Tag Archive | "octane rating"

The Petrol Pump Blues


In these days of economic gloom many drivers dread filling up at the pump. With petrol prices as high as they are right now, saving money whilst sustaining vehicle performance with the fuel we choose are about the only things that matter. We need to get the most out of our vehicles for the longest possible time, which essentially means maintaining properly rather than spending huge sums on costly repairs or a new vehicle.

In order to get the most out of their trusty wheels, some people tend to spend more by choosing a higher octane fuel rating because they assume that their car will perform better and they will as a consequence get better mileage. This is a falsehood. By understanding what fuel octane is and how it affects your engine, you can see that this is not necessarily the case and you can instantly save money at the pump by using cheaper petrol.

Octane ratings measure a fuel’s ability to resist engine knock. The numbers relate to the fuel’s octane rating. Most garages offer two octane grades: regular is usually 95RON in the UK and premium is usually 97, although some can be as high as 99RON. The higher the number, the slower the fuel burns. An internal combustion engine uses pistons to squeeze fuel until it explodes in the cylinder through spark ignition. With high octane fuel, the pistons need to put more pressure on the fuel to get it to ignite.

With the exception of a few high performance luxury vehicles and specially-designed engines, the majority of vehicles on the market are designed to use regular octane. High-compression engines in sports or luxury motors need premium grade to prevent knocking (also known as pre-ignition or ‘knock’). Your car’s manual will provide the answers.

So what exactly is engine knock? Well, it is defined as a rattling or pinging sound that results from premature ignition of the compressed fuel-air mixture in one or more cylinders. This means that the fuel is igniting too soon and may create too much pressure that the engine simply cannot sustain. When vehicles that are designed to use premium are filled with regular, problems like the latter can occur.

Some people believe that buying a higher-octane rated fuel will benefit their engine and that is simply not the case. Choosing a higher octane rating will not affect performance at all.

In most cases, using a higher-octane petrol than your vehicle manual recommends offers absolutely no benefit. It won’t make your car perform better, go faster, get better mileage or run cleaner. The answer to saving money on fuel is to drive smoothly and even more slowly and to ensure regular car maintenance.

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