Have you ever been at the gas pump, looked at the choices in front of you and wondered if you’re picking the right one for your vehicle? If you’re not a car enthusiast or someone who dabbles in car hobbies, all gas options may seem like a no-brainer. You pick Regular, Mid Grade or Premium. Most drivers base their decision on price, and choose Regular. But, is that really the best option for your car? Will choosing premium help your car run more efficiently and burn cleaner? It’s not always that simple. First, let’s break down what the different options mean.
Each level, Regular, Mid Grade and Premium, represents a different octane rating. The octane rating is simply the measure of the fuel’s ability to resist pre-ignition in the engine. The higher the rating, the more pressure the fuel can withstand. If the gas ignites because of compression rather than being sparked from a spark plug, it can cause your engine to “knock”. Knocking will occur in all engines due to the pressure occurring within the cylinder. However, the average knock should be so insignificant it won’t cause any damage. Higher octane ratings just mean the fuel will burn more slowly and with less violent combustion. This is useful for gravity-fed fuel pumps, but not necessary for fuel-injected engines, which make sure that the cylinder is being fed fuel evenly and consistently.
What octane level should you use for your vehicle?
First, check your manufacturer’s manual for the recommended rating, and use what is suggested (or higher if you choose). Do not use a lower rating though, as it could decrease engine performance over time. Regular is normally around 87 octane, Mid Grade runs between 88-90 and 91-94 is Premium. The octane rating is displayed in large black letters at the gas pump, so you know exactly which one to select.
Selecting a higher octane rating than the manufacturer's recommendation usually won’t increase fuel efficiency enough to warrant the extra expense, unless you are doing a heavy towing job and need higher performance. It will however, enable you to emit less CO2.
Ultimately, you should stick with your manufacturer’s recommendation for your engine. If your engine can operate under regular octane ratings, stick with that unless you are towing or heavy hauling. Otherwise, choosing a higher grade could mean just an added expense to your wallet with no real benefit in the long run.