The advantages of using high-octane fuels, which might have an octane rating of either 95 or 98 in this part of the world, are frequently touted by producers of both gasoline and automobiles. But should we take their assertions at face value? And what are the advantages of using so-called “premium fuel”?
At most gas stations, you’ll find at least three options for unleaded fuel, each of which may be labeled differently depending on the brand. But the truth is, no matter what you name them, they are fundamentally the same thing. There is “Regular Unleaded” (91 RON), “E10 Unleaded” (which increases the octane rating to 94RON because it is mixed with between 9 and 10 percent ethanol), 95 RON octane rating Unleaded, and finally 98RON octane rating Unleaded, which typically contains additives that can “clean” internal parts of the engine to improve fuel consumption and long-term reliability. All of these varieties of unleaded gasoline have.
The second and third are examples of what we refer to as “Premium Fuel,” which has a higher-octane rating.
High-performance engines, such as those found in turbocharged automobiles, require fuel with a high-octane rating because it prevents the energy from being consumed too quickly. Despite this, many car owners opt to use high-octane fuel in their vehicles that are not powered by turbochargers. It is possible that you do not need to use high-octane fuel in your car unless the manufacturer specifies that it is required.
Engine makers can create more powerful and fuel-efficient engines when they use fuels with a higher-octane rating. However, there are a few factors to keep in mind since the performance of some engines will improve when they are fed high-octane gasoline, while the performance of other machines will not change much. In addition, using fuels with a high-octane rating can make engines with very low compression ratios perform poorly.
Engine knock is the pinging or rattling sound that may be heard from an engine and is caused by the early ignition of compressed fuel in one or more cylinders. Permit me to go a little bit more technical here: The capacity of high-octane gasoline to withstand engine knock is referred to as its octane rating. The Research Octane Number is the sort of octane rating used most often around the world (RON).
The following is an example of each standard grade given in the United States:
- Regular (the lowest octane fuel–generally 87)
- Midgrade (the middle range octane fuel–usually 89–90)
- Premium (the highest-octane energy–normally 91–94)
To put it another way, RON measures the ability of gasoline to withstand being squeezed before the ignition without igniting prematurely. The higher the amount of gas that can be compressed before burning, the more power an engine can generate.
It is recommended that most people use fuel with a typical octane rating. You will need to look in the owner’s handbook to know what kind of gas your automobile is meant to use. Suppose you want to avoid the engine knocking resulting from a high-compression engine, such as the kind found in some high-performance cars. In that case, you will need to use either a mid-grade or a premium octane gasoline. By listening to your engine, you can frequently determine whether or not you are using the correct octane level. If there is no knocking sound, you are utilizing the appropriate quality of gasoline.
When a vehicle is required to work harder than usual, such as when towing a trailer or carrying heavier than usual cargo, using fuel with a higher-octane rating may improve the vehicle’s performance and mileage and may even reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emissions produced, this is especially true in warmer weather.
However, if your vehicle wasn’t meant to run on premium fuel, you generally won’t notice much difference in how it performs under normal driving circumstances. Each vehicle model has a recommended minimum octane requirement, typically printed near the fuel filler cap. Vehicle owners should not fill their tanks with a fuel grade that is lower than this requirement; however, a fuel grade that is higher than this may offer the benefits that have been discussed previously. Your experiment in real-world conditions is the most reliable method for determining whether or not you could get further on a tank by filling it up with 98 or higher.
Even if you use fuel with the proper octane rating, there is still a possibility that the engine of your automobile will knock. If this occurs, you can switch to the gasoline grade with the next highest-octane rating, which in most circumstances will be either the mid-grade or the premium grade. If the engine continues to ping or knocks even after you have switched to a higher-grade octane, you may need to have some of the engine’s other components repaired.
After you have resolved the knocking issue, you are free to revert to the octane rating specified in your vehicle’s user guide.
There is always the question of whether it is worthwhile to pay the additional price for premium fuel. If your car manufacturer requires 90RON or 94RON, then the answer is yes, and the extra expense is justified. Suppose the owner’s handbook states that your vehicle does not necessarily require premium gasoline but will run much better on fuel with a higher-octane rating. In that case, the decision is obviously up to you. In general, the additional cost of premium gasoline overcomes any fuel savings, most likely due to the extra profit margins that merchants may claim on premium fuel products. In other words, premium fuel is more expensive. On the other hand, lowering CO2 emissions and fuel use by even a tiny amount may be more significant to many people than the cost of climate change at this point.