Premium Gas NOT Needed

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Mar 19, 2004
For those that think they need premium gas,read this from the news show 20/20.

The Price Is Premium, But 'Gas Is Gas'

When you head out on vacation this summer, you'll probably spend big bucks filling your car's gas tank, while griping about the price. But a lot of you who are complaining could be spending less for your gas.

You have a choice of gas at the pump. The price of 93 octane premium is more than regular 87 octane — about 20 cents more per gallon at many stations. Because premium costs more, a lot of people think it's better for their cars.

People told us premium gasoline gives them better gas mileage, more power and cleaner engines.

Regular gas, one woman told "20/20," "leaves a lot of gunk in your engine … That's what my daddy taught me."

But her daddy — and many of you who buy premium — are wasting your money.

NASCAR driver Joe Nemechek knows this. "Believe me, I've pumped gas in from about every gas station there's been in my personal cars. Whether it's around town or on vacation or wherever, you put the regular in there it keeps on running," he said. The NASCAR drivers, mechanics, and car makers will tell you that for 90 percent of the cars sold today, high octane is no better than regular gas. It won't give you better mileage, more power or a cleaner engine. NASCAR crew member Lisa Smokstad told us what every expert told us.

"It is a myth that cars run better on premium gas," she said.

Some cars do need higher octane — older cars that knock, and cars with high-compression, high-revving engines like Ferraris, Bentleys, Jaguars, Acuras, Mercedes and Corvettes.

But 90 percent of new cars don't need it — check
your owner's manual.

The car manufacturers and every car expert we consulted told us that for most cars, high octane is a waste of money. Even the gas companies that sell the high-octane fuel — and make more money off of it — admit most people don't need it. But they don't go out of their way to tell you that.

Once you've figured out which octane to buy, does the brand matter? Are the well-known national brands better than the no-name brands, which are usually cheaper?

People we spoke to gave similar reasons for buying name-brand gasoline that they gave for buying high-octane gas. They believed the national brands were higher quality, and better for their cars.

But they may not know that all the gas, brand name and generic, comes from the same refineries. Brand names do use different additives, but it doesn't make them better for your car.

In 1996, the Federal Trade Commission forced Amoco, which denied any wrongdoing, to stop claiming in its ads that it was better than other brands without scientific evidence to back it up.

"It's a myth that brand-name gas is better than a no-name gas," said mechanic Dave Bowman, co-host of "Two Guys Garage" on cable TV's Speed channel.

"It doesn't make any difference whether you're buying a branded product or a no-name product," he said.

"The only difference is price."

The NASCAR drivers agree about that, too. "It's a myth, you don't need the high-octane gasoline, you don't need the, the name-brand stuff," said driver Jimmie Johnson.

Some of the fans have figured that out.

One man summed it up nicely for us. "The manufacturers and the gasoline dealers, they all want you to buy that expensive stuff. It all runs on the same stuff. Gas is gas."
"The NASCAR drivers agree about that, too. "It's a myth, you don't need the high-octane gasoline, you don't need the, the name-brand stuff," said driver Jimmie Johnson."

I hope Jimmie doesn't have a premium gas selling sponsor.

He's not paid to tell the truth.
My "by-the-book" practice with my own cars:
2003 Dodge Stratus 2.4L DOHC: 87 octane
2001 VW Passat 1.8T: 91 octane

Some cars DO require premium, or at least midgrade, fuel. I agree that most cars don't.
I have yet to see side by side track or dyno evidence that proves the use of premium yields NO increase in performance. All these "disclaimers" and advisories are centered around "it will do your engine no good". That is, that there is no "quality" issue between the regular and premium.

So the myth has a myth ..or misleading element to it as well.

I don't use premium, btw ...but have in the past with engines that couldn't get out of their own way in hot weather with the AC on. The difference in "drivability" (cough-cough-performance) was distinct and significant. These engines were spec'd for regular.
That TV report was probably about people who used high Octane fuel in engines that don't require it. Some will use Premium while the car only needs Regular. Car manufacturers do not require a certain fuel without reason.

