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A lot of confusion, mystery, and myth surround the simple question of what grade of fuel to use, what octane ratings mean, what detonation is, and the value of racing fuels. Part of the reason for that is the marketing that oil companies have done for over 70 years, in which they have promoted high octane fuels as an easy avenue to increase performance, when in fact, this is a very much backwards perspective on the matter. It is engines originally built for higher performance that need it.
Let’s see if we can clear up some of the misinformation! Click on to page two where we'll start with "Detonation: what is it?"
Detonation: what is it?
Gasoline engines are designed to burn gasoline. They are not designed to “explode” or detonate it. There’s a huge difference. During normal operation, air and fuel is introduced into the combustion chamber, compressed so as to improve the force of expansion as it burns, then near top dead center, it is ignited by the ignition system. What is supposed to happen is that the fuel immediately adjacent to the spark plug is ignited, and as it burns it ignites the fuel surrounding it and so on outward from there very much like a wave of flame. It’s like making a circle of match heads on top of a table and dropping a lit match in the middle (or anywhere else in the circle). The flame will spread rapidly, but never instantly.
Detonation is different. Detonation is the simultaneous ignition of all of the unburned fuel in the cylinder at the time it occurs, all at once. Normal ignition is a heavy, sudden push that continues over 90 or more degrees of crank rotation; detonation is like hitting the piston with a hammer instead of pushing it, and often has the effect you would expect from doing that kind of thing.
Up next: Why and how does detonation happen?
Why and how does detonation happen?
Detonation occurs when the heat and pressure in the cylinder rise to the point where the gasoline is ignited by just that, and not by contact with a flame. Once that level of heat is reached, it affects all of the fuel that remains to be burned equally and at the same time, rather than progressively, as a flame traveling from droplet to droplet of the fuel mist, and all of it ignites in the same instant, creating insanely high spikes of pressure that can and do cause horrendous damage.
In practice, the causes are one or more of excessive heat in the combustion chamber that allows temperatures to rise too high during compression, timing that is too far advanced, allowing the flame to build too much pressure before it can effectively turn the crank, hot spots in carbon deposits that ignite the fuel early, or simply a fuel the does not have sufficient resistance to being ignited by heat and pressure alone. That is, a fuel with an insufficient octane number.
Most of the time, what happens is that ignition takes place normally, and the flame front begins to spread over the combustion chamber as intended. But, as the flame spreads, heat and pressures in the chamber rise until they reach the point where the fuel can no longer tolerate them, the remaining fuel from the previous intake cycle detonates, often resulting in an audible “ping”. It can produce a sound reminiscent of having filled the top end with marbles or something, and can be quite destructive if it happens early enough in the power stroke. The correction, assuming that the engine is timed and jetted appropriately is to increase the resistance of the gasoline to being ignited by sources other than open flame. That means, a fuel with a high enough octane number.
That’s the form detonation usually takes, and at that level, in which only a part of the whole fuel charge is detonated instead of burned, it isn’t nearly as harmful as it can get. In the extreme, where the gasoline is pre-ignited, that is, ignited earlier than intended by an overheated engine, glowing carbon, etc., a larger percentage, or even all of the fuel may be detonated at once, and the results can be catastrophic.
Up next: What are the factors that influence normal combustion?
What are the factors that influence normal combustion?
Compression, ignition advance, and the fuel’s tolerance of them. Compression is simple to understand. Compression creates heat, and more compression creates more heat. Possibly too much more.
Ignition timing is a little more complicated, but still pretty easy to understand. In a piston engine, there is a mechanical “sweet zone” in the rotation of the crankshaft that goes from just after top dead center (TDC) to around 90 degrees after top dead center (ATDC). In this zone pressure on top of the piston does the most efficient job of turning the crank. It’s also important here to note that throughout this zone of rotation, the combustion chamber volume is constantly expanding. Gasoline of any kind or blend burns at nearly the same rate under pressure regardless of the situation.
Now, picture the piston having just past TDC and starting down the bore. If you light the fuel now, it will take a certain amount of time for it to develop a significant amount of pressure to really do anything about pushing the piston down. While it’s trying to build pressure, the piston is moving away from it at the same time, and little is gained. So the timing is set to ignite the fuel in advance of TDC. This allows the burning fuel to build up a meaningful amount of “push” by the time the piston starts down, and ideally burning most of it within the “sweet zone”. Since the engine will speed up, but the fuel burn won’t, the faster the engine spins, the more advance it needs as it picks up speed.
