Some questions and answers
Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2001
Leaded petrol will be phased out nationally by 1 January 2002. States may phase out leaded petrol sooner. Western Australia phased out leaded petrol on 1 January 2000, and Queensland will phase out leaded petrol by 1 March 2001.
Yes. There are a variety of options available to the owners of pre-1986 cars. These options depend on your engine type.
Pre-1986 vehicles generally fall into two categories – high or low compression engines, and soft or hardened exhaust valve seats. Those vehicles with hardened exhaust valve seats and low compression engines can use regular unleaded petrol. Those vehicles with high compression engines and soft exhaust valve seats will need to use an alternative fuel – known as 'Lead Replacement Petrol'.
Vehicles with soft valve seats can also have their engines rebuilt using hardened valves and valve seat inserts, allowing them to use regular unleaded petrol instead of Lead Replacement Petrol. Although no pre-1986 vehicle owner will need to pursue such mechanical modification, some owners may choose this option to allow the use of cheaper regular unleaded petrol. This option is likely to be cost effective only for those vehicles, such as historical cars, that are kept for a long period of time.
Lead Replacement Petrol is an alternative to leaded petrol. Lead Replacement Petrol consists of a high octane unleaded petrol, with the addition of an anti-valve seat recession additive.
I have a pre-1986 car that runs on unleaded petrol – will I have to swap to Lead Replacement Petrol?
No. You should continue to use unleaded petrol. If you are currently using leaded petrol in your pre-1986 car you might be able to use unleaded petrol. You can find out by contacting the Department of the Environment and Heritage on 1800 803 772 or seek advice from your motor mechanic, vehicle manufacturer or distributor.
Yes. Lead Replacement Petrol offers the same lubrication properties as leaded petrol.
The additive in Lead Replacement Petrol essentially functions in the same way as lead, and will provide the same level of protection against exhaust valve seat recession.
No. Lead Replacement Petrol has the same octane rating as leaded petrol. However, as with any fuel, it is also important that your vehicle is regularly maintained and well-tuned.
Lead Replacement Petrol will become increasingly available throughout Australia. It will be available from the old leaded petrol bowsers, which will be clearly labelled as 'Lead Replacement Petrol'.
Lead Replacement Petrol should not be used in post 1986 (catalyst equipped) vehicles.
Lead Replacement Petrol is expected to cost the same as leaded petrol. Western Australia has already introduced Lead Replacement Petrol and prices are the same as for leaded petrol.
Why bother phasing out leaded petrol – lead in our environment doesn't seem to be a problem anymore?
Lead emissions from motor vehicles contribute about 90 per cent of airborne lead in Australia's urban areas. Reducing the use of lead in petrol reduces airborne lead, and lead in our streets and household dust.
Lead has long been recognised as posing a serious health risk. Of particular concern is the correlation between increased blood lead levels and decreasing IQ, but other biological effects can also occur depending on the level and duration of the exposure.
All sources of lead can contribute to lead in the bloodstream and have absolutely no beneficial effects. Lead used in petrol is a significant and preventable source.
But I have heard that the use of Lead Replacement Petrol in pre-1986 cars (those without catalytic converters) will increase benzene levels?
There is concern that the use of Lead Replacement Petrol in pre-1986 vehicles may lead to increased benzene emissions, as these vehicles are not catalyst equipped, and a greater percentage of the aromatic content of the fuel may be emitted through the exhaust system.
This concern was raised earlier in relation to the use of regular unleaded petrol in pre-1986 cars. A CSIRO study commissioned by the Commonwealth found, however, that there was a reduction, rather than an increase, in benzene emissions using regular unleaded petrol. This was attributed to the more efficient combustion of the petrol in the absence of lead.
Any relative increase in emissions will depend upon the actual benzene levels in Lead Replacement Petrol. Action is being taken to lower the benzene (and overall aromatics) content of Australian petrol as part of setting national fuel quality standards.