Engine Detonation: The Dangers And Prevention Measures

16 August 2019
 Categories: , Blog


Engine detonation occurs when pockets of air-fuel mixtures ignite and explode outside the normal envelope of combustion. Below are some of the consequences of an engine detonation, and how you can prevent the phenomenon.

The Dangers

The extent of the engine detonation determines the extent of the damage. However, the following are the most common forms of damage from engine detonation.

Mechanical Damage

Although the engine is mostly made of tough metal, it can suffer mechanical damage just like other parts of the car can. For example, the engine head or pistons can fracture, the spark plugs electrodes can break, and the exhaust can also fracture. All these are possible because the detonation releases enormous energy.


Even if the detonation is not extreme enough to cause fractures, it can still cause damage in the form of abrasion. The abrasion occurs when the expanding gases erode the surface of the engine piston, creating a sandblasted appearance of the metal. Abrasion leads to premature wear of the engine, which eventually depressurizes the combustion cylinder.


Detonation can also cause the engine to overheat. Detonation involves an extreme spike in pressure and temperature, which may exceed the engine's tolerances. An engine forced to perform at accelerated temperatures suffers accelerated wear and tear.

Preventive Measures

Engine detonation is bad for your car, but the following measures can help you prevent it.

Use the Right Fuel

The first tip is always to use the right fuel for your car. For example, dirty fuel can cause a spike in the temperatures and pressures within the combustion chamber, leading to detonation. Therefore, you should always fuel up at reputable gas stations to avoid detonation. Also, make sure that the fuel you put in your car has the right octane rating as advised by the car's manufacturer.

Service the Car Regularly

Regular car service is always advisable for preventing many car troubles, including detonation. Specifically, regular service should involve the following things to avoid detonation:

  • Clean the carbon deposits on the engine cylinder walls, since they encourage detonation.
  • Replacing the spark plugs at the right time and using the right spark plugs also prevents detonation. Spark plugs control the internal environment (temperature and pressure) by igniting at the right time.
  • Resetting the ignition timing, if it has malfunctioned, so the ignition occurs at the right point in the combustion cycle.

In short, the more an engine is finely-tuned, the less likely it is to detonate. This can only be the case if you regularly service your car.

Consult an auto mechanic for a diagnosis and solution if your engine is detonating. A quick intervention by auto repair services will prevent serious engine damage.