By on September 20, 2016

1-Ethanol-Gas-006

Like something from the Nixon era, the U.S. Southeast is currently in the grips of a gasoline shortage, all thanks to the shutdown of the Houston-to-New York Colonial Pipeline. North Carolina and Virginia have declared a state of emergency as gas pumps dry up.

Even TTAC’s Bozi Tatarevic can’t find premium unleaded to save his life. His WRX’s tank runneth dry.

The sudden gas crisis provides a perfect backdrop for a study by the American Automobile Association showing that 16.5 million Americans gassed up their vehicle last year with octane they didn’t need.

According to the report, 70 percent of U.S. drivers own a vehicle that feeds on regular 87 octane fuel. Only 16 percent own a vehicle that requires high-octane gas, while 14 percent require a mid-range fuel. It’s a fairly low-octane world out there.

Despite this, over the past 12 months U.S. drivers needlessly spent an extra $2.1 billion on premium fuel their vehicles didn’t need, the study shows.

To prove how easily duped we are — or ignorant of our vehicles’ needs, at least — AAA performed a test in conjunction with the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center. The test saw four, six and eight-cylinder vehicles designed to run on regular fuel tested for horsepower, emissions and mileage while running on 87- and 93-octane gas.

“AAA’s tests reveal that there is no benefit to using premium gasoline in a vehicle that requires regular fuel,” said Megan McKernan, the center’s manager. “Premium gasoline is specifically formulated to be compatible with specific types of engine designs and most vehicles cannot take advantage of the higher octane rating.”

But wait, you say — some new models rated for regular gas gain an advertised power boost when running on premium. True. In that case, the choice is up to you. Spend significantly more for that seven extra horsepower? If there’s cash at hand, why not? If there isn’t, why did you buy the thing?

While some people simply don’t realize that their expensive vehicle takes regular, other drivers have legitimate reasons for buying a tank of premium every now and then, or moving up to mid-range.

AAA performed their tests on three vehicles — a Mazda 3 four-cylinder, Dodge Charger V6 and Toyota Tundra V8. All three were 2016 models. Age is the reason some drivers seek a higher octane, and lack of age explains the lack of noticeable difference in mileage and power in the study’s test vehicles.

After a few years, and maybe a few more, an engine that sees plenty of day-to-day duty will get dirty — especially if you’re not that guy who plans to spend the weekend “with his car.” Many vehicles will develop engine ping as deposits build up. A driver could choose to add engine additives every few months to clear out the build-up, or just take care of the vehicle’s problem at the pump.

Kelley Blue Book, which eats, sleeps and breathes used cars, already advises buyers on this phenomenon. In its advice section, it lays it out:

If your car does not ping on regular, then there is no reason to seek a higher-octane gasoline. The anti-knock level of the regular in this case is adequate for the engine.

But as a car gets older, depending on how the car has been driven and cared for, it may need a higher-octane gasoline anytime between four and six years. That’s because carbon deposits inside the cylinders raise the combustion ratio, which in turn raises the engine’s octane rating. You may notice that your car operated fine on regular fuel when it was new, but pings on regular as it gets older.

So, the higher-octane fuel is not something to pamper a new car with but rather help keep an older car running properly.

As my colleague Bozi searched North Carolina for premium last night, I got annoyed by my Chevy Cruze’s lack of grunt. After a hot summer filled with too much in-town driving (at too low an rpm — it’s an Eco, after all), the poor little 1.4-liter’s innards probably had more gum than the underside of a classroom desk. No, it’s not a new model.

Cursing Canadian taxation and tariffs at the pumps, I gave it what it wanted — 94-octane gas. Only the finest for this off-lease special. Suddenly, I came to a shocking realization: there could actually be 138 horses lurking under the hood. Suddenly, food tasted better and my hair felt fuller … and darker.

While filling up with high-society gas is pointless for most newer, 87-octane rated vehicles (and a good percentage of AAA’s figures probably fit this description), there’s some benefits to be had if you’re slumming around in something old.

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121 Comments on “I Can Feel It: Drivers Spent $2.1 Billion on Unnecessary Octane Last Year, Says AAA...”


  • avatar
    mike1dog

    What’s weird is I had three octane choices at a pump yesterday, 87, 93 and 88 octane. What the heck is 88 octane for? It was higher than 87 of course, but who would buy something like that?

  • avatar
    haroldingpatrick

    Mid grade and premium have been gone for a couple days and today is the first day I’ve actually seen stations without any fuel in upstate SC. That being said, fuel only jumped 20 to 25 cents over the last week. I’m almost disappointed, this is America dammit. Oh wait, it’s an election year.

