If you have lived in the UAE long enough, you would know that every time you pull into a fuel station, the very first question the attendant asks you is ‘Special’ or ‘Super’? But have you ever wondered what does that really mean?

While it is easy to just pick one fuel grade over another, most of us are not sure which type of fuel is best for our cars and how it may end up impacting the vehicle’s performance. To know this, it is vital to understand the key difference between the two. 

Super vs Special

Basically, UAE residents can choose between two types of fuel – the regular 95 Octane ‘Special’ variant or an expensive 98 Octane ‘Super’ variant.

How are they technically different?

Let’s begin with the Octane rating. An Octane rating is a number that is the standard measure of the performance of an engine and fuel. If the number is high, it takes longer time for the petrol to detonate before it is needed by the engine. In short, higher the number, the more compression fuel can withstand before detonating. On the other hand, a lower octane rating can cause the issue of engine knocking. In the UAE, you would find octane ratings Special 95 and Super 98 at all fuel stations. 

While petrol firms add cleaning additives to all fuels, the ones with higher octane levels contain enhanced detergents to keep the injectors clean. Moreover, super fuels are comparatively dense and give more power per liter.

[Related: Six ways you can save on fuel]

How much do both cost?

Currently, car owners can get the 98 Super Octane for AED 2.2 per liter and the 95 Special for AED 2.09 per liter (as per fuel prices announced for November 2019).

Which variant is better for your car?

While many claim that using a higher octane fuel can boost your vehicle’s power and help maintain a cleaner fuel, experts have countered that there is no advantage of using a higher grade of petrol than what is recommended by the carmaker. In fact, using a high octane fuel when your car is made for a lower grade can be harmful for your vehicle. Conversely, using a low octane fuel when your car demands a higher variant can be just as damaging as it may lead to an abnormal combustion of air and fuel mix in the cylinder, triggering a phenomena known as “knocking”.

[Related: Fuel consumption: How does your car stack up?]

Is there a way to find out which fuel variant is right for my vehicle? Well, usually the best way to tell is the user manual provided by the car manufacturer. It is always recommended to stick to what your car maker suggests and not get influenced by “so-called experts”. If you are still not sure, then listen to the sound of your vehicle very carefully. If there is a knocking sound, it is a clear sign that you are using the wrong fuel variant. 

Experts suggest that vehicle owners should choose a good fuel system cleaner, especially if they are unable to get their car serviced regularly. Good fuel additives can help restore power and improve fuel economy while keeping the engine clean of all deposits.


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