Fossil fuels are the lifeblood of modern society. You'd expect that a substance we all so heavily rely on to be well understood.
Without the advent of fossil fuels, we will not be able to enjoy any of the luxuries we take for granted today. Despite the universal adoption, the internet is still rife with pseudo-science or even mistruths about it.
We are here to put some of these myths to bed; here are some common fuel myths debunked!
Myth: A higher-octane rating means more power
It is a logical fallacy. Higher-octane fuels must contain higher concentration of combustibles than lower-grade fuels, right? Does this mean that a 98-grade fuel will yield more horse powers than a lower grade 92 or 95?
Well, not quite. Octane rating is not a metric of energy density, rather one of the measure of fuel stability. If your car was never designed to run on a higher-octane petrol, it will not be able to make the most of it.
The higher the octane rating, the more resistnt the fuel is to combustion under high pressures. As most economy cars do not operate anywhere this threshold, the additional performance is squandered.
Myth: Octane ratings are a marketing gimmick, use what you're comfortable paying for
Gimmick Octane Ratings aren't - see the above point for a brief explanation of what it stands for. To an extent, there is some truth to the statement. If you own a COE economy car that is near its expiration date anyways, you can use whatever grade of fuel you so desire.
But if you own a performance-oriented vehicle, with an engine that runs on higher compression, the extra resistance to detonation afforded by the increase in fuel stability, is crucial. In an engine with higher power outputs, fuel serves a secondary purpose - as a coolant to lower engine block temperatures.
If the petrol is unstable and is burnt before it should be, the resultant heat and pressure can cause damage to the cylinders. This knocking, if sustained, can actually write-off an engine altogether.
Myth: You'll suck up sludge if your tank runs low
Sediments in your fuel will settle at the bottom of your tank. If you do not have enough petrol in your system, your fuel pumps may suck up these particles. They can then run amok, clogging up fuel lines, injectors and causing failures that would need rectifying at a reputable workshop.
Thing is, fuel pumps are designed to be submerged in petrol. They draw fuel from the bottom of the tank regardless of the amount of petrol. This means that sludge will be dredged through even if there is plenty of fuel in the system.
Thankfully, there are fuel filters to ensure these particles do not make it into your engine. That being said, constantly running your car on close-to-empty can cause pump damage. These components utilise the petrol itself to cool their gubbins - take the petrol away, and the parts may overhead, leading to reduced lifespans.
Myth: You get more fuel when you pump in the wee hours of the morning
The usual 1:1 ratio of litre to kilogram can be skewed if there is a significant variance in ambient temperature and pressure. On a cooler day, there will be an increase in density, which would translate into a greater volume of fuel.
But that is only true if the fuel is contained in a space that can be affected by the surrounding temperature and pressure. By regulation, fuel is to be kept in special, fire-resistant chambers underground. These protect the volatile liquids from environmental factors.
What this also means is that they are well insulated, with stable conditions internally regardless of the time of day. Besides, even if that was not factored in, the difference in volume in an uncontrolled environment is a whopping 1 per cent - you'll make a larger dent on fuel economy with a less liberal application of the loud pedal!
Myth: Fuel additives improve economy
There are fuel additives that claim to boost economy, power or even clean your engine. These products are typically marketed as proprietary compounds that can get rid of sludge build-up, add extra fuel stability, or even help to provide extra lubrication for a smoother drive.
We're not denying that the addition of certain chemical compounds can help to clean out the fuel system. Petrochemical firms would have already added said compounds into their petrol - any extra expression is superfluous. Also, fuels have already been optimised by their suppliers - extra additives will not give you any of the benefits they claim to do so.
If you want to slash your fuel bills…
…perhaps consider altering your driving style. Some good fuel-saving tips would be to use the throttle progressively and gently, and to anticipate your surroundings - you do not want to stomp on your accelerator only to have to aggressively brake again shortly after.
You can also save some dosh on petrol by pairing your fill-ups with petrol credit cards that offer you generous discounts. Some petrol stations are even further incentivising refuelling with them with points and prizes!
Other ways to reduce your fuel bills are to not use a higher-than-needed grade of fuel for your vehicle, and also to shed excess weight from your vehicle.
There are easier ways to reduce your car expenditure as well. If your insurance is due, consider using our insurance service for a more competitive quote!