    My VW 1.8 TSI runs fine on 87, but feels a bit stronger at high load/low RPM situations on premium, not enough to spend any extra.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      The shortage is probably related to the pipeline leak in Alabama. The leak is fixed (by a bypass) now, but it will take a little while before supplies get back to normal.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        It is due to the pipeline leak. What initially happened was stations running out of regular and then midgrade. Now that they have the temporary work arounds in place you can bet that they are only shipping 87 which is the dominant product. Once those levels are back to normal they will start shipping premium again and you’ll stop seeing stations that are out of premium and midgrade.

        • 0 avatar
          haroldingpatrick

          I know, it’s been in the local and national news since last week. Most folks are just keeping their vehicles topped up in case something else happens. You know, a religious nut with some BB’s and his granny’s pressure cooker.

          Thank goodness for those talkative extroverted prepper types – a one stop shop if things ever get truly ugly.

          • 0 avatar
            yamahog

            Yeah no kidding. One time I was in a not-great-part-of-town and some survivalist was walking around with a few cases of .22lr ammo loudly bragging about his “100k rounds in my basement”.

            I’m surprised a Navigator with DUBS didn’t follow him home.

          • 0 avatar
            Sigivald

            “One time I was in a not-great-part-of-town and some survivalist was walking around with a few cases of .22lr ammo loudly bragging about his “100k rounds in my basement”. ”

            See, he’s why we can’t have nice things.

            Damned panic-buyers causing supply issues…

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      I can’t believe this is the first I have heard of this situation. Then again, I tend to avoid watching/reading the news.

      Evidently, it isnt affecting my area badly yet, I saw regular the same $2.18 as diesel at a medium sized BP truck stop last night (on the highway but in the middle of nowhere basically). It stuck me as weird, I didn’t buy it, and found regular was still under $2 at Murphy USA (Walmart, almost always the cheapest in town).

      It was very busy for a Tuesday afternoon, now that makes sense, people were filling up before it went up lol.

      Nice to not have a gas guzzler as the only vehicle at your disposal in times like these. I’d love something like a decent sized 4wd truck/SUV, but not as my only transportation.

  • avatar
    Chi-One

    Don’t most modern cars’computers pull timing when the knock sensor activates?

    • 0 avatar

      That is correct in most cases, but not always: https://goo.gl/r5kgUs

      • 0 avatar
        dukeisduke

        Yeah, that was a pretty awful situation.

        My Tacoma has two knock sensors, buried so deep that the heads have to be pulled to get at them if one fails ($$$). But, I really wonder if they do anything, since I’ve heard it ping before, in certain situations. There’s a TSB for ECU reprogramming when owners complain of ping.

      • 0 avatar
        NickS

        @bozi – that caddy was an anomaly due to a defect in its programming. So it has no bearing on the general rule that all modern engines pull timing when knock is detected.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Yes all cars with a knock sensor pull timing when it is activated. However many cars just pull out a set amount of timing in response to that knock signal. That pre-programed amount may or may not be enough to prevent engine damage and once that knock event has passed they will return to the base timing table.

      Some vehicles on the other hand have adaptive timing tables and they sense a knock signal they will pull out just enough timing to stop the knock. They will then remember that amount and apply a correction factor to all timing commands. Usually the computer recognizing a refueling event is what will trigger timing learning mode, though a change in barometric pressure or air density can as well.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Yes, the ECU will retard timing if knock is detected.

      I’d say the incident cited by Bozi is a real fluke. I haven’t heard an engine ping in many years, thanks to knock sensors.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    I personally would argue that octane level DOES make a difference in the performance of cars. I have experienced it for myself using three different generations of vehicles, each with the ability to run 87 octane and showing both performance and economy improvements when bringing them all to 89 octane while one of them actually recommends 90 octane for best performance and economy.

    Sure, I could save money by going 87 octane–but the 2.3L Ranger suffers in horsepower and torque and the ’08 Jeep suffers in fuel mileage and engine smoothness. (It sounds like a bloomin’ old-school diesel on regular!)

    • 0 avatar
      jrhmobile

      There are instances where extra octane can offer benefit — even in cars which specify regular gas in the owners manual:

      — Older cars with lots of carbon buildup can use higher-octane gas to counteract flame travel issues due to lots of carbon, especially in heavy low speed/short trip urban environments

      — High-altitude environments can take advantage of higher octane in cars drawing thin air, and by extension, light fuel through low-compression carbureted and TBI engines

      — Vehicles with gas engines carrying heavy loads/towing in low-speed environments, where the engine can be lugging far below peak torque and acceleration is strained

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        “— High-altitude environments can take advantage of higher octane in cars drawing thin air, and by extension, light fuel through low-compression carbureted and TBI engines”

        you’ve got this backwards. high altitudes/low air density means an engine can get by with *lower* octane fuel. that’s why “regular” in Colorado is 85 octane.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      it does make a difference, IFF (if and only if) you have a vehicle which *requires* premium to achieve rated performance. if it doesn’t, then there’s no difference.

