Which fuel is best for your car?

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Many motorists usually ask what is the best fuel for their car. As with some things in life, there is really no hard and straight answer for this one.

To simplify matters, let's focus on octane ratings. That's because one will find a number of these when making a trip to your friendly gas station. Take Petron fuels as an example. Petron stations usually offer regular, mid-grade, and premium or high octane. These are also known in our market as 91, 95, and 97-octane or higher (such as Petron Blaze 100 Euro 6), respectively.

In layman's terms, a gasoline's octane rating is its ability to resist premature ignition, also known as engine knocking. The higher the octane rating, the higher the resistance is to knocking. This is why high-performance cars usually need the premium stuff to keep them performing at their peak. Moreover, engine knocking (or that pinging or knocking sound coming from the engine bay) can actually be harmful. Being a detonation that's out of timing, it can put a hole in the pistons even after a short span of continuous knocking.

But how does one know the octane rating, you ask? It is usually found in the vehicle's owner's manual. If it says to simply go with regular fuel, then do so. If, on the other hand, your car's manual recommends using mid or high octane fuel, then try to use this type of fuel as much as possible. The operative word here is recommended, which means that while you can use lower octane gas, it is advisable to go with the good stuff if possible.

Using lower octane fuel won't damage your car's engine, thanks to modern technologies such as a knock sensor. This piece of kit will retard ignition to avoid knocking. This, however, will also reduce engine performance and tend to increase fuel consumption as the engine will need to work harder.

But if your owner's manual says that high octane fuel is required, then you have no choice but to treat your car to a sumptuous meal each time you fill up. Of course, such fuel will help bring out the best in that high-performance engine you've got under the hood.

So the next time you fill up, check to see which fuel is best to use. It could just be the thing you need to bring out the best in your car.