Specific Octane ratings are suggested for every gasoline engine on the market today and if you choose to not follow the manufacturer suggestions you could end up paying the price in the long run.
The more correct measurement and terminology for “Octane Rating” is the Anti Knock Index. This index basically represents the octane number at which an engine will operate best without knocking.
If you have a engine that was designed to run on higher octane than you are using then you can either pay more at the pump now, or end up paying later since you could damage the engine by using lower octane gas than the engine was set up to use.
Higher octane gasoline detonates at a higher cylinder temperature and pressure both of which helps prevent premature detonation which is the classic pinging or knocking sound that an engine makes when the fuel octane is lower than the engine was designed to run on.
Modern engine computers include important improvements such as anti knock sensors which are in place to make our cars and trucks are a lot more resilient to accidental engine damage from poor gas quality that may be causing pinging and knocking.
Cars that were built before about 1995 have computers in them but they are much less advanced and many do not even have the anti knock feature included. In our newer cars the knock sensor adjusts the timing if knocking occurs so that the engine can still operate but it will not be damaged. You may feel a loss off power and can use a little bit more fuel than normal if your octane is lower than what your engine requires.
If your car is supposed to use 89 octane gas then it really does not help you to run 91 or 93 octane in that particular car. They all have the same detergents and therefore they burn cleanly, it is just not necessary to raise the octane level and waste the extra money per tank full of gas.
On the other hand It is much more important to run the higher octane in a car that has a higher compression or if there is a supercharger or a turbocharger on it. These options bring mechanical power boosting factors into play which can create ideal conditions for having the engine knock due to a premature detonation situation.
If you own a late model high performance car and gas with the correct octane rating that you require is not available when you need to fill up, then you could use a bottle of octane booster additive along with the lower octane gas to temporarily get by, or you could run regular gas and just make sure to drive the car very gently until you can gas up with the correct octane gas.
Higher octane gas has the same Energy content therefore they will yield the same power and mileage. The only thing higher octane can help with is if your engine is losing power due to a knocking condition that improves once the fuel octane value improves.
So in summary it is really not going to help your performance or your mileage by using a higher octane gasoline than your car is designed to operate on. Secondly if you run lower octane than your car calls for then the power and performance could suffer a great deal, including a chance of major engine damage!
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