  • avatar
    jhughes

    It should be said that poor Bozi’s WRX is one of those cars that actually requires premium. Heck, my BRZ with the same FA20 motor also requires premium, even without the WRX’s turbo.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      The EJ255 before it was also an unhappy camper if you tried to run it on regular, as I did once with our former Forester XT.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

        My 96 Concorde LXi (3.5L) would run like crap on anything less than 76 midgrade or equivalent. Just one more way that POS nicked and dimed me to death, lol.

        I’m pretty sure the Ford Duratec engine of the era didn’t required premium, yet it made a competitive 200 hp. Same with GM’s OHV 3800 Series II, there about IIRC. They were also a hell of a lot more reliable as well.

        Even on a roll in the 90s, their engineering and quality was always worse than their American competition in most areas.

        …except cup holders and, by partial extension, FWD minivans.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        There are theories that even the regular NA EJ25 was never really happy running on 87 here in the US, in Europe and Japan it is spec’d for premium octane, but marketing in the US decided that it would be unpalatable to price-conscious Subie buyers to ask them to use premium. Furthermore, some have hypothesized that long term, the added occasional knock and sub-optimal running may have played a role in the whole headgasket debacle, particularly the early-year DOHC EJ25s (96-99 Outback et al).

  • avatar
    ajla

    I tried running premium with my naturally-aspirated 3800s a few times and never noticed an improvement. OTOH, I tried regular with my Diplomat and the pinging was epic.

    I pretty much always just run what the manufacturer recommends.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Would not a fine temporary substitute in Bozi’s case be an off the shelf octane booster, or something designed to remove deposits like Sea Foam?

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Yes in theory you could use an octane booster but it would be expensive and not really work in the real world. That little bottle will raise the octane of 15-16 gallons of gas one point, so to go from 87 to 91 you would have to put in 40 bottles of the stuff or about 4 gallons and the resulting brew would not really work.

    • 0 avatar
      NickS

      Seafoam or any of those other magic fluids cannot remove CDs unless you use it in an off-label way and then if you don’t know what you are doing you could destroy the engine in an instant.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      Sea foam is just a blend of light oil, mineral spirits, and isopropyl alcohol. It will not remove carbon deposits despite what all of those idiots on YouTube claim. The only way to remove carbon deposits from the combustion chamber is to pull the head and abrade them off with a wire wheel. Your engine simply can not get hot enough to burn off solid carbon, no matter what stupid “miracle fluid” you dump into it.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        Marvel Mystery Oil was used for a lot of purposes in an engine, both automotive and “industrial” (i.e. tractors and heavy equipment.) Not saying it worked, but there were frequent claims about its effectiveness for many ills both when run through the fuel system and when added (temporarily) to the engine oil. There were those who even claimed it was effective against certain automatic transmission problems.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          confirmation bias from people who don’t know any better. they believe that just because nothing bad happened, something good must have happened.

          Marvel Mystery Oil is- like Seafoam- just a light oil with white spirit (Stoddard Solvent) in it. There’s no magic, there’s no mystery. Everyone loves the idea of some guy in his shed coming up with something to “show the rest of the world how it’s done,” but it’s nonsense.

          • 0 avatar
            operagost

            That’s why I had issue with this statement in the article:

            “A driver could choose to add engine additives every few months to clear out the build-up”

            If only that were true.

          • 0 avatar
            mikeg216

            Seafoam works quite well in a sludged engine, if seafoam doesn’t work. Kreen will.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Ummm…. some of the people telling me about MMO were certified mechanics. In all cases they said put no more than about 50 miles on it and in most cases limited to “before you take it to the shop to change fluids.” At least one of them (outside of a dealership) would do it himself at the shop and give it a 10-mile ‘test drive’ before putting it on the lift. I would note that I never heard of a major repair coming out of a very sick car when they did that. Even a number of automatic transmissions that had been acting up (shifting hard or downshifting too soon (or too late) often fixed themselves by simply helping to break loose a stuck valve.

      • 0 avatar
        MBella

        It doesn’t burn the carbon off. It basically steam cleans it. I have heard of people using water with the same success. It will wash the carbon off. When a head gasket leaks coolant into the combustion chamber, that piston is always spotless compared to the others.

  • avatar
    Click REPLY to reload page

    I tried switching between 91 and 87 in my Volvo over several tankfuls.
    The mileage was consistently lower with the 91. I didn’t notice any difference in performance.
    Around here premium is 15 to 20% higher than regular. If you don’t get that much improvement in power and mileage, it’s not worth paying the price. Keep the difference and pick up a tasty deli sandwich for lunch.
    Your mileage may vary…

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      I’ll go with the YMMV as personal experience has told me what my three vehicles prefer (and two of them have 89 or 90 listed as recommended while 87 is just listed as ‘usable’.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    Appears I’ve been correct by always filling up with the cheapest option.

