Fuel additives like octane boosters have been around for as long as automobiles have been in existence. In fact, octane boosters have been held in high regard on the performance circuit for years now. However, they are not effective for every engine and are a solution to very specific kinds of engine problems.
So, the first question to be answered while buying an octane booster is whether you even need it. Having ascertained this, next you need to understand what makes octane boosters work.
What Makes Octane Boosters Work?
Octane boosters solve one of the most critical problems the engine can suffer, namely that of detonation. Gasoline is a highly volatile substance which needs very specific external stimuli to work. If one of them, say temperature, goes a bit awry it can have a domino effect on the compression acting upon the fuel. In such scenarios, gasoline actually combusts by detonating, resulting in shocks being sent through the engine. When this happens repeatedly, it can have widespread add-on effects on other parts of the engine like cylinders. It manifests in form of engine knocking or pinging because of the rattle of the metal components. Octane boosters can help prevent this.
How octane boosters are to be able to do this is because these additives are essentially blends of other hydrocarbon fuel compounds and are better than gasoline at not detonating. In essence, octane boosters make the gasoline more resilient. Octane, measured in research octane number (RON), is an indicator of the ability of fuel to endure the forces of compression. On top of that, several octane boosters also combine other agents that enable simultaneous cleaning of fuel lines and also lubricate the furthest reaches of the engine.
Practical Guidelines for Using an Octane Booster
- Octane boosters are useful (a) only in high-performing engines requiring high-grade fuel and (b) engines battling detonation. For most other use-cases octane boosters have limited value. Another important first step is checking the owner’s manual for the recommended octane level for your vehicle. For most personal uses, the requirement is only to meet the specified level of octane rating.
- If you have determined that you indeed need an octane booster, the first filter for octane boosters would be to narrow down the options based on the octane boost they provide. Be wary at this point because 1 RON of octane boost is sometimes described as octane ‘points’ to mislead. 1 RON = 10 octane points is the measure to be kept in mind here. To further clarify, if you need to increase octane ratings by 3 RONs, you need an octane booster which can boost up to 3 rating numbers or its equivalent, 30 points.
- The next important point to assess is whether the octane booster works for your specific engine type or not and also whether it can have a detrimental impact on the internal components of the engine like the catalytic convertors and the O2 sensors. For instance, it is unlikely for older carbureted cars to see any significant impact. On the other hand, a newer car with a turbo-charged engine with a precisely calibrated engine control unit will benefit the most. These examples are just to give an idea of the spectrum of engine types.
- The next factor to weigh in is the budget. One good way to maximize the utility from your octane boosters is to purchase it only for important or long journeys where the engine is likely to undergo stress for a greater period of time.
Final Pointers for Using Octane Boosters
Once you have narrowed down on your desired octane boosters, there are some things to keep in mind. For starters, the octane booster is to be poured in before the tank is refueled so as to maximize the mixing of the two.
Another thing to be aware about is that octane boosters generally don’t have a long shelf life. Very few are actually good for use after a year of storage. It helps to store the booster in the original container and under the prescribed ideal conditions.