Octane boosters have been known to improve vehicular performance, reduce emissions, and save on fuel. But sometimes, these are just gimmicks that don’t really work. We, at WheelZine, have set out to answer the question whether octane boosters are good or bad.
Toluene was used as an octane booster in Formula 1 racing.
Do octane boosters really work? Octane boosters claim to increase the performance of a vehicle. They are gasoline additives that have gained popularity over the years, to improve performance, reduce emissions, and save fuel. There is no magical elixir that is designed to improve the performance of an engine. The only time these additives work is when you are not using the right octane rating fuel as your vehicle requires, and you increase it with what is supposed to be an additive.
Octane boosters actually increase the octane count of the gas in a vehicle. They give a permanent boost to the vehicle, unlike NoS (Nitrogen Oxide System), which gives a temporary boost of power. Octane boosters are actually fuel additives that are added to the gas inside the tank. Gas additives take the form of oxygenates like alcohols or ethers, which reduce the carbon monoxide expelled into the air. Fuel system cleaners can also be helpful to clean up harmful build-up and keep your engine running as it should.
Before we go further, let me tell you about ‘knocking’. When you start your vehicle, if the air/fuel mixture combusts before the spark plug is ignited, then this is called knocking or pinging. The best way to describe this sound is when you shake a spray paint can really hard. If the mixture combusts later, then your engine is normal and should be running smoothly. To prevent knocking, octane boosters are used in small quantities along with the gas in the tank. Adding lower octane fuel than what’s required can also cause knocking. Knocking can actually destroy the engine.
Function of Octane Boosters
These boosters contain anti-knock additives, which when added to the fuel, prevent the onset of knock (pre-detonation or pinging). By preventing knocking, the octane rating of the fuel is raised. These boosters are made of active ingredients such as MMT (methyl cyclopentadienyl manganese tricarbonyl), kerosene and alcohols or aromatics such as Toluene. Overuse of these materials may cause lead poisoning. Octane increases the compression ratio. The higher the compression ratio, the better the horsepower of the engine.
Gasoline has chemicals mixed in it to control how quickly it burns instead of spontaneously combusting. This property is called octane rating. It is a standard to measure the engine performance of the fuel. The octane number is measured in RON (Research Octane Number) and Motor Octane Number (MON). RON correlates with low-speed and mild-speed knocking conditions, while MON is related to high speeds. Every engine is designed so as to operate in its best performance with an octane rating. Most octane boosters increase the octane rating between 2 to 8 points. A typical octane booster will contain the following ingredients: glycerol, ethanol, or methylpropanol. All of these are octane-enhancing chemicals. Many also advertise their octane gain points, which are often 0.1RON. Whenever you think you’re getting a 3.0RON increase, you’re only getting 0.3RON.
Advantage of Octane Boosters
Octane boosters increase the engine combustion temperature. Engine combustion, which burns air and fuel inside, is significantly improved because of octane boosters. As fuel containing octane boosters enters a vehicle’s cylinders, the spark from the spark plug ignites the fuel/air mixture. Due to a high octane rating, the resulting combustion is greater, and this results in more engine power and efficient fuel burning.
Disadvantage of Octane Boosters
The use of octane boosters increases engine combustion and temperature. This increased combustion temperature causes the fuel to be burned in combustion heat, instead of whole fuel being released through the exhaust system and exiting the tailpipe.
The simple truth is that these boosters don’t always offer what they are supposed to, and end up harming the bike and the environment. Gasoline additives can be used to inhibit corrosion and lubricate the upper cylinders, though these should not be used often. If you use lower octane in your Mercedes, then you could get premature detonation or ‘pinging’, which will hurt the performance and engine. It is advised that octane boosters be added to an empty or near-empty fuel tank before filling in gas. It’s safer if you use the octane rating appointed for your car instead of the premium gasoline that you see used at various pumps.