The likely origins of the belief that mothballs can increase horsepower and other benefits arise out of World War II, claims Mobil Oil. Naphthalene mothballs, the type of mothball that supposedly boosts octane ratings, were more prevalent and had a higher octane rating than gasoline refined during WWII. While mothballs decades ago could boost octane, today's gasoline have much higher octane ratings than yesterday's fuel.
Scientists at Argonne National Laboratory reaffirm the fact that some types of moth balls can boost the octane rating of a fuel. However, gasoline needs a very specific amount of mothballs for the fuel to see any kind of benefit. Too many mothballs and the gasoline will produce an excessive amount of carbon. Carbon can build up in an engine and decrease performance. An approximate number of optimal mothballs is somewhere around five to eight.
Certain types of mothballs will boost octane performance simply because they burn. Using any type of mothball other than naphthalene, such as paradichlorobenzene, actually does quite a bit of damage to an motor. Paradichlorobenzene breaks down into chloride which, according to Argonne National Laboratory, corrodes the inside of an engine. Naphthalene mothballs have also become much less prevalent in the last few decades, which can lead to a greater risk of accidentally using the wrong mothball.
A boost in octane performance may not even be that beneficial to your car, claims Argonne National Laboratory. Most cars on the road do not receive a boost in performance from a higher octane rating, unless that car uses a high compression motor. Automobiles generally only need a octane rating of that required by the manufacturer, and anything more does not improve power ratings.
The Texas Attorney General reports that many people are selling the main ingredient in mothballs, naphthalene, as part of a fuel efficiency scam product called "BioPerformance." The AG had two studies on the pill done at the University of Texas and Florida University. Both studies found that BioPerformance was composed mainly of the mothball chemical naphthalene and did not improve fuel efficiency; in fact, it even decreased engine performance.
A common pearl of wisdom that travels around Internet discussions and motor enthusiasts is that adding mothballs can increase horsepower, octane ratings and even fuel efficiency. While studies suggest that certain types of mothballs can boost octane levels, chances are high that mothballs will do more damage to a car than any supposed benefits.