Choosing the right fuel for your vehicle

You pull up to the gas station to fill up your new car. In front of you in black and yellow are three options: 87, 89, and 92. Which do you choose?

The numbers that you see on the gas pumps are octane ratings. The octane rating is the measure of a fuel’s ability to resist “knocking” or “pinging” during combustion, caused by the air/fuel mixture detonating prematurely in the engine. These numbers are displayed on the pump in black writing on a yellow background.

At gas stations in the United States, there are typically three available octane ratings at the pump. The higher the octane rating, the more money per gallon to fill up. 87 is considered regular, while 88-90 is midgrade and 91-94 is premium. In some areas of the country with higher elevation you will find an 85 octane available.

To select the right octane rating for your car, you should consult your owner’s manual. Every vehicle comes with a manual that explains the ins-and-outs of your car. It will tell you whether to be using regular, midgrade, or premium fuel in your car. If you use a fuel type that is lower than what is recommended for your car, it could cause it to run poorly. You should also be careful, because using the wrong fuel type could void your warranty.

In some instances your owner’s manual will tell you that your vehicle only requires a certain level of octane, but that it will run better on a premium fuel. In that case, it would be up to you to decide if you want to spend the money on the higher octane fuel.

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