    But then, I knew that.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      You should check out pictures of the new Datsun Redi-GO on Datsun.com. Its much better than the awful Go and Go+.

      Looks more like a 70s era Datsun and less like a smaller, cruder Versa (Go). I don’t know if its intentional, but the tail lamps look very similar in shape to those on a 1970s Datsun 610 wagon, but “inspired by” would be an apt description. The front is more flat than the “stretched back face” appearance so many Nissans are saddled with. There is even a flaring up of the rear doors and 1/4 panel, very similar to the “coke-bottle” 610, although I’m sure it is worse for visability than the Go (something the 610/Violet was criticized for at the time).

      Anyway, its a much better effort, styling wise, than the earlier models. It even has painted (body color) exposed metal on the upper interior door post and other places, like in the cargo area. Talk about no frills. That’s exactly what Datsun was like with cars like the B-210.

      Now they just need better names. I’m thinking “F-10” (and better styling, safety) to replace the Go, and “F-110” to replace the Go+.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    My former 05 xB1 ran better and idled better on 89 octane vs the recommended 87. The dime difference between them at the time meant that decision cost me an extra $30 per year.

    I’ll run 89 octane for a long-distance trip just to maximize ignition timing advance and fuel economy, but otherwise I just run any old 87.

  • avatar
    Corollaman

    Has anyone tried using ethanol free gas lately? I wonder if you can tell the diff after using the 10% gas for so long now.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Not lately since there are only 2 stations anywhere near me that offer pure gas and they are out of my way and when I last checked due to their location their prices tended to be 30-50 cents higher than E10 found in locations where there is competition. So the mild increase in MPG would be more than offset by the higher cost plus the fuel spent getting there and back.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      On a road trip, I found a gas station that sold premium but ethanol free gas. I might have imagined feeling a little more horse power, but the highway mpg of my 2010 Mazda3 improved from 33 mpg to 38 mpg.

      Otherwise, I normally use 87.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        Unsurprising, since gasoline is more energy-dense than ethanol.

        (Though I’m a little surprised at the magnitude, since it’s not like ethanol has *no* energy in it, and E10 is only 10% ethanol in the first place…)

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      I have.

      I have posted about this a few times here on TTAC.

      Going from regular, since all our cars take regular, to premium and alcohol free has resulted in an increase of at least 2 miles per gallon. And a great deal better performance. The performance seems equal for both premium and marine..but the premium still has alcohol. If there was a difference, I wasn’t able to notice it with my driving.

      Wish I could experience premium without the booze.

      I spent a lot of time trying to find marine fuel in service stations, but they all seemed far away. I was trying to avoid the booze in my hillbilly yacht pontoon boat.

      Most of my cars are turbos so I also wanted to get the extra boost. Our lake community’s gas station finally put in a tank of marine fuel. I asked the owner if I could put into my MKS ecoboost and he said sure, he used it in is trucks.

      I did…and the results were as I stated.

      The Escape 2.0 turbo also resulted in a major increase in mpg…from ave of 24.5ish to now everyday 27. The MKS aves around 23/24. 26 is standard highway. Marine or premium.

      I guess we are getting away with it…but not sure if the marine fuel is legally for marine use only.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      you’ll see a difference in fuel economy.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      In my Miata, I can’t tell the difference. In my older Mercedes wagon, the fuel mileage goes up a few MPGs. I assume the newer the car, the more it is designed for E10, since the Miata is a 2013 and the wagon is a 2000.

    • 0 avatar
      NMGOM

      Corollaman – – –

      You will almost always see some improvement from using pure gasoline, and not EtOH/Gas blends.
      This is caused by the lower fuel value (BTU/lb.) in EtOH: simple chemistry: no way around it.
      But the amount of improvement may depend on the car and the engine design.

      On my ’96 Ram with 318 c.i. (5.2 liter) V-8, the result was huge: a 2 mpg increase on a base of 18 MPG.
      On my ’10 Frontier, with VQ40 V-6, the increase was smaller, about 0.5 mpg on 22 mpg baseline.
      Both were highway numbers. Remember, though, the Frontier is greatly more aerodynamic.

      ===================

      • 0 avatar
        CobraJet

        I used to spend a lot of time driving to stations that had ethanol-free fuels. I used it all the time in my 69 Mustang. Then it became difficult to find any high octane ethanol-free fuel. My Mustang won’t do well at all on 87 octane. Pinging is terrible and so is dieseling when the engine is shut off. So now I use 93 octane 10% ethanol fuel which is available everywhere. Gas mileage suffered somewhat. I could get 12 mpg, but now I never get over 10.

