We have all heard the saying, “you get what you pay for”, and more often than not, a higher price tag means a better product. The decision between “premium” and “regular” hits us every time we pull our vehicle up to the gas pump. But how can we tell if words like “premium”, “super”, and “high octane” are not just buzz words to make us think we are paying for a superior product? Here is a look at some of the frequently asked questions regarding premium gasoline.
What is premium gasoline?
Premium gasoline is also called “high octane”. Any kind of refined gasoline contains a mixture of carbon and hydrogen atoms. When a fuel is referred to as “high octane” it isn’t referring to having a higher carbon, or octane count, but rather it serves as a ranking on a scale of combustibility. A higher octane fuel is more resistant to combustion by pressure, when compared to the base standard refined gasoline, which is called heptane. Any gasoline compound regardless of its makeup that tests high on this scale, is therefore called “high octane”, and has nothing to do with what is actually in the fuel.
So what does all of that mean for my car?
Every car that runs on gasoline contains a combustion engine. To put it simply, your vehicle runs on controlled explosions. Car engines contain cylinders which take in fuel which is then ignited by a spark plug creating an explosion to drive the pistons up and down. The excess gases are then released through your vehicle’s exhaust pipe. If the explosion in your engine occurs too early (from the pressure of the cylinder pushing down and not the spark plug ignition for example) you will hear a large knock. Since a high octane gasoline is resistant to pressure combustion, it can more reliably control this engine knock problem, allowing the engine to run much better.
So That is the Answer, Premium Gasoline Really is Better?
The fact is most engines never operate under enough stress for engine knocking to become a problem. Usually the cylinders are not “firing” or moving up and down fast enough, to make the intake of gasoline an issue. Also, on newer cars (anything after 1996) sensors are installed to “listen” to your car’s engine and regulate sparking so that knocking is minimized or eliminated. So for the average vehicle, premium gasoline will provide little or no benefit.
So There Really is No Reason to Get Premium Gasoline?
Talk to any racecar driver, and chances are they aren’t using your run of the mill gas in their car’s engine. A high powered race car is one example where it would be beneficial to use premium gasoline. Any sports car with a high horsepower or turbocharged engine can also see improved performance from using premium. Additionally, any vehicle that’s going to be under a lot of stress can benefit as well.
For example, say you are going to drive through a mountainous area carrying a full load for vacation in 100 degree heat; this would be a good time to consider filling up with premium gasoline to help regulate your engine. Some vehicles explicitly state that only premium gasoline should be used. While there is a lot of debate whether those cars will function properly or not with regular gasoline, we always advise you to follow the owner’s manual, and seek advice from a qualified mechanic.
So Should I get Premium Gasoline or Not?
The decision should be based entirely on your vehicle type, what you are doing in your vehicle, what engine you have, and what fuel your vehicle is designed to take. A small vehicle being used to commute to and from work at speeds no higher than 65 will see little or no benefit from premium, but a sports car or a vehicle with several cylinders hauling a heavy load or operating at a high capacity can see an improvement in performance and keep your engine healthy.
Cost is also a deciding factor. Premium gasoline can be up to 30 cents more a gallon than standard gasoline. Even in a ten gallon gas tank, this would equal to about 3 dollars more every fill up. Three (or more) dollars every week can certainly add up over the course of a year.
So What is the Verdict?
We cannot stress again, to seek advice from a qualified mechanic and your owner’s manual before making any decision on what gasoline to use in your vehicle. Our service department has several highly skilled mechanics and technicians; many of which have 20+ years of experience. Give us a call, or stop by our service department for additional information.
Court Street Ford, located at 558 William Latham Drive, is a multi-year president’s award winning dealership. We have been serving the Kankakee, Bradley, Bourbonnais area for 30 years and counting! We are committed to exceptional customer service. Stop by our dealership, or give us a call at (815) 939-9600. Our knowledgeable sales team and service department will be happy to help and are dedicated to providing the best experience.