Making the Grade: Should I Run Premium Fuel in My Car?

By Justin Cupler | September 10th, 2018

When you pull up to a fuel pump, you likely see all the fuel-grade options and assume the one with the highest number must be the best for your car. While this is the case for some vehicles, many can run on almost any fuel grade with little to no repercussions. Here’s a breakdown on what fuel grades really mean and if your car benefits from a higher-grade fuel.

Fuel Grades Explained

While you may just see “regular,” “midgrade,” and “premium” on the pump, there are numbers behind those names. These numbers are octane ratings, and they generally range from 87 through 94. “Regular” fuel is 87 octane, “midgrade” fuel is between 89 and 90 octane, and “premium” is 91 to 94 octane.

We’ll spare you the chemistry lesson, but octane is the name given to a fuel’s ability to prevent engine knock. Engine knock is the banging or pinging sound made when the fuel-air mixture ignites prematurely in the combustion chamber.

What’s the Right Fuel for My Vehicle?

Most vehicle engines can operate normally on regular fuel, but it is always best to read your vehicle’s owner’s manual to see what fuel grade the manufacturer recommends. If you lost your owner’s manual, the manufacturer often prints this information on a sticker inside the fuel-filler cap.

Some vehicles operate best on high-grade fuels but will function on lower-grade fuel with decreased performance. The manufacturer will outline this in the owner’s manual.

Why Do Vehicles Need Premium Fuel?

Some vehicles use high compression or forced induction to increase performance or fuel economy. Because of the higher compression, the fuel-air mixture has an even higher probability of experiencing pre-ignition, so automaker’s prevent this by requiring premium fuel only.

Unless the automaker specifies you can run a lower-octane fuel without issue, you can run into serious problems if you use low-octane fuel. First, you can cause internal engine damage by running this low-octane fuel, and the manufacturer may void the warranty, if your vehicle has one.

Should I Run a Higher-Grade Fuel?

In short, unless your vehicle requires midgrade or premium fuel, there is no benefit to using this upgraded fuel. Yes, much of it has extra additives that claim to keep your engine cleaner, but these claims are generally based on self-testing and there is little evidence to back them up.

By running higher-grade fuel, you are literally burning money.

Will Running High-Grade Fuel Make My Dying Car Last Longer?

If your vehicle is running rough, stalling, overheating, or having any other issues running, high-grade fuel will have no impact on this. Your best bet is to stop by the Garber Fort Pierce service department serving Fort Pierce, Florida  for a complete inspection. Or you can trade it in on a new or preowned vehicle from our vast inventory.

Posted in Maintenance