Running on High Octane

The Basics of Fuel Octane

With gas prices high, and no relief in sight, you may be wondering what’s the story regarding fuel octane. Higher octane fuel costs more, but does the extra money save you in the long run by preserving your engine?

In short, the answer is no.

However, higher octane fuel can benefit some vehicles. Knowing if it’s worth it for you can be a little more complicated to figure out.

What’s an Octane Rating?

To start at the beginning, you must know what an octane rating is and why it’s important. To put it simply, a fuel’s octane rating refers to how much energy is needed to ignite fuel. The higher the octane number, the more energy it takes to ignite the gas your vehicle needs to run. This means there is no direct correlation between engine performance, gas mileage, or even extending the life of your engine.

When’s a Higher Octane Needed?

You might be wondering why higher octane fuel is even available if it makes no real difference. This is where things can become a little more complicated (and no, it’s not available for oil companies to make more off of you).

There are a couple instances when a higher octane is required. These include:

  • By Design:

Some vehicle engines are designed to operate with a higher octane fuel, generally high performance vehicles.

  • Engine Knocking:

When starting your vehicle, if you hear a knocking or pinging sound, this can mean your gas isn’t igniting as well as it should. A higher octane can help reduce or eliminate this problem.

In any case, you’ll want to consult your owner’s manual to determine which octane is recommended for your vehicle, but generally it’s only specifically needed for engines designed for it or if you have a problem with engine knocking.

With today’s gas prices as high as they are, if your vehicle doesn’t specifically require a higher octane, you’re better off saving yourself a little money. Just remember that it’s always important to follow your owner’s manual and factory recommendations. However, a higher fuel octane will generally not improve gas mileage or horsepower.