Pawlik Automotive on Premium Fuel
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Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert here, producer of the Pawlik Automotive Podcast. We're here with Mr. Bernie Pawlik and we're talking cars, or in this case, fuel. How're you doing Bernie?
Bernie: Doing very well.
Mark: So, on this fine Vancouver morning where we're looking at fuel prices of over $1.50 a litre, for those in America, what is that? We're at six bucks gallon. Yee-hah. Should I use premium fuel?
Bernie: Very good question. The one simple answer is if your car requires it, then use it. Otherwise, you've got a lot of options.
Mark: So what's the difference between premium and regular, or even mid-grade fuel?
Bernie: The main difference between the fuels is the octane in the fuel. The purpose of the octane is to reduce engine knock and engine knock, if you're not familiar with it, if you've ever been in a vehicle with a knocking engine, basically when you accelerate, there's this knocking, kind of rattling sound that occurs inside your engine. It's very serious. If it just does it a tiny bit, not a big deal, but it can if it's severe, it can actually crack the pistons in the engines, which is extremely expensive. It'll destroy the engine. So having.. Preventing knocking is critical. There's a lot of things vehicle engines do to prevent knocking besides the fuel, but the primary reason to use premium is for anti-knock.
Mark: What could happen, I guess, you've already talked about it really, what could happen? Are there any other issues that could happen if I use, or don't use premium when I should be using it?
Bernie: Yeah. Really, the main issue is the engine knocking. Basically, it can break the pistons if it's severe enough. That's really the only thing that's critical about using premium fuel.
Mark: Yeah, so basically it's going to wear your engine out a lot sooner because it's knocking. You might not notice it all that much other than the weird sound but your vehicle isn't going to last as long.
Bernie: Exactly, precisely. That's exactly right. The good news is you can hear it so you'll hear if you're actually doing the wrong thing, which is great.
Mark: Maybe we just define what engine knocking is.
Bernie: Define it?
Bernie: What it actually is physically is it, with the way an engine works is that there's a compression stroke and the piston moves up. It's got fuel and air in the mixture. It compresses it. When it's at the right optimum time, the spark plug is supposed to fire that, explode the mixture, and the piston flies down. That's what gives you power in an internal combustion engine. An engine knock, what occurs is that as the fuels being compressed, the actual fuel will explode before the spark plug fires. So what will happen is it'll explode, then the spark plug fires. There'll be two flame fronts that knocks everything around in the engine in a way that it's not supposed to. And interestingly enough, as I'm saying this, if you notice a diesel engine makes a loud and rattle, well that's what a diesel-- It's a compression combustion engine. That's why diesel engine makes a loud-- Makes such loud noises. You don't want your gasoline engine to ever sound like diesel. That's kind of-- If it sounds like a diesel you've got a severe knock and pinging problem.
Mark: That's causing a lot of stress on the bearings and the crank shaft and all sorts of things, valves et cetera.
Bernie: Yeah, absolutely, yeah. Severe stress’s inside the engine.
Mark: Don't some people use premium fuel just because they think it's better for their car?
Bernie: Yeah. There's a lot of people. I think there's probably less now-a-days with the high price of fuel, but in the past there was people who would think, "Yeah, I want to do something good for my car." Maybe these are more the car enthusiasts type people, but I want to do something good for my car, I'm going to put the best grade of gas in. There's really no advantage to doing that. I mean the only real difference is the octane compound. There was a time when, I think, premium they used some better fuel cleaners and stuff in the fuel. But, now-a-days if you go to a name brand gas station and you but their regular, it has the same level of detergents and cleaners in it as the premium. The only difference is the octane. There's really no-- You're really not doing your car any sort of favour by going up to premium.
Mark: Again, we've covered some of these questions. Using premium in my car that's not designed for premium, or doesn't need premium is no benefit?
Bernie: Not really, I will say that there was a recent study, and you can look at it, find it on the Internet. It's by American Auto Association. They did a very thorough study. They took several vehicles and they did some extremely rigorous testing using premium and regular fuel to see what the differences were. There were some. Some vehicles benefited. There was a bit of improvement in gas mileage. Some had little bit of a power improvement. Some lost power. But mostly, I mean for the most part, there was a slight benefit with premium, but when you add the cost, which is actually substantially higher in Canada than it is in the US, the differential, price differential. It really, when I looked at it, it isn't worth it unless the vehicle requires it. I guess I should say what vehicles require premium. Well, if you-- I'll just show you, just do a real quick picture here. This is a German car, performance vehicle. You pop the gas cap. It says premium fuel only. These are the king of things where you really, you don't want to be using regular. Any vehicle that has a super charged engine, you definitely want to be using premium. Just the way these engines deliver so much power and so much speed and one knock could blow everything up. You really don't want to compromise anything in that area. Same with a lot of turbo charge engines. But a lot of-- A lot of engines are tuned to use either one so it's really important to know what the manufacturer recommends and go from there.
Mark: Is there any other things? Is it just the engine speed or increased pressure from either the turbo super charger, are those the main reasons why you need to have a premium fuel?
Bernie: Exactly. I mean it's just with in an engine that fills its own-- With a super charger or turbo charger, you're basically filling the cylinder with a pressurized air. It just creates a much more explosive, for lack of an easier word, a much more explosive mixture. That's what gives it so much extra power and efficiency as well. Yeah, that's where you need more octane to prevent that because again, the temperatures inside the cylinder get higher. That's where it can create the knock, a pre-combustion issue.
Mark: Sure. We've covered a lot of ground. Can you kind of summarize everything here?
Bernie: Yeah, so I'd summarize. If the vehicle absolutely requires premium, if you have a really high performance vehicle, use premium fuel. Otherwise, what I would recommend you do is see what the owner's manual recommends. Then you can try, if it says recommended premium fuel, because a lot of vehicles say recommended but it's not required. Try using mid-grade or regular.
Here's how you do it. Basically, you put in a tank of regular, you drive the vehicle. Make sure you don't hear any knocking and pings, sound like-- Your engine doesn't sound like a diesel engine when you accelerate. If you don't hear that and the performance feels good otherwise, just go with regular. It's fine. If you hear a bit of a knock and ping, go up to mid-grade, try that, see how that works. If you still hear a rattle, then go with-- Then you'll need to stay with premium. But that's an experiment you can do. It's good to buy gas at a place-- There's a rating of gas called top tier. You'll find it at a lot of service stations, again, better name brands stations. There are certain additives and detergents that help clean your combustion chambers and fuel injectors. These are recommended by a lot of the major manufacturers as being the best fuel. Use a top tier fuel of any sort. Then just use whatever you can, I'd say, "Get away with." That'll be your most economical way to drive.
Mark: So there you go. If you're looking for service, maintenance or you've got a problem with your vehicle in Vancouver, the guy to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 to book your appointment. Book ahead, they're busy or check out their website, PawlikAutomotive.com. We also have a YouTube channel, Pawlik Auto Repair, where there's hundreds of videos on there and our new Podcast. Thanks, Bernie.
Bernie: Thanks, Mark.