I Want Better Gas Mileage

Tips For Better Gas Mileage

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Much like you, I spend far too much of my life cringing at the thought of filling my gas tank. Though I can't change the prices themselves, I can (and have!) come up with ways to increase my mileage while decreasing the amount of miles I have to drive. In the articles on this site, I share a few tips and tricks that can go a long way in lessening the impact the fuel pump has on your wallet. I hope you can use the knowledge within to save at least some bit of personal sanity.

Posted by admin on April 23, 2008

Do You Really Need Premium Gasoline?

It’s hard to believe in today’s economy, but some people won’t put anything less than premium gasoline in their cars.  They feel that their car runs better on premium, and that it’s ultimately worth the 10 or 20 cents more than regular unleaded that it costs them.

But is it true that spending extra on gas mileage can actually be good for your car?  With gas prices at a record high, is it ever a good idea to opt for the more expensive premium? The answer is “Yes… sometimes.”

There are only a few situations where your car actually needs premium.  But in those few circumstances, it’s a must-have – using anything else can damage your engine.  On the other hand, using premium when you don’t need it won’t hurt your car – but it will hurt your budget.

To determine if your car needs premium gas, you need to know about the anti-knock index (AKI) or octane rating.  You’ve probably seen these numbers on the buttons at the gas pumps, but how many of you know what they actually mean? Regular unleaded has an AKI of 87; premium has a rating of 91 to 93.  The higher the number, the more protection the gasoline gives your car from engine knock.

Engine knock is more accurately called “pre-ignition.” It takes place when the gasoline in the cylinder ignites on its own before the spark plug ignites it.  The sound of it is unmistakable – something like marbles being shaken in a tin can. Knocking will eventually cause damage to the engine, since it’s essentially an explosion of the fuel and air mixing together and pushing downward on the piston.  Premium gas helps prevent this damage because it’s less volatile and burns more slowly than unleaded, and it takes more heat before it starts the ignition process.

So how do you know if your car needs the more expensive premium brand? Here’s how to find out:

1) If your car makes a knocking sound when you press down on the gas pedal, you might try experimenting with premium.  If the knocking disappears, then you know that you need premium. If your car has a lot of miles on it and the engine has a considerable amount of carbon deposits, it’s more likely to require premium gas.

2) Many times, your car’s owner’s manual will settle the question for you. If it says that you must use premium, then that’s what you’ll have to use. However, if it leaves the option to you, or does not specify, you’ll have to figure out on your own whether to try a higher octane gas.

3) If your only reason for using premium is to keep your engine clean, think again.  The higher octane of premium fuel, in and of itself, will not keep your engine any cleaner – despite what the oil companies want you to think. They frequently advertise that their gasoline is designed to clean fuel injectors, restore engine power, and offer other benefits.  However, there is little evidence that fuel additives do much in the way of cleaning your engine – there’s just not enough of the cleaner in there to make that much of a difference.

So the bottom line is, with gas prices so high, now’s not the time to experiment with higher cost fuels.  Save yourself a little extra money and stick with unleaded unless you know that your car needs something a little better.

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