Have you ever "treated" your vehicle to a tank of premium gasoline? Maybe you thought it would help your engine last longer? Maybe you fixed an odd sound by filling your car with a tank of the most expensive gas at the pump? Does high octane gasoline actually help your vehicle? Is it worth the extra cost?
What Is Octane?
Octane is a rating. According to Exxon, the rating of octane indicates the fuel's ability to resist 'knock'. Every engine has what is referred to as a compression ratio, which is a value that represents the smallest to largest capacity of its combustion chamber. Higher octane gasoline allows for a high compression ratio which allows the engine to extract more mechanical energy from a given volume of air-fuel mixture.
Be default, higher octane fuel burns more efficiently. However, the secret to determining which octane you should be putting in your vehicle lies with your vehicle.
Consult Your Owner's Manual
Your vehicle's manufacturer will recommend an octane for your automobile in the owner's manual. While it is a recommended fuel choice, it isn't necessarily your only option. But it is a good place to start.
According to Edmunds, burning a higher octane fuel versus a standard octane of 87 or 89 can sometimes be more than a strategy for prolonging the life of your engine. Higher octane fuels have the potential to increase performance. Some vehicle's see an increase in fuel economy when burning higher octane gasoline. The extra cents paid per gallon may well be worth the increase in gas mileage.
Is Standard Gasoline a Good Choice?
What if you're on a budget and less than thrilled with the more expensive, higher octane fuel options at the pump? Standard gasoline may be just fine for your vehicle, even if the manufacturer recommends running a mid to high-grade fuel.
According to Edmunds, today's engines can compensate for low octane fuels by monitoring knock activity and adjusting accordingly. If your engine knocks or fuel efficiency drops when running regular gasoline, try a higher octane fuel. However, if you can downgrade from a high to regular octane without a negative change in engine sound or fuel economy, you can stop purchasing premium gas.
How you drive can also impact whether a cheaper, lower octane fuel is an option. For example, laying into the gas and causing the throttle to run wide open can make standard fuels a poor choice. Take your driving habits and the manufacturer's recommendations into consideration when selecting an octane. For assistance, talk to a professional like The Dyno Shop.