But if the fuel is ignited too early, the pressure and heat may reach critical levels before the combustion chamber volume has begun to enlarge adequately, and the portion of the fuel that lies in front of the advancing flame may then detonate.
Octane is the fuel’s detonation resistance.
And that’s all it is. Gasoline is a blend of several hydrocarbon solvents, among them toluene, benzene, heptane, and octane, plus a number of less active ingredients designed to do things other than add to the fuel’s energy levels. The number “100 octane” is based on the detonation resistance of 100% iso-octane. When a fuel is labeled “95 octane”, it resists detonation under pressure as well as a blend of gas consisting simply of 5% n-heptane and 95% iso-octane.
Octane number indicates ONLY this resistance to detonation. High octane gas does not burn hotter, colder, easier, harder, cleaner, dirtier, or with any more or less power because of the octane number. Differences such as any of these other fuel characteristics that actually do occur are the result of the overall fuel blend used for that particular gasoline, and it is both possible and common to find major differences in these qualities in different gasolines that all have the same octane rating. Race gas is a perfect example of this, as we will see later.
Up next: Why can I use 91 octane when my manual says I need at least 95?
Why can I use 91 octane when my manual says I need at least 95?
There are three different rating systems used to find the octane number of a fuel. The oldest is the Research Method. This method uses a special test engine with a variable compression ratio to compare the relative detonation resistance of fuels with equivalent heptane/octane mixes.
A newer method called the Motor Octane method also uses a test engine, but runs at 900 RPM instead of 600 as in the Research Method, and uses higher temperatures and variable timing to compare fuels. It is considered a more accurate gauge of how gasoline will perform in modern engines than is the Research Method, but it’s rarely used in any kind of advertising because the rating numbers tend to run from about 8 to 12 points lower than the ratings arrived at with the Research engine. A fuel rated 100 Research Octane Number (RON) will only post up a best of 90-92 Motor Octane Number (MON), in spite of the fact that they have very close to the same real detonation resistance regardless of the test method. But oil companies are much more likely to promote their products by quoting RON than MON, if you let them, because it comports with all those marketing myths they’ve been selling all these years. This is where the third rating method comes in.
In an effort to reduce consumer confusion and promote some level of consistency, the US Government requires that the average octane number achieved by both methods be posted on gas pumps and be called the “Anti-Knock Index”. You see it as “R+M/2” on the pump. So when your manual says you need 95 octane, and your bike is from Europe or Japan, you’re being quoted Research Octane Number. The equivalent Motor Octane number would be about 86, and the average would be 90-91, so that’s what you would look for at the gas pump.
Up Next: So, do I need race fuel?
So, do I need race fuel?
If you can buy pump gasoline that meets the minimum octane requirements of your engine, you don’t need race gas or octane boosters to raise the octane number any higher. Your engine will run detonation-free on any gas that rises to that level, and paying any money out to run the octane rating up any higher than that is just a pure waste.
There are, or may be, several other reasons to improve on the pump gas you find in your particular area. A lot of what goes into commercial automotive pump gas is there to do things other than create power, and those ingredients may be partially or completely inert as far as their contribution to the amount of power the engine can produce from it (referred to as “energy content”). Ethanol fuels are a good example. By itself, ethanol has an RON of 108, but its MON is only 88. E85 fuel is 104 RON, and only 85 MON. Furthermore, to get the same power as non ethanol gasoline, you have to burn 15-25% more of it.
Oxygenating agents are added to pump fuels to aid in the more complete burning of fuel for the purpose of reducing emissions. Oxygenates are added to race fuels as accelerants, and there is often a fairly big difference in the chemicals chosen for that job. Ethanol is an oxygenate, but it produces much less energy per volume in and of itself than most gasoline components, so it reduces the energy content. MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether) is an oxygenate that produces more energy when burned than ethanol, and releases more oxygen in the process, so it’s more often used in race fuels.
