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Fuel in older cars

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Read an interesting post on Facebook from a guy in the Industry

 

Superunleaded & supermaket fuels - The True Facts!

With huge thanks to Ed Scott for collating his professional experience within the industry

===========================================

"I have 11 years experience in the fuel industry and manage the accounts for the sale of 2 billion litres of fuel per year in the UK.
 
Supermarkets get their fuel from the same places as main forecourt brands. If you're just getting regular unleaded there is virtually no difference between them. Asda, Tesco and the like go to the same refinery and load on the same racks as BP, Esso, JET etc.
 
There are differences with premium grades though. Anything marked super unleaded is the same.
Anything with a fancy name, 'momentum, v power, supreme' etc is the same super unleaded fuel but with that brands own additives mix. Some are better than others but none are bad. Momentum and V Power tend to be the highest quality.
 
The Mustang will run absolutely fine on any UK grade unleaded. It may produce an unnoticable amount more bhp on Super Unleaded. If you feel a difference it's probably in your mind. The main benefit of premium grades is that they help clean the injectors and other parts of the car but you don't need this every fill up to achieve the results. Once every other fill up is more than enough and even once every 4 fill ups will net you pretty much the same benefits.
 
Costco is the only exception as the buy their fuel from the same refineries and companies except the don't buy the retail grade of unleaded, diesel or super (which is usually additised) and instead buy it as base fuel, then they add in the additives themselves on site. Given how heavily regulated the UK is, I'm sure that the blend that they produce that ends up in your tank is no different to every other brand.
 
I pretty much use Tesco 99% of the time as there is one on my route to and from work. Usually I stick in regular, but will do a tank of Super now and again.

EU laws mean that unleaded fuel has to have 5% ethanol content - this is for environmental reasons. Ethanol is not very good for the fuel systems found on older cars and it will deteriorate rubber hoses and seals, so you actually want ethanol-free fuel for a Classic car.
 
Super Unleaded doesn't actually contain any ethanol and it isn't required to by law like regular unleaded is. For that reason alone, I would actually recommend super unleaded in any classic"

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^^

I believe it was true but looking at the pumps now seems to indicate that it also contains E5 as even the super has an E5 sticker on it, the same as normal unleaded.

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Solution. Buy old diesel car - go in supermarket and buy 5-litre bottles of cooking oil - pour in tank to amazement of passers by (this is a furtive and disgusting habit but ocasionally I am spotted*) and drive away. 😉

*you need a big funnel to do this fnar fnar...

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| remember filling up with E15 by accident once in France, a full bloody tank too on the way to Le Mans. I was driving a fully loaded 1999 Civic Vti at the time which was lacking in torque at the best of times and it ran like shite on the E15... couldn't wait to get rid of the stuff. I dread to think how a much older car would run on it. 

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2 hours ago, lesapandre said:

Solution. Buy old diesel car - go in supermarket and buy 5-litre bottles of cooking oil - pour in tank to amazement of passers by (this is a furtive and disgusting habit but ocasionally I am spotted*) and drive away. 😉

*you need a big funnel to do this fnar fnar...

Why bother buying it from a supermarket ?  Restaurants are happy to give it to you for free. I ran my 190D on it for 5 years up until a year ago. Saved me a small fortune. The downside is, you have to filter it before tipping it in the tank.

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Fuel stabilisers are available that remove Ethanol from petrol.I shall be forced to use these in the future as my old Lotus has big red stickers on each filler stating'do not use fuel containing Ethanol'.That's if I ever get round to getting it back on the road.

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Older cars are less fussy and more adjustable by the owner so not likely to be much of a running issue (power losses are more likely from general wear and tear). 90s stuff might be worse affected, but might not....... The issue could be the effects on some rubber components. But how many ‘end of the world for classics’ stories have their been over the years? How may have ever been a genuine massive problem? I think this will be another of those.....

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I remember my old girlfriend mentioning her New Beetle was a little fussy about which petrol it ran on. 

After it was running a bit rough she got it checked out by a mechanic who suggested not using supermarket petrol in it and sticking to branded petrol stations.

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5 hours ago, Wack said:

The True Facts!

