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High Octane Fuel

June 09, 1996

Regarding the suggestion that it can be helpful to use higher-octane fuel at higher altitude ("Before Taking a Motor Trip, Check Your Cash Efficiency," Travel Insider, May 19): This makes no sense. Gasoline burns slower at higher altitude because of less oxygen, which effectively boosts octane. You will find that the octane ratings on all grades of gasoline sold in high altitude areas of the country are lower.

RAY ELIAS

Los Angeles

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Christopher Reynolds replies: Mr. Elias is right about lower octane levels being necessary at higher altitudes. The Auto Club officials' advice was intended for drivers who hear pinging as they climb from low altitudes to high altitudes.

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