With gas prices skyrocketing nationwide, consumers are looking for creative ways to save a few pennies per gallon. Yet, as they search for tips and tricks that lead to fuel savings, many drivers fail to follow one of the most basic rules of vehicle operation; a rule that guarantees savings.
Years ago, drivers were brainwashed into believing that the higher the octane rating of the fuel that they fed to their vehicle, the better the performance of the car. As evidence of the power of such fallacies, even the fact that auto manufacturers have clearly posted what the fuel requirements of a vehicle in that vehicle’s accompanying documentation, has not prevented drivers from lavishing their rides with the highest octane rating they could afford. But, as gas prices continue to rise, drivers are hard pressed to continue the practice that once meant that they were conscientious car owners.
The Technical Explanation
The octane rating of fuel is based on how quickly it compresses. When fuel compresses, it ignites. However, the idea behind fueling a vehicle is that it is the spark plug that is supposed to cause the ignition, not compression. Therefore, efficient fuel must reach the spark plug without compressing and igniting in order to perform efficiently and to keep the engine from “knocking”. The lower the rating, the faster a fuel compresses and ignites, and the less efficient that fuel is. Essentially, low octane equals low efficiency.
How efficient does fuel need to be to be efficient enough for the average vehicle? The answer just might make all those die hard octane enthusiasts think twice before they press the “89” or “93” button. Once upon a time, car engines were not terribly efficient no matter what kind of fuel was used. However in the last two decades, car manufacturers have significantly increased engine performance, reducing the need for high efficiency fuels for the average vehicle.
The Bottom Line
To, what does all this mean? It’s actually good news! The average car engine is so efficient that it does not need high octane fuel to make it more so. As a matter of fact, using higher octane fuels than the manufacturer recommends, is simply a waste of money! A car engine manufactured within the last twenty years simply has no use for higher octane fuel!
With the exception of cars that are sold with high-performance, high compression engines – think Porsche, Jaguar, etc. – high octane fuels are NOT going to improve the average vehicle’s mileage or result in better performance. The end result of fueling with Plus or Ultra is fewer pennies in the pockets of the consumer and billions of pennies in the coffers of the fuel companies.
So think “regular” gas for regular vehicles and save the high octane fuels for the high-performance models.
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