To put this in perspective I did the Mongol Rally in a high compression ratio car that notionally requires 95 minimum. 50% of petrol stations we visited used 92 as a maximum, and other than one dodgy fill up (combined with being at ~4000 m altitude that produced a lot of hesitation) we had zero issues.

I would have through the only real way to get an answer on whether the quality of fuel has evolved since when our cars were made were to evaluate the changes to EN 228 and EN 590 over the years to see the tolerance for various 'nasties' has been relaxed.

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5 hours ago, Wack said:


Supermarkets get their fuel from the same places as main forecourt brands. If you're just getting regular unleaded there is virtually no difference between them. Asda, Tesco and the like go to the same refinery and load on the same racks as BP, Esso, JET etc.
 

'Virtually' is the keyword here - ie not the same.  I worked at a decommissioned petrol depot which still had all the pipework in place, and more importantly, the people who ran it. To cut a long story short, a tanker from Brand X would come in for loading and they would add Brand X's additives to the base petrol as it was being loaded. There was a rack of drums with additive mixtures for all the customers they supplied; each customer had their own formulation of additive added at a concentration specified by the customer. The larger customers had lines and pumps  permanently installed to the filling bridge so that blending the additive was more or less automatically. Smaller customers additives where added by selecting the appropriate drum, putting a pipe in it and adjusting the pump to add the additive at the correct ratio to the petrol.

But the petrol does come from the same refineries - obvs as the young ones would say - there's only a few in the country.

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Even dirt cheap supermarket petrol is surely better than what was around 40 years ago?

I've seen/heard the arguments rage on this for some time. I've used a mixture of branded and supermarket in different cars and am yet to detect much of a difference. The capri *seems* to run better on vpower, but maybe that's unconscious bias.

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Everything on my fleet bar the Seicento is near enough 30 years old, so I run them on super to protect them.

R.E garages warning against "supermarket fuel" - what they should be warning against is "lower octane".  The higher the octane rating, the higher the temperature the fuel will ignite, meaning more of it actually combusts in the combustion chamber, rather than on the way to it, reducing carbon build up and coking the engine up.

Run a car for years on cheap fuel, and it will come home to roost in one way or another eventually.

Momentum/V-Power and Ultimate and whatnot isn't really worth it if you see it as rocket fuel, because it really isn't, but it might make your engine more efficient.

Even though our fuel does come from the same ground tanks, I avoid ASDA like the plague. A few years ago one of their filling stations local to me had issues with contaminated fuel, damaging a lot of customer's cars. To their credit, ASDA paid for every repair which resulting in people filling up with the iffy batch of fuel. I'm aware that it could happen anywhere, but it has always stuck in my mind.

 

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We do seem to be seeing a bit of an increase of older cars with rubber fuel line components catching fire, though perhaps it's just anecdotal with the increase in media on ethanol use.

Lots of people missing the point here though.

2 hours ago, Tamworthbay said:

The issue could be the effects on some rubber components.

This is the point.

 

 

2 minutes ago, TheXUDfiles said:

what they should be warning against is "lower octane"

 

2 minutes ago, TheXUDfiles said:

I avoid ASDA like the plague. A few years ago one of their filling stations local to me had issues with contaminated fuel

Which is it?

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2 minutes ago, TheXUDfiles said:

Which fuel station? Fareham branch in Hampshire. No longer local to me, but it was once.

No, is it that people should be warned off lower octane fuel than can be sold legally, or cheap suppliers with lower standards increasing the risk of "exactly the same stuff" causing problems due to contamination? And what has this to do with ethanol?

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3 minutes ago, TheXUDfiles said:

Everything on my fleet bar the Seicento is near enough 30 years old, so I run them on super to protect them.

R.E garages warning against "supermarket fuel" - what they should be warning against is "lower octane".  The higher the octane rating, the higher the temperature the fuel will ignite, meaning more of it actually combusts in the combustion chamber, rather than on the way to it, reducing carbon build up and coking the engine up.

Run a car for years on cheap fuel, and it will come home to roost in one way or another eventually.

Momentum/V-Power and Ultimate and whatnot isn't really worth it if you see it as rocket fuel, because it really isn't, but it might make your engine more efficient.

Even though our fuel does come from the same ground tanks, I avoid ASDA like the plague. A few years ago one of their filling stations local to me had issues with contaminated fuel, damaging a lot of customer's cars. To their credit, ASDA paid for every repair which resulting in people filling up with the iffy batch of fuel. I'm aware that it could happen anywhere, but it has always stuck in my mind.

