Fuel Injected or Carbureted: How to Tell Just by Looking

“Fuel injected” and “carbureted” are everyday terms that the common person generally doesn’t know much about, but should! They are terms heard frequently and you’ve probably heard that most cars today are fuel injected. Maybe you’ve heard the term thrown around by a car salesmen, or you have been told that you should maintain your fuel injectors. Indeed, you should maintain your fuel injectors to keep them working optimally, but you have to know how to identify them first! How to tell if my car is fuel injected or carbureted? Where are the fuel injectors and what do they look like?

If your car was manufactured later than 1994 then it is fuel injected. To identify your fuel injectors you must look at the top of the engine and may have to remove a plastic cover. If your car is not equipped with fuel injectors then it has a carburetor and you can find either on the top in the center of your engine.

Fuel injectors look like this:

This engine is simplified because not all of the components are attached in this photo. The red cover is the valve cover and the cables on top of the red cover are spark plug cables and the fuel injectors will be directly beneath the valve cover and can be unbolted by removing a few nuts. Photo by Asyrafunk RKTW on Unsplash

Fuel Injection or Carburetor: How to tell just by looking

The last car manufactured to be sold new in the United States with a carburetor was in 1994 so it is a safe guess that if your car was made later than 1994 then it is fuel injected. Before the 90’s most cars were built with carburetors to provide fuel to the engine, but by 1990 most vehicles manufacturers had switched to fuel injection.

Fuel injection precisely meters the amount of fuel going into the combustion chambers of an engine also referred to as cylinders. Much less gasoline is wasted compared to carburetors because of the mechanical guess work involved in carburetors. Carburetors are a purely mechanical system that mixes fuel with air to enter into the engine as fuel vapor.

I gathered my information about the last car sold in America with a carburetor from this article on Autotrader.

There are three main ways to tell if your car is fuel injected just by looking:

First Check if the engine is covered in plastic shrouds: Fuel injectors are covered by plastic

At first glance, if the engine is covered in plastic covers, then it is probably fuel injected.

Almost all engines are shielded and covered with plastic. This is to protect the engine from dirt and debris that may find its way into the engine compartment. But it is also just for looks! It gives modern fuel injected cars a clean look and covers up the spark plug wires and fuel lines.

To get to your fuel injectors you will almost always have to remove some sort of plastic cover. This will generally be easily removed with a screwdriver and then you can continue to identify your fuel injectors and maintain them.

Follow the Ends of the Fuel Lines: Leading to Cylinders Means Fuel Injected

Locate and follow the fuel lines to the top of the engine.

If the fuel lines lead to a throttle body then it is most likely carbureted unless it is one of the types of fuel injection that will be explained later. But the most common type of fuel injected system has fuel entering each individual cylinder as opposed to a carburetor which has the fuel centralized in one location called the throttle body

If the fuel lines branch out and lead to the individual cylinders then your car is fuel injected.

Compare the Top of Your Engine With These Photos of Fuel Injection

If the top of your engine looks this, then your car is fuel injected.

There are wire plugs fitted to each individual fuel injector and the fuel injectors in this case bolt into the intake manifold.

Your engine is carbureted if the top of your engine looks like this with the air filter removed

Edelbrock carburetor on Chevy 350

Types of Fuel Injectors and What They Look Like

It is a little known fact that there are several types of fuel injected systems. They can be difficult to distinguish from a carburetor depending on the type, but by knowing these three main types of injection styles you will be able to locate the fuel injectors on your car and easily identify any car as fuel injected or carbureted.

What “Injection Style” Means

Injection style means the fuel injection system uses one of four main types of fuel injectors:

Throttle Body or Single-Point Injection

The cheapest and simplest type of fuel injection. It is cheaper because instead of using an injector per cylinder which can be 4,6, or 8, it only uses two located at a singe point.

This type of fuel injection is the least precise and efficient type of fuel injection system and is essentially a carefully metered carburetor, but is still more efficient than a carburetor.

These fuel injectors actually look very similar to a carburetor because they have a throttle body. Throttle body fuel injection looks like this:

Photo here

It can be distinguished from a carburetor by the shape and by looking at the main port of the throttle body.

Multi-Port Fuel Injection

Multi-port fuel injection has separate fuel injectors at each cylinder. This is the most common type of fuel injection and this is why you are able to trace your fuel lines to each cylinder to be able to tell that it is fuel injected.

This type of fuel injection provides faster throttle response than throttle body injection since the fuel immediately enters the cylinders and does not have to travel through the manifolds, but rather is injected immediately before the valves which regulate the fuel entering the cylinders.

Having trouble understanding a lot of these terms? Go take a five minute read through this article on another page on this site to understand the components of an engine and their names and locations. This will help you immensely to solve this problem and to understand car questions better in the future!

Article Link here

Sequential Multi-port Injection

Sequential multi-port injection is a type of multi-port fuel injection. It is more expensive but also more efficient.

There is a fuel injector for each cylinder, but the difference between this and standard multi-port injection is the fuel is delivered at the precise moment that the cylinder needs it. This small change in the timing of the fuel being pumped into the engine improves the efficiency of the system.

It is times just the way the spark plugs are timed, to let fuel out at the precise moment before it needs to be combusted!

It is similar to multi-port injection by both systems direct the fuel in just before the valves which do the regulating of when the fuel enters the cylinder.

Direct Injection

This is the most precise and advanced type of fuel injection. Direct injection pumps the fuel directly into the engine cylinder bypassing the valves.

This fuel injection technology is still up and coming and is becoming more and more common. The complex part of these fuel injectors is that they have to withstand the extreme pressures of the combustion chambers, and also spray the fuel into the cylinder just right so that it is distributed evenly and burns efficiently.

Small changes to the way the fuel enters the cylinder makes a big difference in fuel efficiency. This type of fuel injection will become more prevalent as time goes on.

Where are the Fuel Injectors Located?

Fuel injectors are located by looking at the intake manifold of the engine. This is on the top of the engine and in the center. Locate and follow the fuel lines and they lead either to a throttle body which have the fuel injectors attached there or it will lead to a fuel injector at each cylinder. Fuel injectors are usually protected by rectangular plastic covers and look like this.

Fuel injector photo here

Most often there is a fuel injector for each cylinder of the engine. Unless it is the throttle body type of fuel injection you will have one located at each cylinder. If it is the throttle body type of fuel injection, you will have fuel injectors located at the throttle body and there will be one to four injectors.

What maintenance do I need to do to my fuel injectors?

You are probably trying to locate your fuel injectors in order to know how to get to them to maintain them.

It is a job that you can easily do yourself and it is very simply but entirely explained in another article. Click here to read the complete process to clean your fuel injectors.

Are cars still made with carburetors?

All of the big car manufacturers equip new cars with fuel injection. New cars are not equipped with carburetors due to the fact that they are less efficient and require more maintenance than fuel injection.

There are other types of vehicles manufactured with carburetors such as motorcycles, but unless it is a custom built car, it will use fuel injection.

Many shops that build custom cars may still use carburetors because of their simplicity and the relative ease of a mechanic to maintain. Carburetors are reliable and are simpler because they do not involve the electronics and computer that is required to run fuel injection.

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