When you pull into a local gas station in Greensboro to fill your empty tank, it might be, for obvious reasons, tempting to reach for the fuel with the lowest price tag… But reaching for the “regular” grade isn’t always the right choice – consult your owner’s manual, the sticker on the gas cap, or call our techs at 336-294-2137 for advice for your vehicle – and keep reading for more information about octane ratings and why they matter!
What do the numbers on a gas pump actually mean?
When you stop at the pump, the numbers indicate the octane rating of the fuel. This rating (87, 89, 93, etc.) relates to its ability to be compressed in the engine without igniting prematurely.
In a typical engine, gas and air are combined in the cylinders then compressed into a smaller volume. Once compressed, the fuel is ignited with a spark plug to create the combustion that powers your vehicle.
But different engines compress the fuel and air at varying ratios – high performance engines often have higher compression ratios that gives your vehicle more horsepower.
The octane grade relates directly to the compression in the engine. Higher octane gasoline can withstand more pressure and compression without spontaneously igniting.
Can I use the cheaper gas to save money?
When the fuel ignites on its own (during compression instead of with the spark plug), you’ll notice a knocking sound in the engine. Did you recently fill the tank? If so, you might be using the wrong grade of gasoline.
If you notice this sound, bring your vehicle into a trusted auto shop right away. Pre-ignition can damage the engine, so catching the problem early can help prevent further damage and costly repairs.
Uncontrolled combustion inside the cylinders is called a “knock” or “ping” and can cause severe engine damage. Using the lowest grade of gasoline might save you a few pennies now, but it can cost you much more when you have to repair or replace your engine later.
Is “Premium” fuel better for the engine?
Higher octane or “premium” fuel won’t boost the performance of your vehicle. If you put 93-grade fuel into an engine that calls for 87, you won’t see any increase in power, speed, or performance. Horsepower comes from the engine, not the fuel.
It’s always best to use the grade of fuel recommended in your owner’s manual. The manufacturer can calculate the best octane rating for your vehicle based on the compression ratio and running temperatures inside your engine. Use the recommended fuel – if your engine calls for regular, there’s no need to pay more for premium!
Will I ever need to change fuel types?
As your car gets older, you may notice changes in the performance. If you notice knocking or pinging as you drive, you may need to consider putting in a higher octane. Carbon deposits inside the cylinders can raise the combustion ratio, necessitating higher octane. However, with proper care and maintenance, you can keep your engine in its best condition to keep running as it was designed!
Services like regular oil changes, cooling system flushes, fuel injection cleaning, etc. will keep your engine in good shape to enjoy a long and healthy life. Stop by Foreign Accents for your preventative maintenance services, or if you notice ping or knocking in the engine.
If you have any questions about the right gasoline for your vehicle, different fuel types, or the services needed to care for your engine, be sure to call our team of auto experts at 336-294-2137!