Does premium fuel actually make a difference?

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  • Much has been said about premium fuel; giants like BP, Shell and Texaco all have offerings on the market, and now so called ‘super-fuels’ are available for diesel vehicles too. Positioned as a far superior fuel with engine-cleaning capabilities, this comes with a higher cost at the pumps. But does it really live up to the hype? Here’s our run down of premium fuel and the benefits it can bring:

    Efficiently formed

    The distinction between premium and standard primarily comes in the form of an octane number - the standard measurement for engine performance. A standard unleaded fuel has an octane number of around 95. Compare this with a premium fuel such as Shell’s V-Power nitro+ which has an octane number of 99, and it’s clear there is science behind the superior claims. But what does this actually mean for your car? In short, the higher the octane number the more power gets delivered to the engine from every drop of petrol. On top of this, many of the major premium brands come with additional perks, such as lubrication for the engine, resulting in less wasted energy. In a nutshell, premium fuel is in fact chemically superior.

    Clean Machine…

    Octane levels and lubrication aside, premium fuel has the ultimate benefit that is claimed by all the leading brands; it cleans your engine. Cheaper fuels are apparently prone to early ignition in the engine, causing damage and residue in crucial components. Over time this can lead to issues with the car. A higher quality fuel theoretically means later ignitions and therefore a healthier engine over time. On top of this many brands claim their fuels contain cleaning agents and additives which work to clear any mess in the engine. These, indeed, have been proven to be effective–yet there is an argument that the additives are equally as effective if you only use the fuel occasionally. For example, if you use a premium fuel every five fill ups, this arguably has the same level of cleaning effectiveness as if you filled up with premium fuel every time.

    One size cannot fit all…

    Crucially, chemical superiority is all well and good, but for real differences in factors such as mpg and efficiency, the wheels on your car play a major part. For example, a horse-power-heavy, top-of-the-range sports car demands a lot from its fuel tank. For powerful engines, splashing out on a premium formula is justified. With this said, premium fuel is not especially effective for gas-guzzling sports cars. The likelihood is that you will see a difference if you switch, yet the issue is the extent of the difference and whether it would justify the price increase. Some car manufactures recommend certain types of fuel for their vehicles, and this is usually a good indicator of the extent to which premium fuel will make a difference on your specific car.

    For example, Ford recommends using BP ultimate, where as many of the other leading manufacturers give no preference. Indeed, it’s clear that premium fuel does make a differenceyet only you yourself can decide if it justifies the price hike. It really is a case-by-case situation and the only way to find out if it works for you and your car is to try it next time you’re at the pumps.

    But there are other ways to enhance the performance of your motor other than using premium fuel. AdBlue technology is becoming increasingly popular for new diesel cards which helps reduce exhaust emissions and saves money – we’re even adding AdBlue pumps to a number of sites on our Keyfuels network, so keep your eyes peeled!