With higher gas prices, you may be tempted to choose the lowest priced gas you can find. However, this can cause issues with expensive repairs down the line. When it is time to fill up, the place you go AND the octane you choose should both be considered.
To avoid car problems down the road, experts say you should stick with the gasoline recommended by your car’s manufacturer. You can find this data in your owner’s manual. It may be listed as regular (87 octane) or premium (91-94 octane) or by the octane rating. In general, 87 octane is the most common for many vehicles on the road today with premium grades being recommended for those high performance and turbocharged engines. Using premium gasoline in a vehicle that is not designed to run on it will not enhance performance.
Low-octane fuel, like 85, is common in mountain states. This goes back to the days of carbureted engines. Low-octane fuel helped those vehicles run more smoothly at higher altitudes. Since less than 2% of vehicles on the road in the U.S. have carburetors these days, you likely should not be using this option even though the price at the pump makes it enticing. In fact, many experts will go as far as saying 85 octane should not be used in a modern vehicle and would like to see a total ban of this grade.
Now that you know (or know where to find) the recommended octane, the next key is where to fill up. Many times, the lowest prices are found at “Bob’s Gas Mart” or some other nondescript station. However, high quality gasoline can be found at stations using the trademark Top Tier. This gas includes an enhanced package of detergent additives to avoid engine deposits which reduce fuel economy, increase emissions, and impact vehicle performance. Growing up, did you hear “choose a station that ends in ‘CO’?” Amoco, Conoco, Texaco were all good options. The list has expanded a lot since then and includes most of the big brand names you are used to seeing – 76, BP, Chevron, Circle K, Exxon, Kwik Trip, Mobil, Phillips 66, Shell, Sinclair, and many others. You can find the full list at Top Tier. Even Costco uses Top Tier gas so select them next time you are grabbing your rotisserie chicken and bottle of wine for dinner.
One last word about choosing a station… several years ago, Jan had a problem with a vehicle’s fuel injectors. As she was in the shop hoping a good cleaning would do the trick and no replacement was needed, the tech gave her some sound advice. NEVER fill up your gas when the gas truck is filling the holding tanks. The pressure of the gas flowing into the holding tank stirs up any sediment at the bottom and the pump will put that right into your car’s fuel tank. Now you know – keep on driving if you see this at a station.