Choosing the Right Fuel for Your Car: Everything You Need to Know

Choosing the Right Fuel for Your Car: Everything You Need to Know


When you first drive into the gas station, you are going to be presented with a few different options for fuel. While those grades might not seem like they are very different, the type of fuel that you put in your vehicle is incredibly important.


Using the wrong gas is going to waste your money and potentially have an impact on your car or truck. Here is a quick look at a few of the most common grades of gasoline and a handful of tips that will help you choose the correct option for your car or truck.



Gas for my Car

Understanding Octane Grades

There are quite a few theories and rumors about the various fuel grades, and that has led to an incredible amount of confusion.


Many people think that high-octane fuel is going to give them more power, but that grade simply represents the fuel’s pre-ignition resistance. In order to understand pre-ignition resistance, you must first take a look at how modern engines work.

The engine produces power by compressing a mixture of air and fuel. Once that mixture has been compressed, it is ignited with s spark. To get more power out of an engine, engineers can increase the compression ratio of an engine, but that might result in the fuel igniting prematurely.


High-octane gas is more resistant to pre-ignition, and that makes it an excellent option for sports cars and luxury vehicles that have stronger engines. The grade of the fuel doesn’t directly determine the engine’s power output.

Using An Octane That’s Too Low or Too High

Luckily, it is very unlikely that you are going to damage your vehicle if you use the wrong fuel. That being said, you should still spend a few moments considering which grade of gas that your particular car or truck needs.

If you own a high-end luxury vehicle or a sports car and you use lower octane gasoline, then your vehicle is going to lose some of its power. It could potentially pre-ignite, and that is going to waste power when you push down on the gas pedal. In most areas, 87 octane gasoline is considered to be the lowest option while 88 to 90 octane gasoline is referred to as midgrade fuel.

For those who drive older or less powerful vehicles, using the wrong fuel is simply going to waste money. The average vehicle doesn’t produce enough power to pre-ignite any type of fuel, and that means you won’t have to worry about gas grades. 91 to 93 octane fuel tends to be much more expensive than the other options, and you will probably want to avoid those grades whenever you are in an older car or truck.


How to Know Your Car’s Requirements

While all of these options might seem confusing, finding the right fuel for your vehicle is going to be relatively easy. Inside your owner’s manual, there should be a section dedicated to fuel selection. If the manual suggests that you use 87 octane gas, then you will always be able to use the cheapest option. Choosing higher octane fuel won’t increase your vehicle’s horsepower or protect the engine.

Some owner’s manuals suggest that drivers use premium grade fuel, and you should follow that suggestion as much as possible if you want to avoid problems down the road. Using low-octane fuel in a sports car probably won’t hurt the engine, but it could activate the knock sensor. Sticking to 91 or 93 octane fuel will improve your vehicle’s performance and limit your risk of triggering a knock sensor. It could potentially improve your vehicle’s fuel economy as well, and that is going to save you money in the long run.

In order to figure out exactly which type of fuel works best in your vehicle, you might want to do some experimenting. The easiest way to test each individual grade of fuel is to reset your odometer whenever you fill the tank. After you burn through the tank, you can figure out exactly how many miles you have gone. When you divide the number of miles you have driven by the amount of gas you have burned, you will have the miles per gallon (MPG) of your vehicle. Doing that simple test a few times is going to make your results much more accurate.

Using Premium Fuel in Older Cars

For vehicles that are more than 30 or 40 years old, premium fuel might be the best option. In some of those vehicles, pre-ignition will occur if lower octane fuel is used. If you have an older vehicle, then you should listen for any unusual knocking sounds whenever you press down on the gas pedal. A knocking or thunking sound could be a sign that the fuel is pre-igniting.

It might also be a sign that your vehicle isn’t properly tuned, and you should head to a local mechanic for further testing. Tuning the engine once every few months is going to be much cheaper than constantly buying higher octane fuel.


High Altitudes and Lower Octane Gas

Many drivers don’t realize that elevation has a huge impact on a vehicle. When you are at a higher elevation, you might notice that gas stations label 85-octane gasoline as their “regular” option. That is because the air density impacts the combustion of an engine, and a vehicle’s performance is going to change quite a bit at higher altitudes.

As long as you only plan at being a higher altitude for a short period of time, you probably won’t need to alter which type of fuel that you use. If your owner’s manual suggests that you use 87-octane fuel, then you should choose a fuel grade that meets or exceeds that number.

Those that are in a high-end luxury vehicle or sports car should buy just enough fuel to get them back to their typical altitude. Once they are at a lower altitude, they can then fill up on premium fuel.


Diesel Engine Options

Throughout most of the United States, there is only a single grade for diesel vehicles. When you are at the gas station, you should only use the pumps that have a green handle if you have a diesel engine. That handle should provide you with ULSD, or ultra-low sulfur diesel.

Putting regular gasoline in a diesel engine must be avoided at all costs, and that mistake could end up costing you an incredible amount of money. When that fuel reaches the engine, it is going to cause a tremendous amount of damage. Your vehicle will also stop running within just a few minutes if you put regular gasoline in a diesel engine.




Biodiesel Fuel

Some gas stations are now offering their customers biodiesel (BD) blends as well, and that type of fuel is labeled as BD5 or BD20. To make biodiesel, a company will refine some type of vegetable oil, and that label represents how much oil is in each option. BD5 fuel is made up of 5 percent vegetable oil and 95 percent petroleum-based fuel.

To see if your vehicle can run on biodiesel fuel, you must check the owner’s manual. Most vehicles that are compatible with BD blends only use BD5 fuel. If you would like to use less petroleum-based fuel, then you might be able to convert your diesel engine to a biodiesel engine that runs on 100 percent biodiesel which is nothing more than vegetable oil.


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Using the wrong gas than what is required for your car can affect its power, torque, and overall performance. So, before you invest any more money into the wrong kind of gas, read this blog so you know what to put into your car’s engine!

Our advice is to use the cheapest gas for which your car’s engine is designed. Check the owner’s manual, you’ll find the minimum octane rating.

Why pay more when you don’t have to? The Federal Trade Commission, notes, “In most cases, using a higher-octane gasoline than your owner’s manual recommends offers absolutely no benefit.


It won’t make your car perform better, go faster, get better mileage or run cleaner.”


Simply follow what your owner manual says and give your car what it needs. No need to buy the expensive stuff if your motor doesn’t need it. Just like your body- when you give your car the right fuel it runs better!



If you need any type of bodywork done to your car, we would be happy to provide you with a full car inspection and quote to leave your car in pristine condition please feel free to contact us with any questions!






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