Have you ever considered gas as a part of your car care and maintenance? Ever considered what the difference between gas grades is and how to know when to use which? Is regular unleaded gas safe for your car or should you be using premium? The short answer is to first look at your specific car. The manual (and often the door to your gas tank) should be able to tell you which grade you should be using or if premium gasoline is recommended or required.

If the owner’s manual simply recommends premium gasoline, the car will typically run on regular gas without causing any damage to the engine in any way. You may notice slight performance degradation (for example, your 0-60 time might be a half second slower). Generally, this is only noticed if you are really heavy on the gas. If the car “requires” premium, then you should use premium gasoline in that car.

In the old days, premium gas had more detergents and additives than cheap gas. But since government regulations required various emissions controls, all grades of gas have additives that protect your engine and help reduce air pollution.

Let’s consider some differences between the gases and then explain how it is not likely to do damage to the car. Premium gas has higher percentages of octane. The way our engines work is by compressing the air-fuel mixture, and igniting in the combustion chamber. Sometimes, the air-fuel mixture can grow hot and ignite just before the plug fires from this compression. Premium gas allows the engine to compress the mixture much more with less chance of the self-ignition.

Cheap gases don’t allow as much in terms of ignition advances. This could affect accelerations. What this really means is that the engine won’t have as much power. This is generally acceptable for most applications (the exception is if you have a car that requires premium or high performance grade gasoline). All these two paragraphs really mean is that premium gas simply allows the gas to burn more efficiently, yielding potentially better power returns.

In short, cheaper gases generally won’t have a negative impact on your vehicle, and can, in fact, save you money in the long run. But we encourage you to heed the advice of your owner’s manual for proper car care. If it requires premium gas, don’t risk major car issues down the road by saving a few cents in cheaper gas now.

 

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