Does Your Gasoline Choice Affect Your Car? | Scott's Fort Collins Auto

Does Your Gasoline Choice Affect Your Car?

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A woman filling her car up with gas.

Many people swear by a specific level of gasoline when they fill up at the pump. There are several different kinds that are all different prices. Do all of these gasoline choices really matter for your car? At some stages of the process, gasoline is the same at many places. However, depending on the company, there will be varying levels of ethanol and other additives put into your gas. Find out why there are additives to gasoline and if your gas choice really does affect your car!


Why Do You Need Gas for Your Car?

Many people know that they need gas in their cars to make them run. Water doesn’t work and would burn up too quickly as your car runs. Other substances don’t work either, and it’s because your car doesn’t just need gas for lubrication. It needs it to control internal combustion going on inside your car. Essentially, you have countless parts working together inside your car to make it run. In fact, the average car has about 19,000 individual parts total. When you drive, you have those parts working to propel your vehicle forward, and it does this through combustion.


Most cars have internal combustion engines. That means, the power created from combustion between fuel mixing with air creates energy that flows along a circuit to your car parts. Parts such as the pistons, turbine blades and rotors receive that circuit of energy and begin to propel your car forward. However, that internal combustion to create that energy can only be done with certain materials. Gasoline is a substance derived from petroleum that makes combustion possible.


Depending on the manufacturer, that petroleum might be very refined or only adequately refined to run a car. The refinement of the petroleum—or your gasoline—will determine how well internal combustion works for your car to make it move correctly. Many manufacturers will add in extra compounds to improve chemical stability for internal combustion to happen easier and smoother. That refinement and additives of other chemicals can help with fuel system and will determine if gasoline is “unleaded”, “premium” or “diesel”.


A close-up view of a gas pump with various types of gas nozzles.

Types of Gasoline

There are various types of gasoline you can put in your car. The difference in the types of gases will depend on their octane levels. An octane level or an octane number is a measurement of the performance of an engine and the compression it can withstand before igniting. When the octane level is higher, the compression can go on for longer. A higher octane level also helps prevent “knocking” or “pinging”. This is when uneven combustion inside a car causes pressure to hit parts unevenly, making knocking or pinging noises. Some cars have premium engines, so they will need premium gas with higher octane levels to avoid this.


The type of gas you get will determine the octane level you are getting, which is the number posted with your gasoline choice. The most popular types of gas include:

  • Unleaded: This will have the number 87 by the unleaded option (usually inside a yellow-colored box). Unleaded gasoline can range from 85 to 88 on its octane level. As we mentioned, the higher the octane level, the longer it takes for combustion to happen.
  • Mid-Grade/Plus: The octane level is a bit higher, usually at 89, although it can range between 88 and 90. This gasoline will be refined more than unleaded, making it smoother for combustion.
  • Premium: This type of gas is generally at a level 92 octane. It is the most refined gas, stripped of any chemicals your car doesn’t need. Often, it also has good chemicals for your car added in that can increase your car’s quality of life.
  • Diesel: This is fuel used for large industrial trucks and vehicles. In a regular car, air is combined with gasoline before compression. In a diesel car, air is compressed first before fuel is added. For diesel engines that work this way, only diesel gasoline can be used to power the vehicle correctly.


A close-up view of a person filling up their car. Only the had is visible with the gasoline pump.

Which Gasoline Should I Choose?

The type of gasoline your car will need will depend on your preferences as well as the make and model of your car. You should always consult your owners manual to know what type of vehicle you have and what type of gasoline is best to maintain its performance. Many people opt for unleaded gasoline simply because it is the cheapest. However, if your car requires premium gas to function correctly, you could be shortening the life of your car by providing it improper fuel.


Always double check your fuel needs for your car. Studies show that premium gas has no noticeable advantage over unleaded gas if your car doesn’t require premium. However, depending on how much you fuel up, you could either be saving or losing 15 to 20 cents each gallon, as that is the difference between unleaded and premium prices. When you don’t use premium gas for cars that need it, you may experience lots of knocking and pinging because combustion is happening at the wrong time.


Ultimately, all your gas choices stem from petroleum. They will just vary in their refinement, the manufacturer and the chemicals that were added into the gasoline to enhance your car’s performance. You can choose to follow the guidelines in your owner’s manual or you can choose to buy the cheapest option at the pump. With your specific car, make sure to do your research for what fuel will make your car last the longest and work the best. For questions about gasoline for your car, call Scott’s Fort Collins Auto at (970) 682-4202!


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