Advantages and disadvantages of high octane fuel

Advantages and Disadvantages of High Octane Fuel

You’ve probably seen your friends use high-octane fuel. They’ve probably suggested you do so because it will increase your car’s performance, speed, and other aspects. Even though this isn’t true, at least you’ve heard of high-octane fuel. When you’re at the gas station, you will notice there are different types of fuels, namely regular, premium, and plus. There are always different prices for these various types of fuel, but they also mean different things when it applies to vehicles. When purchasing your car, it will come recommended with the type of fuel you should use if you want your engine to last a long time.

High octane fuel is mainly used in high-performance vehicles like superchargers and turbochargers. Even though you might have heard many myths about the advantages of using high octane fuel, some are false. High octane fuel is advantageous for high-performance engines and isn’t so helpful to regular engines. Like any other fuel, high octane fuel has its advantages and disadvantages, which we will discuss further in the article. 

What does octane rating for car fuel mean?

Octane rating can simply be defined as a measure of how heat resistant a fuel is to prevent knocking. All these statements could sound like a mumble jumble, and that’s why we’ll explain them more in-depth. When refueling your car, it is common to see multiple fuel grades that you can choose from, like regular, plus, and premium. The difference between these fuel grades is their octane rating. The most common myth is that a higher octane fuel will give your car more power or better mileage, but that’s not exactly what that means. 

For gasoline-powered cars to work, air and fuel mix at carefully timed intervals with a spark plug to bring about ignition. Your car’s engine compresses a cylinder full of air and gas into a minimal volume before igniting it with a spark plug. Various engines have varying compression ratios. Compression often creates immense heat, and fuels have to withstand tremendous heat; otherwise, it can result in a premature misfire. The action of air-fuel mixture combusting spontaneously instead of from the spark plug is known as “knocking.” Knocking is also the sound it produces in this action. An octane rating simply refers to measuring how heat-resistant a fuel is to prevent knocking. The purpose of octane isn’t to enhance combustion but rather to prevent the “air-fuel” mixture from igniting inside the engine prematurely. 

So, the higher your fuel’s octane is, the more resistant your engine is to knocking. If you hear knocking, you’re likely using the wrong octane for your car. The octane rating varies from car to car. You can check your vehicle’s manual or ask a professional for your car’s octane rating. The octane rating is critical because if your car keeps knocking, it will cause serious damage. Certain vehicles require a higher octane rating because they have supercharged or turbocharged engines, which create higher compression levels. 

Does higher octane gas make a difference? 

As mentioned above, a higher octane rating is more of an anti-knock index. This means that higher octane gas doesn’t change the energy content of a gallon of gasoline. A higher octane rating means that your engine is more resistant to knocking. So, buying it will be a waste of money unless your engine requires a higher octane gas. You’ll find that premium gas is often 15-20 cents higher per gallon than regular gas. Before buying higher octane gas, ensure that your car needs it and that you aren’t buying it because you think it will advance your car’s performance. 

Studies indicate that most drivers spend lots of money, leading to hundreds of millions of dollars on “premium” gas that they don’t need. Simply put, higher octane gas won’t lead to better car performance, more speed, better mileage, or your car running cleaner. Most cars require regular gasoline, and using higher octane means wasting your coins. You will only need to switch up to a higher octane gas if your car starts knocking (which is quite rare), and you’ve been using the recommended fuel. If you think your vehicle will have more benefit from higher-octane gas, you should know that technically, lower-octane gas has more energy compared to high-octane gas. Premium gas doesn’t necessarily mean “stronger” gas. 

What does higher octane gas do for your car?

A higher octane gas allows your engine to have a higher compression ratio. With higher octane gas, your car will have a more advanced ignition timing or forced air inductions. Most superchargers and turbochargers are the ones that need higher octane gas. These engines perform better when on premium gas. When buying your car, you will see the recommended octane rating for your vehicle. You should always follow the octane rating on that. Purchasing a higher octane rating gas won’t do anything for your car. 

