February 21, 2018
No one likes to spend more money on gasoline for their car than they have to. However, most of us want to do what will keep our vehicle running at its best for a long time to come. This can present a dilemma when we go to fill up at the pump. You stand to save as much as 20 to 40 cents on the gallon by using a regular fuel, but at what price to your vehicle's performance? Like most car owners, you have likely wondered if you really do need to fill your car up with premium gas.
A study conducted by Edmunds.com revealed that you may not need to spend the extra money at the pump after all. Based on the results of this study, if you drive a vehicle that is no more than 10 years of age, it is likely that its newer engine can compensate for a lower-octane gas. It will not be subject to harmful pings and knocks related to improper burns.
Premium fuels cost more due to their higher octane rating which helps prevent engine pinging or knocking. This type of fuel is created with a more complicated process than lower grades because it blends what is known as alkylate into the fuel. Higher octane fuels will not self-ignite when compressed and heated to higher degrees like lower grade fuels will. This is why premium fuel is needed by high-performance engines. However, today’s technologically advanced engine control systems will compensate for a lower octane by simply adjusting the ignition timing. This, in turn, will reduce the chances of knocking.
If your vehicle is “premium recommended” and was manufactured between 2011 and 2016, the Edmond's study revealed that your car will function fine on regular gasoline. However, if your vehicle is “premium required”, you will need to be prepared to pay more at the pump. These cars need a higher octane fuel in order to protect the engine as regular gas can damage the engine with its high exhaust gas temperatures and knocking. If you are unsure whether your vehicle is "premium recommended" or "premium required", refer to your owner's manual.
You can put regular fuel in your “premium required” vehicle if you are in a bind, although this shouldn’t be an all-the-time occurrence. It may seem like a good idea in order to save on gas money, but the short-term savings you experience will not even begin to come close to making up for the cost of repairs to your car’s engine from knocking and pinging.
It used to be that people would fill up their gas tank with premium occasionally in order to clean out their engines. This is because premium gasoline used to have detergents and additives to prevent carbon deposits. However, due to government regulations that cut emissions, most brands and grades of fuel have enough additives to protect your engine while still decreasing carbon emissions.
If you are switching from a premium fuel to regular, it is possible that your vehicle may lose a little bit of acceleration, but only if you have a heavy foot. More specifically, your car may be a half-second slower from zero to 60 mph. You can still maximize your fuel economy by driving responsibly and sensibly.