Super Street Network

Due to the EU’s Global Data Protection Regulation, our website is currently unavailable to visitors from most European countries. We apologize for this inconvenience and encourage you to visit www.motortrend.com for the latest on new cars, car reviews and news, concept cars and auto show coverage, awards and much more.MOTORTREND.COM
 |   |   |  Performance Fuel Additives - Fact Or Fiction
Subscribe to the Free
Newsletter

Performance Fuel Additives - Fact Or Fiction

Debunking Tuning Myths

Luke Munnell
Jan 12, 2010

They're everywhere. On the shelves of consumer auto parts stores, on the e-pages of online performance catalogs and occasionally plastered across the flanks of winning competition cars. On their bottles are claims of increased power, better fuel mileage and cleaner engines with use, and inside are proprietary formulas and chemicals with names we can't even begin to decipher. They are the world's "performance fuel additives", and we have yet to test one that makes good on all its claims.

Impp_1002_04_o+performance_fuel_additives+front_shot Photo 2/5   |   Performance Fuel Additives - Fact Or Fiction

Have we finally found a fuel treatment that increases power?
In lieu of tetra-ethyl lead added to gasoline in pre-catalytic-converter days, a wide variety of chemicals are added to modern-day automotive gasoline to stabilize and elevate its octane level on the cheap, decrease the propensity for pre-ignition, and allow for more power to be made from increased compression and/or advanced ignition timing. In the world of aftermarket performance fuel additives and octane boosters, three ingredients are used predominantly: methylcyclopentadienyl manganese tricarbonyl (MMT), toluene, and variants of trimethylbenzene. Avoiding the whole father-son organometallic chemistry talk, let's just say that each does the job in its own way, with its own set of characteristics. Our testing of an octane booster with MMT (Fact or Fiction, Feb., '09) produced no measurable power increases-the same results we experienced testing a different one that bragged of adding "up to 25 horsepower instantly", without listing its ingredients (toluene, we suspect-Fact or Fiction, May, '08). This month, we test the venerable 104+ Maximum Octane Boost.

Like our mystery fuel treatment in the May, '08 issue, the makers of 104+ don't list its ingredients on the bottle, nor on any readily accessible part of their official website. But company literature does state that it contains no MMT or alcohol, yet delivers "double the octane boost" of its regular-formula product-one for which published MSDS data sheets list a 5-percent solution of well-known octane booster 1,2,4 trimethylbenzene (with two percent naphthalene, in a solution of 30-percent petroleum distillate and 60-percent "proprietary additive") 1. Assuming a 10-percent solution of 1, 2, 4 trimethylbenzene at a 136 AKI octane rating (anti-knock index-the same system used to rate US pump gas) 2 as our test subject's only significant octane-enhancing ingredient, adding the 16-ounce bottle of 104+ Maximum Octane Boost to 20 gallons of 91-octane fuel in our Project DC2 (per manufacturer's directions) will elevate octane levels to only 91.03 octane, give or take.

Impp_1002_03_o+performance_fuel_additives+front_view Photo 3/5   |   Performance Fuel Additives - Fact Or Fiction

Published third-party information about 104+ Octane Boost claims a "five-point" octane increase 3, which, in marketing terms, translates to a 0.5 jump in the AKI octane rating 4. Figuring a 10-point increase for 104+ Maximum, this would bring the octane rating of our test fuel to around 92-far less than 104.

To test the product's effects on power and torque output, we strapped Project DC2 down to the Dynojet rollers of Westminster, CA dyno-rental specialists MD Automotive, and performed a set of five Fourth Gear pulls, first with straight 91-octane pump gas powering the car, then another set of five after the addition of 104+ Maximum Octane Boost.

Impp_1002_05_o+performance_fuel_additives+front_view Photo 4/5   |   Performance Fuel Additives - Fact Or Fiction

Averaging the numbers, our DC2 experienced negligible changes to power and torque output throughout testing, while ambient temperatures steadily fell about two degrees.

THE VERDICT:

FICTION
Don't let our testing discredit the product entirely-octane levels weren't measured, and changes to ignition timing in our subject car weren't made to determine if it did stave off knock, as advertised. Fuel system cleaning and increased mileage claims weren't tested, either. All considered, let this show what to expect from adding an over-the-counter fuel treatment to a similar car in good tune. If you need higher-octane fuel, buying it directly from a gas station or race shop is a better bet.

Impp_1002_02_o+performance_fuel_additives+graph_one Photo 5/5   |   Performance Fuel Additives - Fact Or Fiction

Sources

1 MSDS information prepared by Mike Profetto, courtesy of Ignitable Liquids Reference Collection, University of Central Florida
http://ilrc.ucf.edu/documents/ILRC%2000000208/MSDS%2000000208.pdf

2 Myers, Richard L. (2007). The 100 Most Important Chemical Compounds: A Reference Guide. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press
http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_many_additives_in_gasoline

3 www.octane-booster.com
http://www.octane-booster.com/octane-104-street-formula-16-oz/

4 Car Care FAQ: Prestone
http://www.prestone.com/carcare/faq.php#q7

Sources

MD Automotive
Westminster, CA 92683
714-891-1113
http://www.markdibella.com
By Luke Munnell
304 Articles

BROWSE CARS BY MARKET

MORE HOW TO

WillyWerx, aka William Galan, figures heavily in this last entry of Ryan Hoegner's 911SC, giving a master class in proper vintage Porsche restoration
Bob HernandezFeb 14, 2019
Outfitting a GR WRX with fresh pads and rotors
Bob HernandezFeb 5, 2019
AC Schnitzer used data from 2 record-setting successes to dial in parts developments for the BMW F90 M5
Bob HernandezJan 31, 2019
Shifting our focus to the chassis, in particular revamping this Porsche's suspension as well as its brakes and topping it all off with a one-off roll bar
Bob HernandezJan 29, 2019
Swapping out the VX's original drums for some del Sol Si rear disc brakes.
RodrezJan 15, 2019
Sponsored Links

SEARCH ARTICLES BY MAKE/MODEL

Search
CLOSE X
BUYER'S GUIDE
SEE THE ALL NEW
NEWS, REVIEWS & SPECS
TO TOP