A few years ago, I wrote that high-octane fuel was unnecessary for most cars, and wouldn’t lead to any improvement in performance or a reduction in fuel consumption.
That article must’ve touched a sensitive nerve or two, because we actually received messages from readers who insisted that the opposite was true.
One even claimed that he always covered a longer distance per tankful of 98 RON than on 95 RON or 92 RON.
I am inclined to think that something is wrong with the engine (not properly maintained, full of internal carbon build-up, etc.), which is why it works better with higher-octane fuel.
What is RON?
RON stands for Research Octane Number. Also referred to as “octane”, it is a measure of how resistant petrol is to premature combustion, which causes harmful knocking and pinging. The higher the RON or octane number, the higher the fuel’s resistance to knocking and pinging.
Knocking and pinging occur when the fuel in your engine’s cylinders ignites prematurely. This is caused by a combination of factors, which can include high temperatures and a poorly maintained engine.
High-performance vehicles require high-octane fuel because they run higher compression ratios, which mean hotter temperatures and higher cylinder pressures.
High-octane petrol can withstand these conditions and ignite only at the correct time in the engine’s cycle, thereby maximising engine performance.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: If you’re driving a regular runabout, you do not need high-octane fuel. Even the oil companies, who stand to earn more of your hard-earned money, say so.
The good news is that more motorists today have either realised this or decided to save their moolah, because sales of high-octane fuels in Singapore have fallen year-on-year from 2005 to 2017. Kudos to them and every motorist who is doing the right thing by following what their owner’s manual says!
Remember, if your manual says 92 RON or 95 RON is okay, you’re only wasting money by pumping 98 RON.
Modern cars have ECUs and anti-knock sensors to accommodate a wider range of fuel grades. If necessary, they will downgrade the engine’s performance if a lower than recommended quality of fuel is detected.