Does Octane Booster Work?

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Zach is a founder of 8020 Media and TuningPro. He’s been repairing, upgrading, tuning, and writing about cars & engines for over a decade. Zach has written over 400 automotive articles and continues to be a lead writer for TuningPro. His passion, experience, and deep technical knowledge make him a go-to resource for readers looking to take their car to the next level.

Octane booster is a hot topic in the car, boat, and dirt bike world along with many others. Octane rating is an important measure of fuel’s ability to withstand compression. Many high-performance engines run higher-octane fuels so it must be beneficial, right? Does octane booster work? Will it actually help improve performance? In this guide, we discuss octane, octane boosters, examine whether or not they work, and look at a few of the best products available.

Octane Booster - Best Octane Boosters, Performance Benefits, & More

Understanding Fuel Octanes

A fuel’s octane rating is simply a measure of its ability to withstand compression without detonating. Internal combustion engines (ICE) run at high temperatures and pressures. Normally fuel requires a spark to ignite. However, fuel can ignite on its own given enough heat and compression; this is known as autoignition.

Autoignition can cause two potentially severe events – preignition and detonation. These topics could make up lengthy articles of their own, so we’ll avoid getting technical. The key point is that autoignition is bad. It can lead to severe engine damage to critical parts like rods, pistons, bearings, and more.

Back on track – higher octane fuels help prevent against autoignition. They have a higher ability to tolerate compression and heat. How does that translate to performance and power, though? Believe it or not – octane rating doesn’t directly relate to the energy content of gasoline. Therefore, it’s also not directly related to the power or torque output of an ICE.

How Octane Improves Performance

There is still a reason many performance engines demand higher octane fuels. Remember, the octane rating measures the ability to withstand compression. Engines have a set compression ratio, which essentially measures how much the air is compressed by the piston. All else equal, a higher compression ratio does improve power and performance. In turn, high octane fuel allows manufacturers to increase the engines compression ratio.

Ignition timing is also an important factor in an engines performance. Higher octane fuels allow for more ignition advance which can also improve power. There are even more factors, but again we’ll avoid getting too technical for the sake of this article.

The point is – higher octane fuels do provide indirect performance benefits. Those into tuning and other performance topics likely understand this. With proper tuning, 93 octane will show considerable power gains over something like 85 or 87 octane. The same can be said with even higher octane fuels such as race gas or E85 (ethanol).

Does Octane Booster Actually Work?

Yes, octane booster does work as a means to increase octane. It can increase octane levels by trace amounts to over 115 octane. Of course, the results depend on the product in question, how much is used, and the starting octane rating. More on that when we look at specific octane boosters. By increasing octane rating you also get better resistance to preignition and detonation.

Many factory performance engines are designed for maximum power with higher grade fuels like 93 octane. Many states in the US do not have access to 93 octane, though. Using octane booster to increase from 91 octane to 93 could indeed show power and performance gains, for example. Even if your car wasn’t optimized for higher octane fuels you may still see some minor gains (and better engine safety via less chance of autoignition). That’s not always the case, and whether or not octane booster works varies for each car and engine.

Uses For Performance & Tuning

When tuning and modding your car octane becomes very important. With higher octane, tuners are able to tweak things like ignition advance to improve power output. It would be riskier to do such things with lower octane gasoline that is less resistant to detonation. As such, if you’re tuning your vehicle for more octane then octane boosters may help make this possible.

However, while it can be effective we don’t recommend always relying on octane booster to accomplish this. The better option is tuning for the octane that is readily available. Or go to local race shops and pick up race gas or high octane solutions there. If you’re in a pinch then octane booster may be a good thing to keep around; we just don’t love the idea of relying on it for the long-term.

When Not To Use Octane Booster

Generally, octane booster is safe to test and use. Ensure you’re picking up quality, name-brand products, and that it’s safe for your specific engine (it almost always is). You may not notice any performance benefits at all, or you may feel a drastic increase. Some of it may be the placebo effect, so dyno testing is really the most effective way to see if there is any noticeable performance benefit.

The key takeaway is that octane booster can work but there are some extra considerations. The right octane boosters increase octane rating, but whether or not that helps power is a case by case basis. It’s not a good idea to rely on octane boosters as long-term solutions.

If you want to tune your car for something that you can’t find at a standard fuel pump – 93 octane, 95 octane, 100+ octane, etc – then check with local race shops. They may have high octane race gas that’s a safer, more effective long-term solution. Often, you can simply mix this with normal pump fuels to achieve the desired octane rating.

Dyno Data: +27whp and +15wtq

We put a 32oz bottle of BOOSTane into a BMW 335i and put it on the dyno, after a base run of 258whp and 283wtq. Based on the amount of fuel in the tank, we raised octane from 93 up to 104.5, which cost about $35. The second dyno run with the octane booster then put down 285whp and 298wtq – proving a power gain of 27whp and 15wtq.

Does Octane Booster Work? - BOOSTane Dyno Results

Now the engines in these cars are octane hungry and have a pretty intelligent and adaptive engine control unit (ECU). Even without tuning, these engines can quickly recognize higher octane fuels and increase boost targets and other parameters to improve performance.

These are impressive gains, but not everyone should expect results like this. However, many modern cars do have intelligent computers that will pick up on higher octane fuels and make the adjustments for better performance. But on something like a naturally aspirated engine, or one with a less advanced ECU, you will probably notice significantly smaller power gains.

So yes, octane booster works, but it tends to work better on some cars and the power gains really aren’t worth the cost unless you are using it for special occasions like dyno runs, drag racing, or tracking. The better bet is to purchase high octane racing fuel from a race shop.

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