    • 0 avatar
      285exp

      I’ve tried both using premium instead of regular and E0 rather than E10 and found minor increases in mileage, but not enough to justify paying the additional cost. The car is a 97 ES300, and premium is recommended, not required. I’ve used regular almost exclusively since I bought the car new, and at around 200k miles now, it’s never had any audible knock. I got about 2% better fuel economy using premium, but paid around 8% more at the time. Right now it’s closer to 20% more for premium. The car doesn’t run any better, so I’m sticking with regular. I also tried using E0 mid-grade marine fuel, and got about 4% better fuel economy but paid 15% more at the time. The car doesn’t run noticeably better with E0 either, so E10 it is. I tried it with my F250 V10 gas truck too, and found no measurable difference there either.

      E10 has around 3% less energy content than E0, so any reasonably modern vehicle is going to get around 3% less power and fuel economy. Unless you can get E0 for less than 3% more than E10, you’re just wasting your money. I’m happy to pay the extra for my boat, because it does not have a sealed fuel system and the boat can sit for extended periods without being used, so not having to worry about phase separation is worth it, and I buy a couple of gallons a year for the lawnmower for the same reason, but it doesn’t make economic sense for the cars and truck.

  • avatar
    never_follow

    One big difference, at least here in Canada, is that Shell, Chevron (out west), and Esso (not sure with their new “Synergy” gasoline) all skip the ethanol in premium grades.

    On some cars, it makes a huge difference. I borrowed my inlaws car recently, and over a month of usage, the average consumption dropped from 10.9 l/100km to 10 l/100km over the month I had it. Mixed use, some heavy pedal exercise (5 pot Turbos are clearly the best engine configuration ever!), the only difference being that I put premium in as opposed to regular. There were response and power benefits as well, and the car recommended premium, but OK’d regular.

    On other cars, higher octane does seem to hinder and make them sluggish. So YMMV, but it’s certainly something worth investigating.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    I use ethanol-free premium whenever the difference is less than 10%. As a matter of principle, I’d rather pay only for the petroleum component, so if 10% ethanol regular costs $0.90 per liter or more and the premium is only ten cents a liter more, I’m going with premium. But it hasn’t happened in at least a year. Lately, premium has been twelve cents a liter more, with regular being under $1 a liter.

    I can’t say I’ve ever noticed any difference. My driving conditions are too erratic to draw any conclusions on a tank-by-tank basis. My best tank ever, at 6.1 l/100km, did come while using ethanol-free regular in Alberta though.

  • avatar
    Corollaman

    Around So Fl they call it REC90 and it costs quite a bit more than Premium, it is meant to be used for boats and wave runners and such.

  • avatar
    319583076

    A fool and his money are soon parted…

  • avatar
    Nooly

    Around here your choices are 87 regular (non-ethanol), 89 ethanol, or 91 regular (non-ethanol). If you do need an octane higher than 87 to help with detonation, and you don’t want ethanol destroying your fuel system, then you have to choose 91 octane to get non-ethanol fuel. I’m guessing this contributes to the findings of the study.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    What gets me these days is the crazy price difference between regular and mid-grade and premium. It used to be that there was only 10 cents (15 cents at the most) difference between one grade and another, even when gas was close to $3.00. Now it can be 20, 30, or even 40 cents.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      That’s because a lot of stations use regular as a loss leader, with a “cash discount” in the hopes you’ll come in to the store and buy something they might actually make money on.

  • avatar
    Corollaman

    The perception is that luxury and expensive cars are the ones requiring premium, but now most turbo and high compression motors also call for the expensive stuff. A car that requires premium would be a deal killer for me because of all the driving I do.

  • avatar
    dougjp

    AAA should not have tested those ” all purpose” engines. Of course there would be no difference.

    What we all want (I think) is a test of (turbo) engines which say regular is OK but suggest running premium. And especially, for example, the Ford Fusion Sport where Ford is saying it gives 380 torque on 93. We want to know how much we lose or gain by running each level of octane. 87, 91 (which where I live is the best available without going out of my way) and 93/94. We can’t count on the manufacturers to give us details, that’s for sure…..

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Well the entire point of the study was to prove that many Americans are wasting money and oil by using higher octane than is recommended.

      I do agree that it would be nice to see some tests of how the HP and MPG are affected by using lower octane in engines that say the recommend Premium but that it is acceptable to use lower octane. I would never expect that from AAA but maybe one of the enthusiast magazines might be willing to do so.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I will not buy a vehicle running on anything but 87 octane. I have seen a 70 cent or more difference between 87 and 91 octane. It is a waste of money and I will never drive my vehicles in a manner that would optimize performance and speed. The only time I used premium was on an old Chrysler 5th Avenue that had 200k miles which had developed a knock. I usually put a bottle of Chevron Techron once every couple of months when the tank is close to empty and then I put the Techron in first and then fill it up. Most 87 octane gas has some form of additive for engine knocks.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Worn engines may give different results than well-kept engines of the same type. My ’87 Taurus with a much-abused Vulcan V6 ran much better on 89 than 87, which produced a fair amount of knock.

