The Lowest Octane


The Lowest Octane

This morning on the way to work the fuel needle in the car was so low that I bottled it and pulled into the local Tesco to fill up. Normally I fill the tank at the Shell station along the road from us, but being too eager to get home the night before meant I couldn’t be bothered with the diversion and decided to gamble on being able to get to and from work on what was left. But when it came to it, I didn’t want to risk it. I don’t know how much of an idiot I’d feel if I ever let the car run out of petrol, but I don’t want to find out if I can avoid it, either.

So I found myself queueing with all the other commuters, some filling their tanks to the brim while the driver behind tapped his steering wheel impatiently, others just there for a splash and dash – ?5 worth and off they went. When my turn came I decided that ?10 of fuel would get me through until late next week – just enough to last until pay day when I’d treat the car to its tank of Optimax. I used to treat the car to Optimax all the time, but with prices rising swiftly over the last year it only gets the good stuff every third fill now.

I realised that while I’d been pondering the petrol prices the guage had crept past ten. Shit. I paused, before noticing that it was reasonably cheap petrol; ?82.9 a litre is about the cheapest around here right now. Given that cheapness, I decided to carry on all the way up to ?20 – a good two weeks worth at that price. Once paid up and back in the car I began to realise just why the stuff was so cheap – I had hardly any acceleration – it felt not only like I had left the handbrake on, but like I’d also removed the gearbox.

Now, Shell Optimax is the highest octane petrol available in the UK. The Ferrari team use it in F1 – they helped develop it, and it seems to make their cars go very fast. It certainly gives my Jazz a bit more zip, and it’s good for your engine into the bargain.

Conversely, Tesco Petrol has only slightly more octane than tap water. It couldn’t make your engine struggle any more if each cheap and cheerful ?5 of the stuff came with a free anchor that you chained to your rear bumper. In short, it would probably be doing less harm to my engine if I’d filled up with salt water and shat in the tank for good measure.

Now I have 20 odd litres of Tesco’s finest for my poor engine to choke through over the next couple of weeks. Fuck, I feel like going on a long drive this weekend just to get rid of it. Or maybe it would be less cruel to the car to syphon the stuff back out?

Except now that I’ve blown twenty notes on Craptimax I cant afford to get any good stuff. (Yes, the family holiday proved to be a lot more expensive than I’d anticipated.)

I remembered as I strugged to work that my good friend Rob had a whole catalogue of problems a year or so ago due to a bad batch of Tesco petrol – he ended up having to get his fuel pump replaced, and Duff the Tragic Wagon hasn’t been quite the same since. Unfortunately I’d forgotten about that particular episode when I made the ill fated decision to stop at the chateux of shit, or I would have just taken the extra detour and gone for some branded stuff.

My poor car… and all the other poor cars, too. It wasn’t just me – there were scores of people pouring that evil piss into their defenceless vehicles. :o|

Somebody should do something.