Wednesday, November 25, 2015         


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Lower-octane gas will suffice for average vehicle engines


QUESTION: Octane in gasoline is something that can affect the cars and pocketbooks of consumers. Do all gas stations in Hawaii sell gas containing the same octane grades?

ANSWER: At one time they had five grades. You could dial in what you wanted. Today many make only two (87 and 92).

Q: Are there standard or minimum octane levels for “regular” or “midgrade” or “super” or “premium” gas?

A: No.

Q: Does the state test for octane levels to ensure accuracy?

A: Not anymore. (There were budget and staff cuts.)

Q: What is octane and how does it affect cars?

A: The numbers you see is a knock index. The higher the number, the less likely your engine will knock.

Q: Is high-octane gas more fuel efficient?

A: It’s not. The difference between the lowest number and the highest number is the high-octane gas actually burns slower — not in terms of it saves you gas. The explosion (in engine cylinders) is much more controlled. When they put ethanol in the gas, miles per gallon went down becausealcohol does not have the amount of energy that gasoline has. What happened when you mix alcohol and gas is the burning process slowed down. So what happened when they put alcohol with 87, the 87 became 89.

Q: Does high-octane gas increase engine performance?

A: High-performance Mustangs, Camaro, Maseratis, they would use 92. The average car only needs 87.

Use what is recommended in a car’s owner’s manual.

However, I had a Jaguar and I had a Mercedes, 1989 models. Right in front on the dashboard it says premium fuel only. You pop the gas cap, it says premium fuel only. I put 87 for both of them and it worked fine.

Here’s what (some taxi drivers) tell me: “I put 89. It’s an eight-cylinder car, so I put 89.” I said, ‘Why?’ This is what they all tell me: “Because 92 is too expensive.” But I ask them, “Why would you want to put 92 in the first place when your owner’s manual says 87?” They say, “Anything that cost more must be better.”

I’d tell other taxi drivers, “You buy 92, and you don’t see the (extra) money you’re spending.” The taxi driver fills up probably about 10 gallons a day. So I told them from 92 you drop down to 87 — that’s 20 cents a gallon difference — that’s $2 a day. I said, “Switch to 87, and every day take $2 out of your pocket after you’re done working, put it in a bottle and do that every single day. At the end of the year, you’ll have $700 and something.” And then they start thinking. They say, “$700 is my car registration, it’s my taxi meter license,” and they still have leftover money. When they start thinking about it like that, they all switched. Hundreds of them started switching. Literally hundreds of guys come back one year later and say, “You were right.” One guy came in today. He said, “Last year I switched. Thank you very much. Nothing is wrong with my car.”

— Interviewed by Andrew Gomes


Editor’s note: “Akamai Money” seeks out local experts to answer questions about business in Hawaii. If you have an issue you would like us to tackle, please email it to and put “Akamai Money” in the subject line.

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