in the 60’s in a room with a twenty-something drag racer you’ll probably hear them debate over carburetors and EFI. How do I know that? Because it happens with my son and I just about every day here at the shop.
Is one better than the other? That depends on who you ask. I’ll tell you that I prefer carburetors all day long and Boyd will tell you that EFI is better. They each have their pros and cons so let’s go over how they work and compare. While this is not a complete overview, this is a very high-level comparison that tells you the basics of what you need to know. You can definitely get into the weeds on both carburetors and EFI, but for the sake of simplicity we broke it down to the basics.
What is a carburetor? It is essentially a device that sits on top of an engine that mixes air and fuel to create a combustion inside the motor which makes power.
The carburetor’s job is to take in the right amount of air so that the fuel burns properly. This means that on a cold start, while running hot, and when you take off from a stop light, the carburetor is constantly adjusting the air/fuel ratio to make sure that the engine is running properly. The way carburetors do this is by means of suction. Fuel is being pumped when you start the engine, mash the gas, or let the car idle so, depending on the conditions, the carburetor sucks the proper amount of air in to mix with the fuel because:
Air + Fuel = Motion
Unlike EFI, if a carburetor fails on you, then it’s a lot easier to get back on the road if you have some experience tinkering with them.
In today’s vehicles, the air and fuel mixture is regulated electrically by Electronic Fuel Injection or EFI. With EFI, the air-fuel mixture is constantly managed so that it is exactly what it needs to be throughout the entire time you’re driving. You might think, well that’s what a carburetor does, right? Yes, to an extent. The carburetor regulates the air-fuel mixture by means of suction while an EFI system is able to deliver a much faster and accurate response through the use of injectors.
EFI systems are able to run more efficiently and effectively which means fewer emissions and better fuel economy. Because fuel injection is more accurate, it is also said to be more powerful as well. EFI systems can account for changes in the atmosphere, air, and fuel while carburetors aren’t as accurate.
Unlike carburetors, if something goes wrong and your car won’t start, a check engine light comes on, or your car dies, then it’s usually not a simple fix because there are so many electronics involved with EFI systems and modern cars all together. You will most likely need a tow to the nearest shop to get a diagnosis before you will know what the issue is.
Which is better?
It all depends on your vehicle and what you want to get out of it. If you’re looking for more reliability, efficiency, and accuracy, then EFI may be a good option for you. However, if you’re looking for that old school muscle feel, less complexity, and something little more cost effective then a carburetor is the way to go.
Verse of the Week
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” -Lamentations 3:22-23