Does higher octane fuel and fuel additives make any difference?
Ever since petrol has been refined to add several rings of octane, many people have linked this terminology directly with fuel quality. Whenever you stop your vehicle at a service station, you have a choice of filling up your tank with different types of petrol available. If you own a diesel powered vehicle, perhaps biodiesel and conventional diesel would be the only two options for you. On the other hand if you own a petrol vehicle, then regular unleaded and high octane fuel would be your choices.
Not some, unfortunately many car owners have a firm belief that higher octane fuel improves car mileage and performance. To cut the long story short, higher octane neither improves mileage, nor acceleration. If you want to save on your motoring costs, then instead of going for high octane, use regular petrol. Typically High octane is sold at a price higher in the range of 10% to 14% than regular petrol. High octane is just a cleaner version of regular unleaded petrol and has nothing to do with performance. Regular petrol in the USA has an octane rating of 87, whereas high octane has a rating in between 88 and 100. In the UK premium high octane fuels such as Shell V-power and BP Ultimate are available. The higher the octane level, the higher the cost. Have a look below at some of the most shocking facts & myths regarding high octane:
High Octane Premium Fuel Myths:
- Higher octane gasoline delivers more engine power - Absolutely not. Higher octane fuel are not designed to give more power. Many people have taken this for granted. Check up your car's fuel ignition system and electric system. Repairs to anyone of these could noticeably increase engine power, yet have nothing to do with high octane.
- Higher octane improves car mileage - Typically all cars are designed to run perfectly on regular 87 octane petrol. As a result switching from lower octane to higher octane would not result in improved mileage.
- Higher octane leads to better engine startup - Higher octane does not lead to faster engine startup. As long as you take good care of your car, regularly change its lubricating oil, and tune up every month or two, you need not to switch to more expensive high octane fuel for a faster engine startup.
- It is a refined product so it is a better fuel - Once again, as opposed to the popular myth, further processing of regular unleaded gasoline leads to different blends of hydrocarbons that burn slowly as compared to regular octane fuel. There is no link between refining regular petrol and using it as a better product for improved car performance.
- Higher octane is used for expensive luxurious cars - Luxurious & expensive car owners owning Pajeros, Land Cruisers, Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Porsche's and various other sports/luxury cars generally hold a notion that High octane is required to run their vehicles properly on road. According to the analysis conducted by the experts & analysts at Automobile Association of America (AAA) only 5% of vehicles sold in America require premium gasoline only. However if we compare the figure required with figure generated, 20% of fuel sold in the US is premium gasoline i.e. high octane.
High Octane Premium Fuel Facts
Now, before moving on to the facts related to high octane usage, we need to know why there is so much hype in the world for this type of fuel. High octane was developed as an alternative to leaded petrol to reduce knocking sound in engines. Knocking is described as an engine sound that is made by early ignition of fuel & air mixture in the combustion chambers. Companies manufacturing and selling premium octane fuel have used this trick cleverly to dominate people' thinking abilities that higher octane is better than regular unleaded fuel as it improves car mileage and performance. Service station owners and companies that sell mid octane 89, and high octane 91 fuel oil earn good amount of dollars by your decision of using high octane fuel.
The octane level is determined by its compression ratio. A sedan would require usually a mid or regular octane level while only sports cars may entail higher octane level due to their higher compression ratios. Below are facts listed regarding the use of high octane fuel:
- High Octane is used to reduce engine knocking sound - Knocking in engines take place when pressures developed inside cylinder is very high. It is quite normal for an engine to knock slightly when the driver goes full throttle, but regular knocking could cause severe harm to your engine. As a result high octane fuel can be used to avoid engine knocking.
- High octane burns slower than regular unleaded gasoline - Since the fuel burns slower, it prevents engine from knocking, but again has no relationship with improved car mileage or performance in terms of output.
- No need for octane if your engine does not produce knocking noise - If your car runs well on regular petrol without any issues related to knocking except normal maintenance, then it would be a foolish decision to waste money on high octane.
- High octane is used ONLY if the manufacturer recommends it - Even if most of the manufacturers recommend running your vehicle on high octane, it is highly advised to blend regular and high octane to save costs. For example, if your vehicle runs on 89 octane (as recommended by the manufacturer), then filling half of the tank with 87 and the other half with 89 would be a good choice. You do not have to be certain for the exact octane as it does not harm your engine in anyway. Regular usage of high octane could lead to the development of carbon deposits on engine valves causing damage and hindering performance.
High octane is a very costly alternative to regular petrol. With gas prices already touching the sky, people are getting under the pressure to afford regular gasoline. As a result it is not a wise decision to use high octane fuel. It isn't easy to earn money nowadays so waste it on such small issues? If you want to save some money on your gas expenditures, then adding acetone could be a good option to increase fuel efficiency.
Acetone is a highly flammable chemical that is inexpensive and can be easily bought at various chemical stores throughout the country. The maximum recommended quantity to use is not more than 3 ounces for every 10 gallons of petrol. For instance if you have filled 15 gallons of oil, then calculation suggests not more than 4.5 ounces of acetone to be poured inside the fuel tank. Reports have shown increased fuel efficiency and no negative impact on engine and engine parts. According to some reports it has been found to reduce the hydrocarbon emission by as much as 50%. However it is highly recommended to consult the car manufacturer and a good mechanic before using any additive to improve fuel efficiency.
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"Octane ratings in the US are different to the UK. US quote RON+MON divided by 2, whereas UK just quotes RON. This article does not make this clear. The Research Octane Number and the Motor Octane Numbers are derived using a special engine which can have its compression ratio altered. The RON and MON values are also measured at differnt engine speeds. If an engine "knocks" retarding the timing slightly may cure this and this could well work out cheaper than filling up with high octane fuel. Basically, engines designed with high compression ratios need a higher octane fuel to prevent "knock". The best performance will come with the highest ignition advance BEFORE the onset of knock. Higher octane fuel WILL allow a performance engine to develop more HP if it has been designed in the first instance for the higher octane fuel. Beware! Do not believe everything you read on the internet, not even this ;)"
M T Nutt