If you are like an abundance of other people, you probably assume that putting premium gas in your vehicle will make it last longer. In most cases, this is absolutely not true. If you are filling your tank constantly with premium gasoline and the vehicle is not designed for it, you’re really not doing anything beneficial for your car.
Understanding Octane Ratings
There are different levels of hydrocarbon molecules in all gasoline but the stuff at the pump is referred to as octane. Contrary to what you may think, that number rating that is offered at the pump does not actually measure octane percentage. It’s really telling you how the gasoline compares to a heptane/octane mixture.
When referring to your car’s engine, octane is the resistance to burn. Higher ratings mean that when it’s ignited by the engine, it will burn slower. This basically means that your vehicle is granted more control over the rate in which the gasoline burns. While this may sound good in theory, if your vehicle doesn’t require this level of control, you’re not necessarily doing it any favors. To receive the maximum fuel efficiency from your car, you need to feed it the gas that offers the correct octane rating.
Which Gas Should You Use?
Not sure which gas you should be using? Don’t worry, you certainly are not alone with your confusion! Your decision is basically going to come down to the age of your engine.
If you have a newer model vehicle, your engine will make use of a computer and fuel injectors to control the mix of fuel and air in an environment and temperature. It is crucial that you use whatever type of gas your particular vehicle requires because the accuracy of the computer depends on it.
Most new car engines are specifically designed to burn an unleaded fuel with an 87 octane rating. If you have a high performance sports car, you will likely need an 89 or 92 octane rating, should you use anything else, you will be dealing with a knocking sound. Your owner’s manual will tell you the recommended fuel and that is exactly what you should use.
On the other hand, if you have an older car, things aren’t so cut and dry. The mix of air and gas in older engines is regulated by the carburetor. There are no computers or sensors so levels of air and gas cannot always be controlled consistently.
This means that to ensure proper proportions, carburetors will often need to be adjusted during routine maintenance. If these adjustments do not happen, the ratio becomes unbalanced with far too much gas and the parts that don’t get completely burned turn into carbon deposits.
To remedy this problem or prevent it from happening, using gas with a higher octane rating is recommended. If you don’t have your owner’s manual and you’re not sure if your car uses a carburetor or fuel injector and computer, stop by your local service department and ask, they will be able to tell you.
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