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Does Buying Cheap Gas Harm Your Car?

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With gas prices on the rise, it's no wonder that drivers want to get the most out of their gasoline purchase. Some drivers insist on buying the most affordable grade of gasoline available while others seek out off-brand gas stations offering the lowest possible prices. These moves might save you a few cents at the pump, but you can't help but wonder if it's harming your engine.

There's Little to Worry About

As it turns out, there's little difference between the gasoline you buy at a name brand station and the gas you'll get from an off-brand station. In most cases, it all comes from the same base batch of gasoline from your local refinery. The base gas comes packed with additives mixed per Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations.

What really sets name brand and off-brand gas apart is the additives that the gas stations add after receiving their shipment from the refinery. Some brands give their gas an extra boost of additives that help keep fuel injectors clean and boost overall performance by minute amounts.

Off-brand gas stations tend to leave these additives out to bring their gas prices down by a few cents. However, the lack of additives won't give your car's engine any trouble.

Making the Grade

Ever notice the price gulf between regular and premium unleaded? According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), premium gas costs 15 to 20 cent per gallon more than regular unleaded. Many people buy premium gas because they feel the higher octane level will give their cars an extra performance boost. However, the effort is often a wasted one for the vast majority of drivers.

The vast majority of today's vehicles are designed to run on regular unleaded. Running these cars on premium unleaded yields little to no noticeable improvement in engine performance. In short, you can save your change and opt for the cheaper grade of fuel with no risk of any harm done to the engine. However, there's one noticeable exception to the rule.

When "Premium Only" Becomes an Issue

Although you can get away with using regular unleaded in most cars, a growing number of vehicles are being tuned specifically to take advantage of premium unleaded gasoline. In this case, cutting your gas costs by stepping down a grade or two might not be the best choice.

High-octane fuels are better at resisting engine knock, which occurs when fuel prematurely ignites. Stepping down to a lower octane fuel in a car that requires premium could induce engine knock and create additional wear and tear. In some cases, your car's engine management controls may even intentionally reduce the engine's performance output to lessen the likelihood of premature detonation when using lower octane fuels.

Generally speaking, it's a good idea to follow your vehicle manufacturer's recommendations on fuel octane levels, especially if your vehicle happens to call specifically for premium unleaded. For more information, talk to a mechanic like Gwizz Auto Group.