Premium gas not necessary for most cars
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.