 

I am not sure what you mean by ‘rather than on the way to it’, no car that is properly set up should have ignition anywhere other than the combustion chamber. If fuel is igniting in the inlet tract then there is something seriously wrong with the car!

And the single biggest payout from any fuel supplier in the UK was from Shell in the 80s. I worked for them on a weekend when I was doing my A levels and when the scandal broke we were dead for weeks. The magical additives had caused massive damage to a lot of cars.

I have done over 500,000 miles in 30 years of driving and always fill up at the most convenient place, for 90% of the time that’s has been supermarkets. Never had a fuel related problem in all those miles, never noticed any difference on the occasions I have used ‘branded fuel’. 
Snake oil and emperors new clothes.

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Just now, loserone said:

No, is it that people should be warned off lower octane fuel than can be sold legally, or cheap suppliers with lower standards increasing the risk of "exactly the same stuff" causing problems due to contamination? 

I see what you mean now, sorry.

I'm talking about people being warned off lower octane stuff.

I'm not saying anyone "should" be warned off cheap stuff, but that's the reason garages are probably getting at when they tell people to avoid Supermarket fuel. And don't get me wrong,  I don't judge people as inferior car enthusiasts for using cheap fuel (an oxymoron really, there's no such thing as cheap fuel in the UK).  The little Fiat gets run on any old stuff to be honest, it's nor old nor worth the extra investment of posh fuel.

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5 minutes ago, Tamworthbay said:

I am not sure what you mean by ‘rather than on the way to it’, no car that is properly set up should have ignition anywhere other than the combustion chamber. If fuel is igniting in the inlet tract then there is something seriously wrong with the car!

 

That's what I used to think as well, but I asked an engineer if it was worth using, and that was the answer he gave me. Apparently some of the heat generated by the engine can cause this to happen, meaning you can lose a very small amount of fuel before reaches the combustion chamber. 

We're probably talking very, very tiny amounts but I tend to err on the side of caution. 

I assume this is true, as I've noticed a small increase in MPG on most of my cars cars. 

What was the additive that Shell used back then? I'd love to read about that!

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ALL pump fuels now contain ethanol.  Until last year at some point the "premium" fuels like Momentum 99 and V-Power were ethanol free, that's no longer the case.  They will likely remain E5 for a while after the change to E10 for standard unleaded...but for how long is anyone's guess.  I know the date 2026 has been thrown around...but I'd definitely not take that as set in stone.

I think the biggest worry for me where ethanol is concerned is probably plastic fuel tanks and plastic fuel lines...especially when coupled with a high pressure in-tank pump on early 90s injected cars like the Xantia.

On an older car with a carb and a metal tank it's not really the end of the world to ethanol proof the fuel system end-to-end.  Yes, it's a hassle, especially if you need to go changing carb floats and the like, but at the end of the day it's doable. 

On a 90s motor though...it's really not practical.  There's a lot more bits to the fuel system, and a lot of them are far more specialised rather than off-the-shelf components and the costs involved would likely be prohibitive.

The whole fuel system on the Jag is getting a do-over as a precautionary measure...A *lot* of the injection system on that uses flexible rubber hoses rather than rigid lines.

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3 minutes ago, Zelandeth said:

 

I think the biggest worry for me where ethanol is concerned is probably plastic fuel tanks and plastic fuel lines...especially when coupled with a high pressure in-tank pump on early 90s injected cars like the Xantia.

 

Some cars from the era will be on fine E10 - I think most "autoshite era" BMWs, Mercs are fine on it, and I think most Jags are.  There was some EU paper produced detailing which older cars could and couldn't be run on E10 -but I've had a look and I can't find it.

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29 minutes ago, TheXUDfiles said:

That's what I used to think as well, but I asked an engineer if it was worth using, and that was the answer he gave me. Apparently some of the heat generated by the engine can cause this to happen, meaning you can lose a very small amount of fuel before reaches the combustion chamber. 

We're probably talking very, very tiny amounts but I tend to err on the side of caution. 

I assume this is true, as I've noticed a small increase in MPG on most of my cars cars. 

