Fueling up at the gas station you may notice a new choice of gasoline to power your car with. E85 is now an option for certain types of vehicles. But with economy gasoline and premium gasoline still on the marketplace, does it really matter what type of gasoline is put in your vehicle? Continue reading to find out.
Economy gasoline is the gas used by most vehicles on the road and is commonly labeled as “regular gasoline.” Economy gasoline has a lower octane level of 87. Most vehicles are designed with a lower compression ratio, which means they are manufactured to function on economy gas (additional information on compression ratios can be found in the next section). If your vehicle fits into this category, it is highly recommended to use economy gasoline, as higher octane gasoline does not provide any additional benefits and will only cost more in the end.
Premium gasoline is required by few vehicles and is usually only needed for luxury cars. Compared to economy gas which has an octane level of 87, premium gas has an octane level of around 92. These vehicles are designed with a higher compression ratio to prevent loud knocking that can damage the engine. This knocking sound is triggered immediately by the sudden ignition of fuel and echoes throughout the engines cylinder. Only loud and consistent knocking will damage the engine. Higher octane gas may help eliminate or prevent this noise, which results in increased engine performance. While no damage will incur on a low compression vehicle using high octane gas, using economy gas on a vehicle built with a high compression ratio will cause the gas to ignite prematurely and result in an engine knocking. In some non-luxury vehicles, this knocking noise may occur and it may be better to spend extra money on higher octane fuel, than to replace the engine. Some owners of non-luxury vehicles choose to use this fuel also because they believe it will make a difference in their cars performance. However, this performance can be attributed to the additives the fuel contains and not the octane level.
In additional to economy gasoline, drivers of flexible fuel vehicles have the choice of economy gasoline or E85, a complex gasoline-ethanol blend. Depending on geography and season, E85 can contain from 51 to 83 percent ethanol. It is considered an alternative fuel by the U.S. Department of Energy. Compared to per gallon with economy gasoline it has 27 percent less energy, but because of high octane it helps with vehicle performance. Otherwise, the only big difference is the price at the pump and the lack of pumps- E85 costs less than economy gasoline; however there are only 2,400 fueling stations offering this blend.
For the majority of vehicles on the road, it does not make much of a difference what type of gas is put in their tank. However, there are certain vehicles that require higher octane gasoline and should only be fueled with this. The easiest way to figure out what type of gasoline a vehicle needs is by checking the owner’s manual.