My engine was designed for fuel with 95 RON/ROZ or an AKI of 91. Fuel with a rating of 87 AKI of 91 RON can be used. If I use 89 Octane mid-grade fuel, the ECU will pull timing back to prevent pinging. While the powerloss is minimal, gas mileage decreases so much that buying premium gas is simply more cost effective. I'm sure it depends on the engine.
It also depends on the compression ratio of an engine. Is the motor turbocharged, or a high revving import like the RSX Type S ??

I agree 80% of the cars on the road can do just fine with 87 octane.

[ July 16, 2005, 08:20 PM: Message edited by: LT4 Vette ]
" Brand names do use different additives, but it doesn't make them better for your car. "

Really? I'd bet the people at Phillips and Chevron (and all the other "Top Tier" suppliers) would disagree.

(87 octane Phillips in car that calls for reg.)
(92 octane Phillips in car that calls for prem.)
It will be impossible to convince people that buying something more expensive isn't necessarily better. My 'mother-in-law' buys medium grade gas just to hedge her bets. Some people just can't be told anything. In their heads they're thinking ground chuck, ground beef, and ground sirloin. Whole milk, lowfat, skim. Stop me...


Have you seen data showing that premium yields an increase in performance in say a Honda Accord that specs regular gas?

No, but you'll note that nowhere in any of these "disclaimers" does it ever state that you will realize no increased PERFORMANCE only states that it won't benefit your engine. It's not intended to say that. It is merely to dispell the semi-legit (at one time) assertion that premium fuel is "cleaner and has better additives to control deposits" ..which it did at one time. Most of your Euro injected engines spec'd premium since they were the only injected engines in north America. That coincidence of cleaner, additized, fuel which happened to be premium established the impresssion that lingered when American cars got injection "en-mass" and all fuel had to meet those specs.

This is an energy policy/consumer advisory statement ..not one on performance. This doesn't mean that you will see a difference in performance with its use ..but it conspicously avoids saying that you positively won't. Read the wording carefully. So far one that I'm aware of has proven it either way.

I will admit that I've had 87 spec'd engines that could care less what's in them ..the same "feel". OTOH, I've had engines that respond quite well to its use. Did they get any better gas mileage ..not to any degree I could see. Did they knock and complain less and give smoother hot weather/high load drivabilty? Yes.

Right now with the price of fuel ...I'm never tempted to push the 93 button on the pump.
Oh my gosh! That's it! I just stumbled upon the key! Tell people their cars are going to get clogged arteries from the premium gas and live longer on regular (but call it Fuel Lite). Now have Dale and Ricky say this over and over on 20/20, 60 minutes, Fox, and CNN, where regular folk get their "news," and it will be common knowledge overnight.
My minivan runs without any gas pings on 87 octane from any gas station. But the way it purrs on 93 octane Shell V-Power mixed around 50-50 with Mobil 87 octane is outstanding.... smooth as silk. It may cost me $1.40 more for each fillup using a half-tank of V-Power Shell, but to me it's worth every penny.

In 200,000 miles, I have never even sprayed my intake with a Gumout-type solution or put any injector cleaners in my tank. Never had any bad gas either that clogged my fuel filter.... although I do change the gas filter every 50K to keep the fuel system at optimum cleaning capacity.

So it seems that some cars need regular, some mid-grade, and some premium.

Who'da thunk it?
My 04 4.0L 4Runner gets the same mileage with 93 or 87 octane, however I use the cheap gas and I use chevron fuel additive about once every OCI. Gets 19-23 MPG and thats with 32" tires! I hope to see a slight improvement when I get my custom catback w/magnaflow fabbed up.
My Subaru hesitates on first accceleration, with 87 octane gas bought here in Canada. Using 89 ocatne cures the problem, but I use 87 and just live with it. There's no hesitation when I buy 87 octane gas in the USA, though, so I never even consider buying premium.
BTW- as prices go up, the extra $.18c makes LESS difference. At $1.50 a gallon, it's a more signifigant percent increase. At $2.50/g it matters less.
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