By Lauren Fix, The Car Coach
Have you ever wondered which gas to use in your car? Should you use the lowest priced fuel or the fuel with the highest octane rating?
The vehicle’s manufacturer makes it easy to decide what to put in your tank.
The first term to know is octane, and according to the Fuel Freedom Foundation, the term “octane” is the measure of how much compression a fuel can withstand before igniting in the engine.
What is octane in simple terms? An octane rating is simply a measure of how heat resistant a fuel is to prevent knocking, which can damage your engine. The higher a fuel’s octane, the more resistant it is to knocking.
So what’s the truth?
Some say that the higher the octane number, the better performance, and fuel economy.
Most people don’t know much about their engine, so check the correct octane for your engine in your owner’s manual or inside the gas door.
Regular 87 octane is recommended for most cars. However, some cars with high compression engines that get great fuel economy, sports cars, and most luxury vehicles require premium gasoline to prevent damage to the engine. Using lower-grade gas than what is required for your car may affect its power, torque, and overall performance.
Should you use higher octane gasoline to clean your engine?
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires that all octane grades of all gasoline brands contain engine cleaning detergent additives to protect against the build-up of harmful levels of engine deposits.
In a nutshell: Gas with higher octane levels helps ensure your fuel burns evenly, which can keep your engine cleaner.
Is all gasoline the same?
There are more than 100,000 gas stations across the nation, from name-brand retailers to local generic stations, the fuel is similar. Some brands like Techron add fuel system cleaners, but the price will be higher per gallon.
Lower price gasoline has fewer additives, and you may notice the difference on acceleration.
The Difference between Winter and Summer Gas
As you plan your next summer road trip, don’t forget to budget for the slightly higher gas prices. That’s because the blend of gas used in the summer costs more than the same kind used in the winter.
Gasoline is formulated differently depending on where you live to ensure optimal performance during cold and warm seasons. Winter blends require a different blend for cold temperatures.
When the weather turns warmer, fueling stations must switch to summer gas, which is more expensive to produce and equals higher gasoline prices.
Here’s the bottom line? Some cars require premium fuel, and in those cases, you should use what your manufacturer recommends. Using the wrong fuel can impact your driveline warranty. We have heard many stories that could hurt your wallet.
If you want to save some money and buy the cheapest gas from a no-name station, your engine will likely run poorly. That’s because you chose the wrong fuel.
The answers are out there. Be proactive and check your owner’s manual for the definitive answer on which fuel to use for your vehicle.
Lauren Fix, The Car Coach®, is a nationally recognized automotive expert, analyst, author, and television host. A trusted car expert, Lauren provides an insider’s perspective on a wide range of automotive topics and aspects, energy, industry, consumer news, and safety issues.
Lauren is the CEO of Automotive Aspects and the Editor-in-Chief of Car Coach Reports, a global automotive news outlet. She is an automotive contributor to national and local television news shows, including Fox News, Fox Business, CNN International, The Weather Channel, Inside Edition, Local Now News, Community Digital News, and more. Lauren also co-hosts a regular show on ABC.com with Paul Brian called “His Turn – Her Turn” and hosts regular radio segments on USA Radio – DayBreak.
Lauren is honored to be inducted into the Women’s Transportation Hall of Fame and a Board Member of the Buffalo Motorcar Museum, and Juror / President for the North American Car, Utility & Truck of the Year Awards.
Check her out on Twitter and Instagram @LaurenFix.