Have you ever been confused by the three different types (grades) of fuel you see at the gas pumps? Gas is gas. As long as it gets your car from point A to point B, you should be good to go. Right?
Well, that’s certainly a good question. Being conscious of what you put in your car is not a bad habit at all. After all, owning a car is a huge responsibility, not to mention an expensive one.
The Three Grades of Gasoline
The three grades of gasoline are displayed on gas pumps in several different ways. Almost always, the numbers 87, 89, and 93 will be listed on the pump handle or close to where the nozzle rests on the pump. Most commonly, these numbers are labeled as Regular (unleaded), Super (mid-grade), or Premium.
The numbers represent the rating (called the AKI) of octane within that particular grade of gasoline. Octane is the measure of how much compression a fuel can withstand before igniting.
So the higher the octane number (in this case 93 or Premium), the less likely the fuel is going to ignite unexpectedly. And of course, no one wants anything igniting in their car especially while they are driving it. So, why not always pay for premium to decrease the chances of becoming a human barbeque?
Premium Isn’t So Premium After All
The main difference between the three grades of gasoline is in how they burn. The lower the grade, the faster the fuel burns. If a car’s gas burns faster, it makes the engine more susceptible to “knocking” or igniting prematurely which can potentially damage the engine quicker.
This is why cars that have more powerful engines, such as SUVs and sports cars, perform better with premium-grade gasoline because the fuel burns much slower, therefore, making it more resistant to pre-ignition. Their engines are designed to perform at peak levels with slower burning gas.
With this said, most cars will operate just fine using the lower-grade, cheaper gasoline option. Having a car that is built to run off a low-grade (regular unleaded) gasoline source will not perform better if it uses super or premium.
Modern Cars Adjust to Your Fuel Type
Although there is no improvement for basic cars when using mid-grade or premium gasoline, what about using regular gas in more high-performing vehicles? Well, modern cars are so technologically advanced in regard to the computers that are integrated in its components that they are able to adapt.
For example, a sports car that would typically perform better with premium gas now has the ability to adjust the timing of whatever fuel you are using in the vehicle.
It doesn’t matter what type of fuel you use because the car’s engine is able to recognize the fuel type and allow it to perform accordingly. The type of fuel no longer becomes an issue. Unless you are drag-racing which isn’t recommended.
Perhaps you are someone who can feel the difference in how a car performs and rides as you cruise along the road. Your personal preference may be to stick with the premium gasoline. This is completely fine.
Just rest assured that you are not affecting the longevity of your car if you decide to go with the cheaper low-grade option.