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Tech talk | A deeper dive into octane

Every day drivers are familiar with various fuel grades; 87, 89, 91, and even 93 maybe. You may even know that the numbers correspond to the fuels ‘Octane’ rating, but what is Octane? And why is a higher ‘Octane’ perceived as better?

The Octane rating that we see on pumps is a grade assigned to gas in relation to its resistance to detonation, in other words, the fuel’s ability to withstand compression in an internal combustion engine without detonating. As engines increase in RPM or the compression of gases in the combustion chamber become hotter and hotter, at a certain point they become so hot that they ignite earlier than ideal and cause detonation. This detonation is an opposing force that pushes opposite the engines rotation eventually causing catastrophic failure.

The inclusion of forced induction, like turbochargers, as well as the demands of more precisely made performance engines means we are seeing more and more cars require these higher and higher octanes.