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Car Care: The Differences Between Fuel Types
Know which to choose for your vehicle


While waiting for your car to gas up, you’ve probably stood at the pump and wondered about the differences between regular, plus and premium gasoline. At first glance, there doesn’t appear to be much of a difference, aside from price. However, some cars demand different fuel types for optimal performance and longevity. Here’s an in-depth look at the difference between fuel grades.

Octane numbers

Accompanying each fuel grade button, you’ll find a number — typically 87 for regular gas, 89 for plus and 92 or 93 for premium. This number is the fuel’s octane rating. High-octane fuel won’t pre-ignite or explode as quickly under pressure, making it ideal for performance cars and their high-compression engines.

When to choose regular

In the vast majority of vehicles, you’ll want to reach for the regular gasoline. This unleaded fuel costs less and functions well in low-compression engines, like the ones you’ll find in a standard economy car. If you opt for a higher-octane fuel, you won’t damage your vehicle, but you won’t see any benefits, either. It’s best to simply save your money and pick regular.

When to choose plus

Since plus-grade gasoline contains more octane than regular, it takes a higher-pressure engine to make it combust. If your vehicle is more than 20 years old, it might not have the technology to monitor and adjust the engine in accordance with the fuel’s octane levels. In these cases, plus-grade fuel may enhance your car’s performance. Additionally, some performance vehicles specifically demand plus-grade gas.

When to choose premium

If you drive a performance car, it may be tempting to save a few dollars by fueling up with regular gas. However, in the long run, this could be an expensive mistake. As mentioned before, lower-octane fuels combust more easily. In the high-pressure engine of a performance car, this can lead to engine knock. Engine knock isn’t just a noisy irritation — it damages your vehicle’s engine, reduces its performance and lessens its gas mileage. Therefore, high-octane premium fuel is the smarter choice for performance cars.

In most cases, you can depend on regular gasoline to keep your vehicle running. If you’re curious about your car’s needs, check the owner’s manual to make sure you’re fueling your vehicle properly.

This article is presented by Walnut Creek Honda

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