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Which fuel is right for my car?

With fuel prices nearing the $4.00 mark, and likely continuing to climb, I’m often asked, “does my car really need Premium Fuel?” The answers is, yes and no. However, there is a difference between “want” and “need.” All vehicle manufacturers will have a specification or requirement for the grade of fuel they want you to use. The engine performance rating, fuel management and design is developed and measured using the fuel designated by them. You will find this information in the owner’s manual and likely on the gas cap door. It is always best to follow those guidelines. If the manufacturer says use regular then do not waste your money on premium!

Using premium fuel in a car that does not require premium is not only a waste of money but it will probably have a negative effect. You will likely see a decrease in fuel mileage and potentially accelerate and promote carbon and deposit build up in the valve train and combustion chamber, which can lead to higher maintenance costs.

Using regular fuel in a car designed for premium, has the highest potential for causing engine damage, poorer performance (compared to potential) and reduced fuel mileage. A lower octane or regular fuel ignites in the engine at a much lower temperature resulting in pre-ignition/detonation, commonly referred to as pinging. The car’s computer, through various sensors, will detect this and make adjustments to the ignition timing resulting in decreased performance. The use of a higher octane fuel than desired may also just mask a problem or maintenance issue that already exists in the engine.

Just because you’re not driving a high performance German sports car or Corvette you may be surprised that the car you’re driving may require premium fuel. I was surprised to find Subaru, Volkswagen, GMC and many Nissan models among others on a list of cars that should use premium fuel…even a Nissan Sentra!

It used to be you had to buy premium to get fuel with additives and detergents. Nowadays you’ll find that most retailers have the “secret sauce” in all grades of fuel. I suggest using a retailer that has a Top Tier fuel rating. In all fairness, Costco Gasoline is not on the list but I believe most, if not all, of their stations are mixing additives/detergents on site to achieve a top rating. I buy most of my fuel from Costco and QT.

My advice is to follow the recommendations of your particular manufacturer. Doing this will help you achieve the best performance and economy possible.

Join co-hosts, Matt Allen and Dave Riccio on Bumper to Bumper Radio, Arizona’s top automotive show heard every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. right here on News/Talk 92.3 KTAR. Call in with your questions at (602) 277-5827. You can also reach us 24/7 at for the best partners, products and advice!