  • avatar
    WheelMcCoy

    “Suddenly, food tasted better and my hair felt fuller … and darker.”

    Just to make sure, it was the car that drank premium, right? :)

  • avatar
    DaPlugg

    wrong you will see benefits from premium, my dad works at motiva at the biggest oil refining plant in the united states, you will not see hp gains from higher octanes but will see a cleaner engine and valve train, premium gas has detergents added to it that regular does not…

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      I’m sure your father is as knowledgeable about gasoline formulation as his son is about grammar.

      • 0 avatar
        Kenmore

        Jeepers, that was kinda skank, VoGo.

        New guy and all… maybe he was commenting from a f*ckin’ phone. Now that I’ve got one I hate typing on a f*ckin’ phone.

      • 0 avatar
        RHD

        Not bothering to capitalize the first letter of a sentence is outright laziness. Not knowing to capitalize the first letter of a company name is sheer ignorance. Using a comma instead of a period is blatant incompetence.

        Harsh? Maybe, but someone should have paid attention during all those years of English class at our free public schools. If I were hiring, I’d ask for a brief sample of the potential employee’s writing. That would make it easy to separate the wheat from the chaff.

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

          “If I were hiring, I’d ask for a brief sample of the potential employee’s writing. ”

          I’m with you in principle, but you will have to be patient to find someone under 30 who doesn’t spell “you” with one letter.

    • 0 avatar
      Funky

      I thought the detergents and other additives were added at the terminal rather than at the refinery (at least this is what I recall, having, myself, worked at a terminal). But, it was a while ago (too many decades ago) that I worked at a terminal. Things have probably changed (or maybe I’m not recalling correctly the process). Anyhow, thanks for the heads-up on this.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      Regular gas has detergent packages, you know.

      It’s 2016, and I don’t even know where I could go locally to buy gasoline that only meets EPA detergent requirements rather than Top Tier(TM).

      Extra-special-super-more in Premium? Not plausibly worth it.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    @Funky–I believe you are correct that the additives are added at the terminal and each oil company adds extra additives to their premium brand in the tank compartment of the tanker where the premium is stored. There are separate compartments in each tanker for each grade of gasoline and diesel. Oil companies have agreements where their tankers can go to the terminals closest to where they serve the fuel or service stations that are in their assigned territory (i.e. if a BP terminal is the closest in a specific area then Exxon, Shell, and Chevron tankers serving that territory can use that terminal).

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      This is all nonsense. Most gas stations use “blend” dispensers and two tanks. They store 87 and 93, and if you select midgrade for whatever reason, it just blends some 93 into the 87 at the dispenser.

      As far as “premium having more detergents,” that’s also nonsense. “Top tier” gasoline is supposed to have the same level of detergents regardless of octane rating.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        Well, I was just reading up on that (to confirm my memory), and TT branding *allows* premium to have *more* than the minimum requirements.

        I just don’t find it likely that the delta over the TT baseline is gonna have a significant effect on even long term engine interior cleanliness.

  • avatar
    ...m...

    …we run a C6, an NC, and federal elise, and my father-in-law gives us *such* a hard time over using premium fuel since the ECUs can compensate for lower-octane regular gasoline: endless debate between someone who seldom sees redline and someone who seldom sees greater than four-fifths rated fuel economy…

    …his attitude is why we so seldom see motors in higher-compression tune stateside…

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    Not sure why anyone who has an engine that doesn’t need premium and was actually designed for regular would use premium. I understand turbos and others that require it…but not otherwise.
    If, as most reports show, cars designed for regular show no performance increase as a result of using higher grades, then there is no logical reason.
    Good fuels all use the same additives.
    I guess if for some reason the brand you use does have different quality for regular, mid and premium, that again would make a difference in the decision. Otherwise I just don’t get the reasoning.

    However….regular OR premium, if there is a NON alcohol fuel..use it. Pure gas does give better MPG if price works out per mile. The price increase would actually be the determining factor here for me.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      Because they’re idiots and think they “know better..” they’re the type of person who will dump random crap additives into their transmissions, then blame the car manufacturer when it starts slipping.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve Biro

      I don’t know if this would still happen today… but my wife subscribed to the “premium is better” mantra in the 1990s and always used it (Amoco) in her four-cylinder Dodge Avenger coupe. It seemed to work fine and I figured while the car probably didn’t really need premium, it wouldn’t hurt, either. Fast forward to the seven-year mark, when the car began having trouble starting and wouldn’t run right. The problem: the engine was heavily carboned up. My own private mechanic, the dealer and the factory all agreed: it was the premium fuel. They all said if the factory recommends regular, use regular. It’s Shell 87 for all of our vehicles today.

