For most of us, the option at the fuel pump is automatic - we choose the lowest octane grade gasoline. It’s the cheapest option and it works well for our cars to get us around town. We aren’t overly concerned with optimal performance or the inner workings of our engine. But maybe we should be. Your engine and the fuel grade you choose can have a big impact on the performance of your car, and affect things like wear-and-tear and fuel economy.
What is Gasoline Grade?
Gasoline grade is determined by a fuel’s “octane rating.” Octane rating is the measure of fuel’s lead content and oxygen interaction. Sometimes fuel can detonate prematurely in the engine, decreasing performance and effectiveness. Gasoline grade indicates the ability of the fuel to resist this “knocking” or “pinging.” Unleaded gasoline generally comes in 3 grades - 87 (regular), 88-90 (midgrade), and 91-94 (premium). These are the numbers you usually see in bright yellow and black on the fuel pump.
Using a Higher Gasoline Grade
Most cars are designed to use regular grade gasoline, but check your manufacturer manual to be sure, as some cars require a higher octane gasoline grade. If your engine uses a higher compression ratio, is supercharged or turbocharged, or has any other types of engine specialties you may use a higher grade of gasoline to decrease the chance of early detonation or other engine problems.
For these special types of cars, such as race cars, towing vehicles, or other specialty vehicles, higher gasoline grades can translate into higher performance, more power, and increased fuel economy.
If your car doesn’t require premium fuel but says that your car may perform better with a higher gasoline grade… should you do it? Higher octane options are usually more expensive since they are more costly to produce. Is the cost worth it? If you are concerned about improving engine power, decreasing fuel consumption, decreasing emissions, and improving your fuel economy then the price is definitely worth it.
When you buy a higher gasoline grade, you are preventing premature detonation and ensuring that more of your fuel is actually being used to drive your car. These types of gasoline also leave fewer deposits in your engine and give off fewer fumes of emissions and pollution. The benefits of using a higher gasoline grade are especially increased when you are in need of increased engine power such as towing or long road trips in hot weather.
On the other hand, if you use regular grade gasoline in a car that requires a higher gasoline grade you will not only decrease the engine power and fuel economy of your car but you may end up voiding your warranty.
Gasoline grade can definitely impact your engine power and fuel economy, so be sure you know what you’re paying for when you pull up to the pump. Read your owner’s manual and buy the gasoline grade that will improve your engine’s power best.