Octane

The owners' manual for the 2007 SF says: "Unleaded gasoline with a Pump Octane Rating of 87(Research Octane Number 91) or Higher must be used.
For improved vehicle Performance, premium unleaded gasoline with Pump Octane Rating of 91(RON 95) or higher is recommended."
What do they mean by "improved performance"? Will higher octane result in more horsepower?
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Edgar MacArthur wrote:

In some cars, yes, it will. The reason is that with lower octane the engine will knock. Modern engines have knock sensors and when knock is detected the engine control computer will take action (retarding the timing is a fairly common action) to eliminate the condition causing the knock. The action taken results in a loss of power.
Matt
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Keep in mind - - - - SOME CARS - - - - . Most cars are designed to run on 87 octane and using the more expensive premium fuel just wastes money. Mercedes, Corvette, and some performance cars can use the hi-octane stuff and even require it.
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Edwin Pawlowski wrote:

Yes, absolutely. Read the owners manual first to see if premium is specified. If not, don't waste your money.
Matt
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A concern of mine just popped into my head regarding octane after reading this post.
I am hoping to move to Southern New Mexico relatively soon and the base grade there and in El Paso are 86...
Looks like I'll be doing the mid grade...
Any thoughts or comments on this scenario?
Steve-AZ

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Darby OGill wrote:

With most modern cars you won't here pinging unless the gas is really bad and the computer can't retard the timing enough to stop it. You will just see a loss in performance and probably gas mileage. It is probably worth the experiment, although it would likely take 5 tankfuls to get an accurate enough gas mileage average to really compare to 87 octane. Unless the price difference between 86 and 87 was huge, I'd pay the few cents more for what the manual specifies.
Matt
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wrote:

Keep in mind that octane requirements are to some degree related to combustion chamber pressure. Combustion chamber pressure in a normally aspired engine is somewhat related to ambient atmospheric pressure. So, the engine's power ratings and octane requirements are normally rated at 29.92 inches of mercury and 59 degrees F unless otherwise stated.
With Southren New Mexico and the El Paso area being at around 4,000 feet, the engine will not see maximum combustion chamber pressures (or horse power) unless your driving a turbo charged model.
Drop by your local airport and I'm sure you'll find someone willing to calculate the air pressure at that altitude, or show you a pressure lapse rate chart.
So, my thought is you'll never notice anything unusual going on at 86 octane and you will be wasting money using higher octane gas, unless, of course, you have a model which states "For improved vehicle Performance, premium unleaded gasoline with Pump Octane Rating of 91(RON 95) or higher is recommended..", or you add a turbo charger.
Tom Debski
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FWIW, in my Subaru Forester XT, I definitely see a difference in fuel. My wife, who ususally drives the Sonata, filled my tank with 87 instead of the recommended 91. Ran very poorly. But then as you say, the turbo does make a difference. BTW, I normally drive at 2000 ft, but drove up to a 7800ft trailhead for a hiking trip, and really noticed it then.
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In many older engines you need less octane for mountains like the 454 in my motorhome, I take it that changed with the newer engines.
Michael
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Really? Is there an 87 or does it stop to the normal 89 for mid grade?
I recall that Sunoco used to sell a low grade so they could advertise a low price but I don't know of many people that actually used it. That was the old 190 blend. Regular was 200 and you could go up to the super premium 260. In my travels I've not seen anything less than 87 for quite a few years now.
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Edwin Pawlowski wrote:

I saw 86 when I took my vacation in the southwest two years ago (NV, AZ, etc.). I was surprised as you never see less than 87 in the northeast, but it probably is due to something like the lower ambient air pressure as another poster mentioned.
Matt
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Matt Whiting wrote:

Sav-On gas stations around Oneida, NY sell 86 octane gasoline.
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Steve R. wrote:

Just saw this message three weeks after most of the thread had played itself out, hence the e-mail to the OP as well as the post to the group.
At higher elevations like you find in southern NM and western TX, the lighter air by itself acts to reduce knocking without the need for any particular octane rating. The compression in the cylinder is lower at 5,000 ft than at sea level, meaning that even lower-octane fuels will not knock nearly as easily.
It is for this reason that 85/87/91 are the three "standard" octane ratings in much of the Rockies and Mountain West region, while 87/89/93 tends to be predominant at lower elevations. Your .sig said something about Arizona, so I will take the liberty of assuming you live(d) in the most heavily populated part of that state: metro Phoenix (elev. ~1,000 ft.), where 87/89/93 are probably standard because of the lower elevations.
As long as you're going to stay at higher elevations, you should be perfectly safe to run 85 octane fuel in a car whose manual calls for 87. A lot of things, from octane ratings to cooking directions for food, are written with total neglect of the effects of higher elevation (e.g., water boils at +203F in Denver, not +212F), and it sounds like your manual is no different.
The only time you would really need to worry is if you're taking longer trips outside of high-elevation regions. If you take 85 octane fuel much below ~3,500 ft., it will definitely start to knock and cause all the problems that knocking causes. This would be where you'd want to get the 87 octane fuel, e.g. somewhere between Midland and Abilene if you're headed for Dallas, or somewhere before you drop down into Tucson if you're headed back for AZ. OTOH, the 85 octane should be fine for a trip up I-25 to Albuquerque, since that's all in higher terrain.
--
Larry Harvilla
e-mail: larry AT phatpage DOT org
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