You’re given the choice every time you pull up to the fuel pumps – regular or premium gas. The key for drivers is to know whether premium gas is merely recommended for their car or if it’s required. In today’s automobiles, advances in engine technology mean that even if the owner’s manual recommends premium gasoline, the car will typically run on regular without issue and won’t damage the engine in any way.
Differences Between Premium and Regular Gas
Premium gas is similar to regular unleaded fuel, both are made from crude oil and are highly combustible. One of the most notable differences, though, is that premium has a higher octane rating. Most premium fuel has a rating of 90 octanes or higher. Octane is important when it comes to powering vehicles while preventing knocking. When gasoline and air ignite before they should, it causes an explosion known as pre-ignition, which causes a knocking sound. Octane refers to how well the fuel can resist pre-ignition. With an octane of 90 or higher, premium gasoline is less prone to pre-ignition or knocking. Premium fuel also contains detergents and additives that help engines run cleaner with less pollution for the environment.
You’ve heard all the hype about premium fuel and the benefits it provides:
- Better fuel efficiency
- Corrosion prevention
- Engine knock or ping prevention
- Protection against carbon deposits in the engine
- Prevention of internal engine wear
Who Requires Premium Gas
Most commonly, you’ll find that German-engineered vehicles, luxury cars, high-performance sports cars, exotic cars, and sometimes classic cars require premium gasoline. Knowing if you require premium gas is as easy as looking for a label behind your fuel door. Premium gasoline is necessary only for those vehicles whose vehicles say “Premium Fuel Required” behind the fuel door. That means that your vehicle’s manufacturer has tested its vehicles and determined that the octane contained in premium gasoline is necessary to prevent early detonation in the engine. If you were to use regular gasoline, you’d experience a reduction in power, worse fuel economy, probably engine pinging, and possibly the Check Engine light illuminated as well.
To sum it up, if your vehicle says “Premium Fuel Required”, you really do need premium gas for your vehicle to run properly. If your vehicle doesn’t require premium, expect that your vehicle will run well on regular gas.
What If the Manufacturer Requires It?
When a vehicle manufacturer requires using premium fuel, it is because that particular vehicle’s fuel system is designed to work best with higher octane gas. Using regular gas in an engine that requires premium could void your warranty. That is most likely to happen if using regular causes severe engine knock or pinging that damages the pistons or other engine parts. Using the wrong gasoline may cause other problems, like decreased fuel economy and engine performance.
For example, here is what GM says about the subject in an owner’s manual for a vehicle that requires premium:
“Use premium unleaded gasoline with a posted octane rating of 91 or higher. If the octane rating is less than 91, you could damage the engine and may void your vehicle warranty. If heavy knocking is heard when using a gasoline rated at 91 octanes or higher, the engine needs service.”
*Note that this applies only to engines that require premium gas.
Edmunds has also compiled two lists for fuel: Premium Recommended and Premium Required for vehicles from the 2012 to 2018 model years, with some 2019 models included. If your vehicle is on the Recommended list, you can try switching to regular unleaded gas. If your car is on the Required list, then you need to run premium gas. You can confirm the information on these lists by checking your owner’s manual.
What happens if I used the wrong type?
Regular can be used at least occasionally without repercussions in most vehicles designed for premium, but it’s a bad idea to make a habit of it. Bottom line: Check the owner’s manual. If the vehicle manufacturer says the engine requires premium, believe it. Don’t try to save a few cents per gallon by buying regular gasoline. Doing so could lead to much larger expenses in the future.
Check out the average gas prices in your area and see how much a difference you could save by switching from premium to regular if that is an option for your vehicle.
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