You can generally gain power through using race gas, but rather than a gift that keeps on giving, it’s a modification that you have to keep on paying for for as long as you want to use it, and it often requires rejetting to make the switch, so you kind of have to stay with it. The extra power IS NOT a result of the usually higher octane number, but comes from the specific blend of hydrocarbon compounds used in the formula. A number of octane increasing components such as xylene and toluene also increase the energy content since they actively contribute to the combustion event, as opposed to tetraethyl lead, with is essentially inert as a fuel component.
As far as vaporization rates, burn rates, etc., etc., differently configured engines require fuels with different attributes. Factors are carbs vs. fuel injection, long vs. short intake tracts, high vs. low RPM operation, and steady state vs. non-steady state operation (like boats and airplanes vs. dirt bikes). Race fuels come in such diverse varieties for this reason.
Incidentally, octane boosters are mostly snake oil. There are a few good ones that are available from automotive speed shops, but most of the ones you see on the shelf at the auto parts store are useless. They say they raise octane by one or two or three points, but that’s a change of 0.1 to 0.3, not 1 to 3 octane. Injector cleaner might actually be more effective.
Next: So, will more octane benefit me?
So, will more octane benefit me?
An excess of octane number beyond what your engine needs is completely harmless and has no downside except for the damage it does to your wallet. If it’s simply a question of octane, as long as you don’t ping on ordinary pump premium, you don’t need any more octane to prevent detonation, and preventing detonation is the only thing high octane is good for.
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Just wanted to give you X fans some real world successful jetting settings. I just got back from a trip to Colorado and wanted to share these settings.
Our camp was at 6100' and we rode up to 13,000'. Temperature was between 65 and 85 (absolutely PERFECT!).
Airbox opened about a third of CCC recommendations.
Baffle removed, but spark arrester in place.
Pilot jet changed from 40 to 42.
-Needle in stock position
-Main jet - 142
-Air screw at stock position (I probably could have made some improvement, but I was having too much fun riding and I didn't experience any hesitation)
The bike ran great and climbed some HUGE hills. Most of our riding was single track, switchbacks, very difficult and technical - a lot of 1st and 2nd gear.
NOTE!! Apparently, the 250X is jetted lean in stock form. Opening the airbox and removing the baffle leans the carb even further. IF YOU DO THESE MODS, REJET YOUR CARB!!! Otherwise you could do serious damage to the motor. It will run significantly cooler when it is not lean. I live at about 600' and am running a 152 main jet.
Jetting the 230F
By: Phil Vieira
This project takes no less than 2 hours if you have never done jetting to a bike before. It took me 1.5 hours, to take my bike apart, take out the needle, change my pilot jet and the main, and take pictures along the way, but I have seen the inside of my carb 3 times, so I know my way around it pretty well…
You should be jetting this bike right when you get it home. This bike comes lean from the factory. If you don’t know what that means, it means that the bike is getting too much air, in terms, a hotter engine, and your plugs will get hotter, and a decrease in HP. To make your engine last longer, do this.
These jetting combos are for a 2000 feet and below scenario. Any altitudes higher, you should do a search on the forum. If it cannot be found, post on the forum. Please don’t post on the forum “How do I do this…” You have all the answers here.
This project comes to a grand total of less than 30 dollars. The needle is 20, the main jet is about 3 dollars, and the pilot is 5 dollars. You may not need to do the pilot jet depending on your situation, but again, if you’re riding 2000 feet and below, it’s a good idea to get a pilot jet.
The jets I used consist of a 132 main, 45 pilot and the power up needle with the clip on the 4th position.
16012-KPS-921 – Needle (Includes Power up needle, Clip, and needle jet)
99113-GHB-XXX0 – Main jet (Where XXX is the size)
99103-MT2-0XX0 – Pilot jet (Where XX is the size)
For the Jets, just tell them you need jets for a regular Keihn carb, (also known as a Keihn Long Hex) main jet size XXX, pilot jet size XX. They should know the part numbers. For the needle, bring the number along. If you are lazy, they should have a fiche and they can look up the numbers. Then again you can take in the old jets, and make sure they match up to the new ones.
Now, the tools you will need are as follows:
~A collecting cup of some sort. I used a peanut butter jar.
