How Different Types of Gasoline Affect Your Car
Have you ever wondered why there are so many options for gasoline? Perhaps you have never given it much thought and simply use whichever gasoline is cheapest. While it is understandable that you may want to pay as little as possible at the pump, using the right type of gas matters. The cheapest gasoline may cost you more money in the long-run if it damages your vehicle. There is a chance that you may want to consider investing more upfront for gas so your car stays in top shape.
If you are concerned about the kind of gas you are using for your vehicle, or would simply like to know more about different gas types, read on! Vehicle drivers everywhere can benefit from knowing as much as possible about the fuel they use for their cars. You may realize that you are using the wrong type of gasoline after all, or that investing a little more at the pump each time will benefit your wallet in the long-run.
Before we dive into the pros and cons of each type of gasoline, let’s go over what octane grades are. When you go to fill up gas in your car, you may notice numbers on each of the fuel options. 87 is ascribed to regular, 88 to 90 for mid-grade, and 91 or 94 for premium gas. These numbers represent octane levels or ratings. Some states in higher elevations have regular gas with an octane rating of 85.
The octane rating or number is an indicator of a gasoline’s resistance to pre-ignition. Essentially, the octane level measures a fuel’s ability to resist compression during the ignition of the engine. When you start the engine of your car, a mixture of fuel and air is compressed and triggered to burn rapidly. This process is also known as “knocking” or “pinging.”
If the ratio between the air and fuel is off during combustion, knocking can be severe and cause engine damage. Modern vehicles have knock sensors that can detect and recalibrate one’s engine when the pre-ignition ratios are off. Older cars that do not have knock sensors may be at risk for engine damage. Having the right fuel in your gas tank helps to prevent severe knocking.
Different Types of Gasoline
To help keep your car running smoothly, how do you know what kind of gasoline to choose? Luckily, most will find that the type of gas they need is laid out in the vehicle’s instruction manual. You should always check to see what is recommended for your car, in particular, before guessing or assuming one type of gas will work best over another.
There are three main types of gas vehicle owners can choose from, including regular or unleaded, mid-grade, and premium. No matter which type is best for your vehicle, know that there are pros and cons of each type. Regular gasoline is undoubtedly the most common, followed by premium, and finally, mid-grade. Keep reading to learn more about these three gas types, as well as when they are recommended.
Regular or Unleaded Gasoline
The cheapest and most common type of gasoline is regular octane, or 87. It is also known as regular, unleaded gas. It contains no lead and is a by-product of crude oil. It also contains cleaning additives, as do the other two types of gases. It is a common misconception that only higher octane gases contain these additives, but this is not the case. All octane gases contain engine cleaning detergents that help protect your engine from deposit build-up.
Most vehicles will run just fine on regular gasoline. Higher octane levels may not necessarily increase your vehicle’s performance and could damage your engine. However, if your car requires a higher octane gas, it could run poorly if a mid-grade or premium gas is not used.
Mid-grade gasoline usually has a rating of 89 octane or above. It is the least common type of gas that is used. In fact, only around seven percent of vehicle drivers use mid-grade, while nearly 83 percent use regular and 10 percent fill-up with premium. If mid-grade gasoline will benefit your vehicle, it should be spelled out in your owner’s manual. Since it is not common, you will want to double-check that mid-grade is the right type of gas for your vehicle if you have been selecting it every time you purchase gas.
Mid-grade gasoline may vary in its octane rating. The term mid-grade is not consistent from state to state. It is best to rely on the actual octane number when choosing a type of gas, rather than on the label. For example, some states may require that gasoline have a minimum octane level of 92 to be called premium gasoline, whereas others may lower this requirement to 90 octane.
The most expensive type of gasoline is premium. For vehicles that require this kind of gas, using a lower octane gas instead could damage the engine, reduce fuel economy, and diminish overall performance. If your vehicle’s instruction manual calls for premium gas, you must invest in this type of gas each time you fill up your tank.
Know that the most expensive gasoline may not necessarily be the best for your car. In 2016, the American Automobile Association found that over two billion dollars are wasted by consumers every year. Putting premium gasoline in your tank when it is not necessary will simply be a waste of money. Do not use premium gas unless your vehicle’s instruction manual recommends doing so, or you have a high-performance or turbo engine that can handle it. If you put premium gas in a car that is not suited for it, unburned fuel could potentially get into your emissions system and catalytic converter, resulting in unnecessary stress and potential damages. If you ever notice a rotten egg smell coming from your tailpipe, chances are, you may be using a gas that has too much octane.
Rather than paying extra for premium gas, especially when your vehicle only requires regular, you are better off investing in proper maintenance instead. If you are concerned about how your car is functioning, rather than paying extra for gas, use any additional funds for mechanic visits.
Lower Octane Gas for High Altitudes
If you have ever traveled to or live in a high-elevation location, you may notice that you have the option to use lower-octane gas that is 85 octane. Due to the air-density of higher altitudes, your engine tends to burn fuel differently. Using a lower octane gas at higher elevations may help your car run more efficiently. However, some research suggests that using lower octane under these circumstances may only apply to older vehicles. Cars manufactured after 1984 are equipped with electronic regulating systems that can minimize the effects of altitude. Before you travel or move to another state that is at a higher elevation, be sure to read up on what kind of octane level will be best for your vehicle under these conditions.
Older Vehicles and Classic Cars
If you drive an older model vehicle or a classic car, you may want to consider a higher octane gas. Vintage cars are more prone to knocking. A mid-grade or premium gas can help prevent this problem. Older cars do not have knock sensors or a system that can detect and recalibrate. Thus, knocking is much more likely. Knocking can cause engine malfunctions or holes to blow in the pistons. To avoid these problems, you should fuel your classic car with a higher octane gas whenever possible.
Now that you know more about the three main types of gasoline, you should feel more equipped to make a decision about which type of gas you use for your car. The bottom line is, check your owner’s manual. Or, if you don’t have access to the original owner’s manual, you can always check with the vehicle manufacturer or a professional mechanic to receive a personalized recommendation.
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