Reprinted from The American Petroleum Institute
At the grocery checkout, the question is paper or plastic. At the pump, it’s 87, 89 or 93. These numbers relate to the octane levels found in the three most common grades of gasoline.
Octane helps protect against engine knock —
uncontrolled combustion that results in knocking or pinging sounds which can
damage your engine over time. Your car’s owner’s manual should tell you
which grade of gasoline is recommended for your vehicle. You might also consider
If you use gasoline that doesn’t have enough octane, engine
knock could, over time, damage pistons and other engine parts. If your car has a
knock sensor, it will compensate by slowing spark timing. Your engine will be
protected, but possibly at a slight and sometimes noticeable loss in power and
acceleration. Roughly half of today’s vehicles are equipped with knock
Most cars give optimum performance on regular or mid-grade
gasoline. If you’re buying premium and your car’s not running any better
than it does with a lower-octane gasoline, you’re probably wasting money.
However, some cars may operate better on premium because of additives.
Additives, which are found in all gasoline, keep engines clean and make them run
Driving habits, a vehicle’s mileage, and climate and geography
can affect how gasoline performs in your car. Octane requirements tend to
increase with mileage, at least through the first 15,000 to 20,000 miles. And a
car hauling heavy loads over hills requires more octane than the same car
driving on level roads. On the other hand, many older vehicles need less octane
at higher altitudes, such as the Rocky Mountains.
The best advice is: try different gasoline, observe how
they perform in your car, and pick the one that meets your needs.
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