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Saturday, December 15, 2007


Toluene, the cheap octane boost

With no fan on the Miata's intercooler, we had a bit of a pinging problem on the dyno at PRI. Jerry wanted to get some race gas, but we had no idea where to find any (OK, so all the race gas makers exhibit at PRI, but we weren't sure they had any for sale at the show). After talking things over with one of the Dynapack representatives who's used this trick himself, we dumped two gallons of toluene in the Miata's tank. This stuff is typically sold at paint stores and is around 114 octane. It costs around $16 a gallon if you're not buying it in industrial quantities, but that's actually cheaper than most auto parts store octane boosters and more effective, too. You don't want to run it straight as this stuff evidently doesn't work too well in cold weather. But it's safe to mix with gasoline, and won't damage your fuel system. In fact, most gasoline has a bit of this stuff in it already.

That's Jerry mixing it into our gas can while Justin watches. Funny thing is, the guys at the Sherwin Williams paint store had never heard of toluene being used that way, and they seemed to be a bit into cars. I just know they'll be talking about the time three crazy guys wandered into their shop and tried to put toluene in a Miata. We didn't try to see if we could capitalize on the extra octane by retuning the car - after all, we had to drive it home to Atlanta.

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