Home' Open Road North Shore : OR0118 Contents YOU MAY HAVE SEEN advertisements
claiming premium fuel can clean away dirt in
your car’s engine after just two tanks. They
leave the viewer asking themselves whether
it’s possible, what it says about the quality of
regular unleaded, and just how is it clogging
our vehicles’ fuel systems and internals?
This claim that premium unleaded fuel is beneficial for your
car’s engine has been around as long the fuel itself. In 1986,
while leaded fuel was phased out, all new cars sold were
required to run on 91 Research Octane Number (RON)
unleaded fuel. Why Australia chose 91RON is open to debate.
At the time in northern Europe, 95RON was the minimum
standard, and it was the same in the UK. Back then, our fuel
production infrastructure was ageing and, in all likelihood,
would have struggled to produce the higher RON fuels in the
volumes required. Therefore, we were stuck with the lower
octane 91RON as our minimum standard.
Octane is the measure of a fuel’s ability to resist the
phenomenon known as ‘knocking’, not its cleaning ability.
Knocking is the uncontrolled combustion of fuel that can
destroy engine internals. In the old days, it was called pinging
and was a noise you heard when the engine was under load on
an incline or overtaking.
The term ‘dirt busting’ is confusing, and you’re more likely to
get dirt in your tank from poor fuel storage – that’s why every
car has a fuel filter to trap these particles before they enter the
fuel injection system. But that’s not the sort of ‘dirt’ that fuel
companies are talking about.
They claim their premium unleaded fuels have better
additive and detergent packages blended into the fuel, which
are designed keep an engine’s intake system, injectors and
valves clean, in turn maintaining the engine’s defined air-to-
fuel ratios. Carbon build-up restricts the engine’s ability
to breathe and maintain this ratio.
Factors that hasten the build-up of carbon in an engine’s
fuel and combustion system are regular short trips where the
engine barely reaches operating temperature, stop/start city
driving, and failure to adhere to the manufacturer’s service
intervals. As good as any additive package may be, it would
be a harsh detergent that could remove carbon build-up in
under 1000km (two tanks) of driving. Some research suggests
it takes much longer.
That’s not to say that I’m a complete sceptic. I use premium
fuel on long interstate road trips, partly to see if I can validate
the various other claims touted, such as improved fuel
consumption, better performance and smoother running.
However, by my ‘seat-of-the-pants’ reckoning, any
improvements are minuscule and can’t realistically be validated.
What’s more certain is that car manufacturers set out
the minimum fuel requirements in owners’ handbooks to
ensure your vehicle runs reliably. This is after countless
hours of testing, so you can’t really go wrong if you stick
with their recommendations.
Coming clean on fuel
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Your key to
Teenagers are the safest when they’re behind the wheel learning to drive. However,
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DCG-7262 SDS school newsletter-OR FP-V3.indd 1
16/6/17 9:57 am
MOTORING ADVICE FOR YOUR
LIFE ON THE ROAD
TIM’S TIPS Tim Pomroy examines the ‘dirt-busting’ claims of premium fuel brands
OPEN ROAD 39
OR0118_MOT_Opener_clean engine.indd 39
6/12/17 5:38 pm
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