  • avatar
    NMGOM

    If AAA actually knew something substantial about either engines or gasolines, it would be less hysterical in its reporting. Octane is only one factor to consider.

    I have 4 vehicles: ’96 Ram; ’07 Jeep Wrangler; ’07 Z4; ’10 Frontier.
    I use ETOH-free Shell V-Power in all of them, and have certainly done so in the Ram for 20 years.
    My choice of that particular fuel has NOTHING to do with octane ratings: it has to do with refinement quality; greater-than-TIER1-rating; ease of cold-weather starting; and the fact that 15-20% of the fuel is its massive additive package designed to inhibit wear, rust, water contamination, and hard starting.

    After 20 years and 200,000 miles, the 318 V-8 (5.2 liter) in the Ram shows near factory-spec compression, implying no significant ring wear and no significant valve wear. So, if you plan to make your vehicle a long-term family member, the best gas is what counts, not the octane rating. If you’re going to unload your little rice-burner after 5 years, then burn anything you can get away with.

    ===========================

  • avatar

    +1 NMGOM
    I use Shell 87 when ever possible because of the additive & detergent package. If I can’t find Shell, I use another top tier brand. Use the recommended octane & a top tier brand fuel and your engine will love you. Cheap fuel at Walmart or some other discounter just doesn’t have the additive package that the top tier fuels have and will leave more deposits.

    http://www.toptiergas.com/

    • 0 avatar
      Steve Biro

      This is exactly what I do with all of my vehicles. Shell 87 most of the time, another top-tier brand of regular if I can’t get it. In my part of the country, there aren’t many top-tier brands: Shell, BP, Exxon, Costco and Valero (the last brand, for some reason, I just won’t use).

    • 0 avatar
      True_Blue

      Thank you for this link – I spent some time reading up on the differences between the premium retailers and the others.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      Ah, but 87 isn’t “V-Power”.

      That’s their Premium Super Special.

      I think Top Tier is plenty enough – and even ARCO is Top Tier these days.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    My bike calls for 87, but pulls a lot cleaner in high gears on 93. At 45-50 MPG vs half of that in my Civic the price premium is worth it.

    On the flip side when some chowderhead gas station attendant filled my 350Z with regular I definitely felt the penalty. Oddly enough my current Civic makes the same HP/L on regular. Progress I guess.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    PO of my 203k mile ES300 refueled exclusively at Costco (using 87), his claim was that they had the best control over ethanol levels in their fuel in his experience. His average MPG tended to be about 26mpg, with winter fillups dropping down to 24ish. The 1MZ-FE motor calls for premium fuel (back when 10.5:1 compression was considered high), and I think I’ll experiment a bit with midgrade and premium in the coming months. I may run some Shell V-Power for some tanks just as a fuel system and valve cleaning regimen.

  • avatar
    Fordson

    Steph, take a look at Edmunds’ long-term Cruze and Sonic…both cars had the 1.4T engine…they did just such an experiment and found that particularly in hot weather, they got up to 2.3 mpg better using Cali 91 rather than 87.

    Both cars – good methodology – replicable results.

    http://www.edmunds.com/chevrolet/cruze/2011/long-term-road-test/2011-chevrolet-cruze-ltz-the-ultimate-hot-weather-mpg-test—regular-vs-premium.html

    The other thing, of course, is that the car ran better and had way more power on the 91. It’s not just a cost/mpg exercise.

    • 0 avatar
      S197GT

      but edmunds also found those cars to be the rare exception to the rule:

      “Edmunds has noted, however, at least one case in which a car with a small turbocharged engine got better fuel economy when running on premium. The car in question was a 2011 Chevrolet Cruze LTZ and, perhaps befitting a car that’s marketed as a money saver, the owner’s manual only calls for regular unleaded gasoline. Yet in a specific test we noticed that we got better fuel economy (and ultimately saved a bit of money) by using premium fuel. One factor affecting the outcome of the experiment might have been that the testing was conducted in extreme hot-weather conditions, however.”

      http://www.edmunds.com/fuel-economy/to-save-money-on-gas-stop-buying-premium.html

      otherwise they agree with AAA. save money, stop buying premium (unless required).

      also, as to premium having more additives mentioned by others, not really true according to Edmund’s:

      “Drivers used to buy a tank of premium gas every once in a while to clean their engine. Years ago, premium gasoline contained more detergents and additives to stop carbon deposits. But experts say that because of government regulations aimed at cutting emissions, all grades of gas, including those you buy at independent, low-price stations have plenty of additives to both protect engines and cut pollution.”

      having said that, AAA would disagree; at least in the context of top tier vs independent gas stations. they conducted an independent study (cited here by Consumer Reports) that shows:

      “The results showed that on average, Top Tier gasoline had 19 times fewer carbon deposits on injectors, intake valves, and in the combustion chamber when compared to regular gasoline.