On the other hand, using a lower octane rating than what is recommended by your manufacturer could cause damage to your car’s engine. Lower-octane fuel will result in knocking and prevent your vehicle from meeting its stated fuel economy. If you keep using lower-octane fuel for a prolonged period, you will have a damaged engine and emission control system. But if you use a higher-octane gas than your car needs, it won’t do any harm, nor will it benefit your car. 

What happens if you put 93 gas instead of 87?

Let’s say you fill up your car with the wrong fuel and wonder what harm you’ve done. There could be some harm or none, depending on your car’s octane rating. If your engine requires an 87 and you fill it up with a 93, then there’s no harm done. You can go on your merry way without being anxious. This also means that there are no benefits either. Just because you used a higher-octane gas doesn’t mean your car’s performance will improve either. So, if possible, it’s better to save your money in this case. 

Let’s say your manufacturer recommends you use 93 and fill it up with 87; now, you’ll have a problem. If you do this often, you may hear your engine knocking and valve chatter because the fuel won’t burn right. Both of these actions mean that your engine will endure damage, and you’ll need a mechanic visit. So, it is best to stick to premium gas for premium users. But if you can’t find premium gas in your area, then you can use regular gas instead. Modern cars have an inbuilt engine computer that will prevent knock and engine damage in the long run. It is not advisable to use regular gas frequently; only use it when you have no other options left. 

Advantages and disadvantages of High Octane Fuel

If you have a high-performance vehicle, you will most likely see the advantages and disadvantages of using high-octane fuel. 

Advantages of high octane fuel 

High octane fuel has many advantages to the consumer, manufacturer, and even the fuel vendor. These advantages include: 

Increased torque in performance applications

High-performance vehicles have been proven to work better when fed with high octane fuel. High-performance vehicles include motorsports and heavy machinery transporters. Manufacturers always develop or create cars that perform better than those previously produced. Combining premium fuel and advanced engine technology becomes a win-win for the manufacturer and the consumer. 

Greenhouse gas reductions 

When you’re a prominent manufacturer, you have to pay taxes for greenhouse gas emissions. Vehicles manufactured using high-octane fuel have lower emissions than those of lower octane vehicles. This means that manufacturers of these vehicles will get charged fewer taxes. When a gas produces less greenhouse gas, it’s better for the environment because it causes lower air pollution. If you love being aware of your impact on the environment, then using a high-octane rating vehicle is a good call. 

It prevents the engine from knocking. 

If your engine starts knocking, it means that you’re using a lower-octane fuel compared to what your manufacturer suggested. In this case, you will need to resort to a high octane fuel. When you start using high-octane fuel, in this case, the engine will recognize the high-octane fuel and change the ignition timings automatically. When your engine knocks, it could often result in serious car problems that cost you thousands of dollars. So, instead of risking it, it’s better to use high-octane fuel on a high-performance vehicle. Otherwise, the vehicle’s performance and engine’s power output will be affected too. 

Disadvantages of high-octane fuel 

Even though high-octane fuel has many advantages to high-performance vehicles, it doesn’t come without disadvantages. 


High-octane fuel tends to have a few bucks per gallon over regular gas. When looking to fill up your car, you will notice that the change adds to a significant amount. Now, let’s say you need to use high-octane gas because it’s a requirement for your car; well then, you’re in hot soup. The prices are always higher and a little challenging to keep up with not unless the vehicle is for commercial use. 

Final thoughts 

The use of high octane fuel varies depending on your engine, and most regular engines do not need it. But it is important to note that an engine’s octane rating can change over time. The more an engine ages, the more it accumulates deposits inside the combustion chamber. These deposits eventually reduce the cylinder’s volume, raising the engine’s combustion ratio. As a result, it is quite common to find engines that ping as they age, even though they never pinged or knocked when they were still new. If the ping becomes regular and more noticeable, you may need to buy a higher-octane fuel to control it. In some cases, ping or knock can result in severe engine damage. You should check your owner’s manual for advice or consult a dealer to see how much ping is acceptable for your car, especially when it gets older.