Pre­mium gas not nec­es­sary for most cars

Winnipeg Free Press - Section F - - AUTOS - JIM KERR

QUES­TION: I have ques­tions re­gard­ing ad­di­tives, such as gas line an­tifreeze and fuel in­jec­tor cleaner. Pre­mium gas line an­tifreeze has iso­propyl al­co­hol, and the cheaper ones do not (they con­tain methyl al­co­hol, I be­lieve). Does the iso­propyl do a bet­ter job of ab­sorb­ing wa­ter from the tank and burn­ing it out of the sys­tem? Are there any other ben­e­fits to pay­ing for pre­mium an­tifreeze? Also, the gas sta­tions al­ready have ad­di­tives in the reg­u­lar gas. Do I even need to re­move wa­ter from my fuel sys­tem that could build up over time?

Fuel-in­jec­tor clean­ers or other ad­di­tives claim to clean car­bon de­posits from the com­bus­tion cham­ber and valves, and keep the in­jec­tors free of block­ages. Are they ef­fec­tive, and do they also re­move wa­ter from the fuel sys­tem?

AN­SWER: Both iso­propyl and methyl al­co­hols com­bine with wa­ter so it will flow through the fuel sys­tem and be re­moved from the fuel tank. Most reg­u­lar fu­els con­tain al­co­hol, so there is no need to add more to pre­vent wa­ter from freez­ing in the fuel lines. Some of the pre­mium fu­els do not con­tain al­co­hol, al­though some do, so adding gas line an­tifreeze would be a good idea in cold weather if the fuel you use doesn’t con­tain al­co­hol.

There is no ad­van­tage to us­ing pre­mium fuel as long as the en­gine in your ve­hi­cle doesn’t re­quire it. Check the owner’s man­ual or a lo­cal ser­vice depart­ment. If it states “pre­mium rec­om­mended” it is still pos­si­ble to use reg­u­lar fuel, but per­for­mance and fuel econ­omy will de­crease. If it states “pre­mium re­quired,” you should be us­ing pre­mium fuel. Other­wise, use reg­u­lar-grade fuel.

Fuel-in­jec­tor clean­ers do help clean car­bon and gum de­posits from in­jec­tors, en­gine valves and com­bus­tion cham­bers. Dif­fer­ent fu­els have dif­fer­ent types and amounts of clean­ers al­ready in them. The af­ter­mar­ket ad­di­tives are typ­i­cally not de­signed to re­move wa­ter, so use the al­co­hol to do this.

QUES­TION: Ar­ti­cles on airbags and ABS brak­ing re­minded me of the prob­lems in­tro­duced with the in­tro­duc­tion of ABS brak­ing — folks get­ting into prob­lems when these were not used as de­signed, and the folks be­hind ve­hi­cles with ABS run­ning into ABS-equipped ve­hi­cles be­cause they could not stop as ef­fi­ciently. I won­der how things will work out when Jags and Toy­otas mix things up with ve­hi­cles not so welle­quipped. I un­der­stand self-driv­ing fea­tures can be over­rid­den by the driver who is taken by sur­prise and does not al­low the ve­hi­cle to “save” him/her.

AN­SWER: There will al­ways be dis­par­ity be­tween newer ve­hi­cles and older ones when it comes to safety. Search out on­line video clips of crash test­ing in the 1930s to 1960s and you will find cars to­tally de­mol­ished in ac­ci­dents that would not even dam­age the pas­sen­ger com­part­ment on a mod­ern ve­hi­cle. Any new tech­nol­ogy takes a while be­fore it is adopted and fully uti­lized. Even to­day, most driv­ers don’t use the full ca­pa­bil­ity of the ABS when emer­gency ac­tion is re­quired. Most driv­ers step on the brake pedal quickly but not hard enough for full ABS oper­a­tion. Many ve­hi­cles now have “brake as­sist,” which will ap­ply the brakes fully if the brake pedal is rapidly de­pressed, no mat­ter how far it is de­pressed. This can stop a ve­hi­cle up to a full length sooner.

One of the big­gest ad­van­tages of ABS is it al­lows the ve­hi­cle to re­main un­der con­trol. The driver can then steer around a po­ten­tial haz­ard. Depend­ing on the road con­di­tions, it might not stop the ve­hi­cle any faster than a good driver can with­out ABS, but it does be­come a great equal­izer. I would sus­pect most rear-end collisions oc­cur be­cause of ve­hi­cles fol­low­ing too close rather than only some hav­ing ABS.

As for self-driv­ing fea­tures, these are all driver aids, not de­signed to re­place the driver. Other­wise, we could all sit in the back seat. Yes, the driver can take con­trol at any time by touch­ing the con­trols, so driver train­ing is still im­por­tant, and in my opin­ion not done to a high enough stan­dard to al­low driv­ers to re­act prop­erly to emer­gency sit­u­a­tions. As the sys­tems im­prove, I hope there will al­ways be driver in­volve­ment in the driv­ing process, but some of the au­to­mated fea­tures will help both the oc­cu­pants of the ve­hi­cle and oth­ers around them.

Jim Kerr is a me­chanic, in­struc­tor of au­to­mo­tive tech­nol­ogy, free­lance jour­nal­ist and mem­ber of the

Au­to­mo­bile Jour­nal­ists’ As­so­ci­a­tion of Canada.

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