      AAA also found Top Tier gasoline can have a cleansing effect, reducing intake valve deposits by 45 to 72 percent when used over a 5,000-mile interval. Variation in the results is attributed to the detergents used by different brands.”

      still, that test said nothing about premium vs. regular, just top-tier vs not. i haven’t seen anything that says that premium gas has added detergents over the same brand’s regular.

      http://www.consumerreports.org/car-maintenance/study-shows-top-tier-gasoline-worth-extra-price/

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Just looked at the Top Tier gas stations:

        “http://www.toptiergas.com/licensedbrands/”

        As a Midwesterner, the absence of Marathon, Pilot, and Speedway are conspicuous. I’ll definitely keep that in mind for future fillups. I generally gravitate towards Shell or BP when I can, but use Pilot all the time on road trips.

  • avatar
    Frylock350

    I’ve noticed that fuel recommendations come in three basic categories.

    1) 87 Octane / Regular recommended
    Regular is all you need to get the advertised mileage and horsepower ratings. Use a higher grade fuel if you like wasting money.

    2) Premium/Midgrade recommended
    If you want to achieve advertised horsepower and fuel economy ratings use this fuel. You can safely use regular, but it’ll pull timing and you’ll lose responsiveness and your mileage will go down as a result.

    3) Premium Required
    Use regular at your own risk.

    If you are in category 2 or 3 use the recommended or required fuel. In category one for most folks they are pissing away money if they buy anything over 87 octane.

    The Cruze/Sonic 1.4T gaining mpg on premium is curious. I’m guessing the ECU is able to advance timing for the higher octane fuel and give the engine more power/mpg as a result.

  • avatar
    wiggles

    We must have the crappiest gas in the world. Strangely when I was in Taiwan the lowest octane was 92, then 95 and then 98. That was from the big CPC stations.

    • 0 avatar
      whynot

      You have to be careful. Octane is not uniformly rated worldwide.

      The US and Canada (and a few other countries) typically use the Anti-Knock Index (AKI) to measure octane, while elsewhere in the world (including most of Europe and Asia) it is common to use the Research Octane Number (RON).

      An octane of 87 (AKI) is generally equivalent to 91-92 on the RON scale.

  • avatar
    PolestarBlueCobalt

    Damn, I would spend some extra to get 93 Octane here in California. Anything is better than the flammable piss we get here, with 91 octane being the highest. My car actually needs the 93, since it’s heavily turbocharged.

    On the other hand, I know people who put 91 into their tractor-motor 90’s toyota trucks…

  • avatar
    mtmmo

    “Like something from the Nixon era…” Something only a young ill informed Canadian could write. US gas shortages took place in 1978/79. Nixon resigned in 1975. Jimmy Carter sends his love.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      Wrong. First gas shortage tool place after the Yom Kippur war – fall ’73 – winter ’74. The second took place in May of ’79.

      Nixon era for the first was correct. Oh, and Nixon resigned August 1974.

  • avatar

    This one has been done to death in Camaro/Caddy forums. I think it depends on two things…the driver and the engine computer.

    Concerning the GM HFV6, it specs Regular in the manual. An engineer was caught out saying the max rated power was on High test. There is conjecture that the Regular spec is marketing.

    People who have hooked up monitors have found incidence of spark retard to be much higher with Regular than High test…so this engine, at least, is adjusting in real time….so…and some claim the computer in my model, at least has one map for high test and just pulls back if knock…the later engines supposedly have two maps, one high test and one low.

    You can run it all day forever on 87, nothing bad will happen. It will run a bit better on High test. You will never notice if you aren’t a hard driver. You will notice if you are. The MDX says premium, as does the BMW. Both cars run “meh” on regular, but you only notice under hard acceleration. Again, if you drove gently all the time, you’d be wasting $ on the 91 in these cars too.

    I’ve run the Caddy with both, the FE is about the same, and it just runs better on high test…which may also be related to the fact this is a DI engine with high compression.

    • 0 avatar
      NMGOM

      speedlaw – – –

      “You can run it all day forever on 87, nothing bad will happen.”

      Take two of those cars with identical engines. Run one with cheap regular gas and the other Shell V-Power, both for 11.7 years, the average car-ownership lifetime in America. Then see how they are doing after that to determine if “nothing bad will happen”, — to say nothing of starting and performance issues with regular gas along the way.

      ==========================

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