~Ratchets for the following sizes:
- 6mm, 8mm, 10mm, 12mm
- Extension for the sockets needed
~Phillips and Flathead screwdriver (Be sure these are in perfect condition. A badly worn screwdriver will strip the screws)
~Needle nose pliers
~”Vise grips” or known as locking pliers (Two)
~Open end wrench 7mm and 12mm
~ It’s a good idea to have a extra hand around
(Not needed, but I highly recommend tiny Phillips and flathead screwdrivers (Pictured next to the jar and the ¼” extension) I recommend these for removing a couple things since you can put pressure with your thumb on the end and unscrew it with the other hand. This insures that you will not over tighten any parts, and ensure that you will not strip the heads of the bolts.
Ok, now that you have the tools, let’s start by putting the bike on a bike stand. I put it on the stand rather than the kickstand because it’s more stable and sits higher. I hate working on my knees. Start by taking the number plates off. Yes, both of them. The right side, you take off one bolt and the top comes off of its rubber grommets, pull the top off, and the plate comes right off. The left hand side, use the 10mm socket to take the battery bolts off, and then take the Phillips bolt near the back. Again, rubber grommets are used to hold the top in place. Take the seat off. There are two mounting bolts on the back:
Those two bolts are both a 12mm socket. Use the open end wrench on the inside, and use the socket on the outside. You may need to use an extension if you don’t have a deep socket. Once you have the two bolts off, slide the seat back, and lift it up. This is what you have. Notice there is a hook in the middle and a knob on the tank. That is what you are sliding the seat off of.
Now that the seat is off, you must take the gas tank off. Don’t worry, you won’t spill any gas any where, I promise. On the left hand side of the bike where the valve is, slide down the metal clip holding the tube in place. Turn off the gas supply, and slip the tube off slowly. Now take off the two bolts in the front of the take. This is on the lowest part of the gas tank in the front, behind the tank shrouds. The socket you will use is an 8mm socket. Take the bolts all the way off and set them aside. Now look back at the last picture posted. On the back of the tank, there is a rubber piece connected to the knob and the frame. Slip that rubber piece off of the frame. Pull the vent tube out of the steering stem and lift the tank up. Don’t tip it, and lay the tank aside where you won’t trip on it. This is what you’ll end up with:
It may be a good idea to take a rag, and wipe all the dirt off the top of the bike if any. You don’t want anything dropping down into the carb. If you do, engine damage is the result. A clean bike is always a good thing! Now we must drain the gas out into that container. This is very easy. Make sure you open the garage door, windows, whatever, to let the fumes out. Breathing this crap is bad. Here is where the drain screw is:
(Don’t worry about removing the carb, that comes later) This is on the right side of the carb, on the float bowl. The vent tube that goes down to the bottom of the bike is where the gas drains to. Put the jar under that tube and start to unscrew that screw, enough so that the gas leaks into that jar. Once the gas doesn’t drip anymore, close the screw all the way. Now on to the top of the carb. We are going to take this cover off:
This cover comes off by removing the two screws. Once removed, the lid comes off as well as the gasket. Flip it over and set it aside. Do not set the gasket side down on the ground, as it will get contaminants! Here is what you are facing:
The angle of the camera cannot show the two screws. But one is visible. It has a red dot, and opposite of that side is a darker red dot. I made it darker because it’s not visible, but that is where it is. This is where I use the miniature screw drivers to get the screws. I magnetize the screwdrivers, and use care to make sure I don’t strip the heads. Metal pieces in a piston are not good! Remove the two screws. Put these screws on a clean surface so they do not get contaminants. Now get your vise grips and set it so that it will lock onto the throttle, not too tight, not too loose. Set the vise grips on the seat. Start to open the throttle slowly as you guide that “plunger holder” (as I call it) up to the top. Once you have the throttle all the way open, take the vise grips, and lock it so that the throttle does not go back any more. What I do is I hold it pinned and lock it up against the brake so it doesn’t rewind on me. If you don’t have locking grips, a friend will do, just have them hold the throttle open all the way until you are finished. How fold the plunger holder to the back of the carb and pull the piece up to the top. Take care not to remove it, as it is a pain to get back together! If it came apart on you, this is what it should be assembled to:
Once you get the holder out of the slider, set it back like this:
As you can see, the bar is back 45 degrees, while the holder is forward 45 degrees to make a S. Here is what you are faced with when you look down on the carb:
Where the red dot is where the needle lies. Grab needle nose pliers and carefully pull up the needle out of its slot. This is what the needle looks like once it is out.