What was the additive that Shell used back then? I'd love to read about that!

It was a ‘special’ mix they developed and launched to a massive fanfare. No idea what was in it but they spent a fortune repainting the whole place with it’s logo. It was called Shell advanced I think. It started causing problems really quickly and was withdrawn after a short time but when the story broke we were sat with an empty forecourt and the BP on the other side of the A52 was rammed. On the plus side I got a load of free shell T shirts and didn’t buy a pen for years!

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3 hours ago, Bradders59 said:

Why bother buying it from a supermarket ?  Restaurants are happy to give it to you for free. I ran my 190D on it for 5 years up until a year ago. Saved me a small fortune. The downside is, you have to filter it before tipping it in the tank.

Yea it is the filtering and messing about...but...I may try growing some biofuel - I'm not sure how many miles to the acre you can get - but some rapeseed as a crop may be fun to try milling. ( you have probably gathered the current Apocalypse has got me thinking what if...*)

It's not the cheapest veg at the supermarket - but its convenient - and I smell like Harry Ramsden going up the street - and it keeps me amused.

*I have gone completely bonkers during lock-down

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I was always most amused when I would sit at traffic lights and look in the rear view mirror and see a driver saying to their passenger "where is that smell coming from ?".

Particularly when I had recently had a batch from the local curry house. That was pretty pungent. 

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20 minutes ago, Bradders59 said:

I was always most amused when I would sit at traffic lights and look in the rear view mirror and see a driver saying to their passenger "where is that smell coming from ?".

Particularly when I had recently had a batch from the local curry house. That was pretty pungent. 

I could never run a car on veg because the smell would constantly make me hungry. It was bad enough when I got wafts of steak frying from the pub over the road.

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Fuel here has been E10 (or as the label on the pump says "All fuels contain up to 10% ethanol") for a long time now, certainly the last 13 years since I've been here.

You can buy non-Ethanol fuel here specifically- it costs a fair chunk more but a lot of people here run boats and Ethanol, being hygroscopic, will attract all the water it can which will then pool in the tank and rust out any internal metal parts. Only deemed acceptable if your boat has a set of davits for the oars.

My Renault had been run on Ethanol fuel. It turned the fuel lines into slippery jelly which split open like a cheap condom. The injection fuel pressure in the Renault is a whopping 14.7 PSI and it still split the pipe wide open about an inch along its' length. It ate up the injector o-ring in the same fashion. I replaced the o-ring with a Viton one and the rest of the rubber line with Ethanol-rated pipe and had no more troubles.

I'm on the same carburetor on my 2-stroke weedeater/strimmer after 2 years running it on non-ethanol fuel. I used to fill it from the Jerry can I kept aside as a spare for the truck "just in case", and was replacing the carb annually. Fuel from the same station. The non-ethanol is in a seperate tank, the regular in another and they blend in metered additives to bump up the 87 to 93 (common practise here).

However, as regulated as things are here and there, a local station got shut down (Citgo) because they had a number of people finding rough-running issues, check-engine lights etc. One person's vehicle stopped running altogether after a high speed highway run after filling up there a few times- tear-down showed the piston crowns were obliterated from detonation and the rings were mullered, leaving the engine with poor compression. Independent test showed the fuel in all cases not managing to exceed about 82 octane (R+M/2), which is just about getting towards being two-star grade. They'd bought in some out of state high-altitude fuel on the cheap. At sea level high-alt fuel is no good. 8000' ASL+ you can run on 82-85 with no real problems.

So, in terms of high performance, I really don't care for cheaper octane-boosted fuel (if what you pumped smells like the floor around the entrance of an old scrapyard it's probably not good) because it might perform in a burn test like the equivalent octane but everything they put in it to stabilize the burn tends to be rather volatile, and as such, much more likely to soften or destroy older plastics found in a lot of 60's through early 00's vehicles.

50's and older generally seem to be OK because the fuel back then was significantly less regulated, a lot of the parts are all metal and the only concern to be had is if the fuel is going to dissolve the copper out of any brass components...

 

--Phil

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1 hour ago, TheXUDfiles said:

It was bad enough when I got wafts of steak frying from the pub over the road.

I'm sure they throw the fat in the fan so everybody within a mile heads in that direction like in the 70s bisto adverts 

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