There is a lot of question regarding the difference between regular and premium gas and how necessary it is for the efficient running of a car’s engine. Depending on who you listen to, you will receive a wide range of answers. Fortunately, the difference between premium gas and regular fuel matters in only a few cases. If you and your car should fall into one of them, the issue will be more important to you. Otherwise, it is a non-issue. Thus, before going any further, technologically and practically speaking, regular fuel is more than adequate, most of the time.
The days of leaded vs. unleaded gasoline are long gone. In the span of time since then, a distinction has arisen between regular fuel and premium fuel. It is all unleaded fuel, but the difference is in its octane rating. The octane rating of fuel is basically a measure of how well the fuel burns in a controlled environment. The higher the octane rating, the more resistant the fuel is to the knocking effect. When gasoline combusts in the engine in an uncontrolled manner, it can have negative effects on the inner workings of the engine. Higher octane fuel is better suited to prevent this type of uncontrolled explosion. Premium and super unleaded fuel are examples of gasoline with higher octane ratings.
When Your Car Needs Premium
In general, unless the manufacturer has designed your car’s engine to run on high octane fuel, you almost never need to put premium in the tank. Some cars come with what is known as a high-compression engine, a type designed to produce more power in the same amount of internal space. The price of this power capability is higher fuel charges. Your car’s manual will explicitly state what octane rating the fuel you put in your car should contain.
Most cars built in the last 15 years require fuel at 87 octane or higher. This means, in essence, that regular fuel is a perfect match for your vehicle. If your car requires 90 or 91octane for optimal performance, you would be wise to follow the instructions and only use premium fuel. If you do not, you could actually be hurting the engine.
Other Uses for Premium Fuel
Hauling heavy loads or doing a lot of driving through mountains can create a need for premium gasoline. The steep grades your car climbs or the excessive weight it tows can put a lot of strain on the car’s engine. Modern cars have what is called a knock sensor which automatically detects when the engine begins to ‘ping’ or knock–an indication that uncontrolled fuel explosions are occurring. The spark is then delayed so that the pinging or knocking ceases. Heavy load, whether from towing or climbing or driving in high heat, can cause the knock sensor to work less efficiently. For these reasons, premium gas is a good idea when you increase the load on the car.
By and large, and under normal driving conditions, regular fuel is more than adequate for your vehicle. If you use premium fuel for reasons other than to accommodate for increased load or because the manual calls for it, you are mostly just paying too much for gasoline.