Now we must move the carb to take the bowl off. Untie the two straps on the front and back of the carb. Don’t take them off; just loosen them until the threads are at the end. Take the front of the carb off the boot and twist the bowl as much as you can towards you. Tie the back tie down to that it does not rewind back on you. This is what you have:
Now we must take off the bowl. Some people take that hex nut off to change the main jet, which you can, but you cannot access the pilot jet, and you can’t take out the needle jet (a piece the needle slides into), so we need to take it off. It’s just three bolts. As we look at the underside of the carb, this is what you will see:
The bolts with the red square dots are the bolts you will be removing. These are Phillips head bolts, and the bolt with the blue dot is your fuel screw. This is what you will adjust when the time comes, but keep in mind where that bolt is. You need a small flat blade to adjust it.
Well, take those screws off, and you are faced with this:
The blue dot is for cross reference, which is the fuel screw once again. The green dot is the pilot jet. You can remove this using a flat blade screwdriver. Just unscrew it and pull it out. Once you pull it out, set it aside and put in the 45 pilot jet you got. The red dot is the main. You remove this by using a 6mm socket. Just unscrew it. If the whole thing turns, not just the jet, but the 7mm sized socket under it, don’t worry, that piece has to come out as well. If it doesn’t, use a 7mm to unscrew it off. Here is what the jets look like:
Main jet attached to the tube. Take the main jet off by using an open end wrench and a socket on the jet. Again, it screws right off.
Here is what you are faced with if you look form the bottom up.
From left to right: Main jet, Pilot Jet, Fuel screw. Now in the main jet’s hole, if you look closely, you see a bronze piece in the middle of that hole. We are going to take this off. Since I did not do this part (I only changed my pilot jet when I took these pictures) there are no pictures taken for this section but this is really simple to do if you’ve been a good student and know where things go. You should know anyways, you have to put the bike back together!
(Notice: There have been discussions about these needle jets being the same. Only change this needle jet if the one you have is worn out. If you do not have the old needle, a older drill bit bigger than 3/20ths (.150), and smaller than 11/100 (.11") Use the tapered side of the bit, set it down in the hole and tap it out carefully.)
Now take your OLD needle, I repeat, the OLD needle because what you are going to do next will ruin it. Pull the clip off with your needle nose pliers, or a tiny screwdriver to pry it off. Then put the needle back in the hole where it goes. That’s right, just to clarify, you took off the needle, and you put the needle back in the hole with no clip. Slide the point side first, just as it would go normally. Now if you look at the bottom of the carb, the needle is protruding past the main jets hole. Grab another pair of locking pliers (vise grips as I call them) and lock it as tight as you can on the needle. Pull with all your might on the needle. Use two hands. Have a friend hold the carb so you don’t pull it off the boot. Tell them to stick their fingers in the hole that goes to the engine, and pull up. After pulling hard, the needle jet should slip right off. Then notice which side goes towards the top of the carb. There is one side that is a smaller diameter than the other. Take the new needle jet, and push it up into the hole the way the old one was set. Just get it straight. Take the tube the main jet goes into, and start threading it in. Once you can’t tie it down anymore with a ratchet, unscrew it and look at the needle jet to make sure it’s set. That’s it for the needle jet. Now let’s start putting the carb back together.
(Notice: Many people have destroyed jets and such by overtighting them! Use the thumb on the head of the wrench and two fingers on the wrench to tighten it down.)
Thread the main jet into the tube it goes into, and then start putting it back on the carb. Thread the pilot jet in as well if you haven’t done so already. Remember these carburetor metals are soft as cheese, so don’t over tighten the jets very much. What I do is I put my thumb on the top of my ratchet, and use two fingers closest to the head of the ratchet to tighten the jet. That’s how tight I go when I tie them back in.
Now before we put the carb back together, let’s adjust the fuel screw. Take a small screwdriver, and start screwing in the fuel screw until it sets. Again, do not over tighten, just let it set. Then count back your turns. Count back 1.75 turns.
Now we must put the bowl back on. The white piece that came off with the bowl goes back as followed:
If you look directly under the carb, the round hole is aligned with the pilot jet. Take the float bowl, and put it back on.
Untie the rear clamp and the front clamp as well. Slip the carb back the way it used to. Make sure that it is straight up and down with the rest of the bike. The notch on the front boot should be aligned with the notch on the carburetor, and the notch on the carburetor should be in that slot. Tie the clamps down securely.
Let’s put the needle in. These are how the needle numbers go:
The top clip position is #1, the lowest one, closest to the bottom, is #5. (The picture says six but it is five in this case) For reference #1 is the leanest position, while 5 is the richest. I put the clip in the 4th position. Read at the bottom of the page and you can know what conditions I ride in, and you can adjust them to your preference.
Put the clip in the new needle, slip it in. Take the vise grips off your grips and start guiding the plunger holder down to the bottom. Remember not to let that assembly come apart because it is a pain in the ass to get it back together! Once you get it to the bottom, put the two screws on, and then put the cover on.
Now that you have done the carburetor mods, there is still one thing you want to do to complete the process. Don’t worry, this takes less than a minute! On the top of the air box there is a snorkel:
As you can see, you can slip your fingers in and pull it out. Do that. This lets more air in to the air box. Don’t worry about water getting in. There is a lip that is about 1/8” high that doesn’t let water in. When you wash, don’t spray a lot under the seat, but don’t worry about it too much.
The next thing you must do is remove the exhaust baffle. The screw is a torx type, or you can carefully use an allen wrench and take care not to strip it:
The screw is at the 5 o’clock position and all you do is unscrew it, reach in, and yank it out. This setup still passes the dB test. The bike runs 92 dB per AMA standards, which is acceptable. Just carry this baffle in your gear bag if the ranger is a jerk off. I’ve never had a problem, but don’t take chances.
That’s it! Start putting your tank on, seat, and covers. After you put the seat on, pull up on the front, and the middle of the seat to make sure the hooks set in place.
Turn on the bike, and take a can of WD-40. Spray the WD-40 around the boot where it meets the carburetor. If the RPM rises, you know you have a leak, and the leak must be stopped. You must do this to make sure there are no leaks!
Here is my configuration:
Uni Air filter
132 Main Jet
45 Pilot Jet
Power up needle, 4th clip position
Fuel screw 1.75 turns out
Riding elevation: 2000ft - Sea level
Temperature – Around 60-90 degrees
Spark Plug Tips
When you jet your carb, a spark plug is a best friend. Make sure your spark plug is gapped correctly, (.035) but that’s not all that matters. You want to make sure the electrode is over the center, and you want the electrode to be parallel, not like a wave of a sea. Put in the plug, and run the bike for 15 mins, ride it around too then turn it off. Then take off the spark plug after letting the bike cool. The ceramic insulator should be tan, like a paper bag. If it is black, it is running rich, if it is white, it is running lean. The fuel screw should be turned out if it is running lean, and turned in if it is running rich. Go ¼ turns at a time until your plug is a nice tan color.
Making sure your bike is jetted correctly
While you are running the bike for those 15 mins to check the plug color, you want to make sure it’s jetted correctly now. Here is what the jets/needle/screw control:
0- 3/8 throttle – Pilot jet
¼ to ¾ throttle – Needle
5/8 – full throttle – Main jet
0-Full – Fuel screw
Pin the gas, does it bog much? Just put around, is it responsive? When you’re coming down a hill, the rpm’s are high and you have no hand on the throttle, does it pop? If it pops, it is lean and the pilot jet should be bigger. If it’s responsive your needle is set perfectly. You shouldn’t have to go any leaner than the 3rd position, but I put mine in the 4th position to get the most response. Your bike shouldn’t bog much when you have it pinned. If it does it is too rich of a main jet.
Determining the plug color, you will have to mess with the fuel screw.
That’s it, have fun jetting, and any questions, post on the forum, but remember to do a search first.
Also, if your bike requires different jets due to alititude, humidity, or temperature, please post the following so we can better assist you:
Altitude (If you do not know this, there is a link in the Jetting forum that you can look up your alititude)
What jets you are currently running
What the problem is (If there is one)
Just do that and we'll help you out the best we can.
EDIT: The girl using this login name is my girlfriend. You can reach me on my new login name at 250Thumpher
Then again, you're more than welcome to say hi to her!