How Fuel Quality Influences Automotive Performance

How Fuel Quality Influences Automotive PerformanceFuel, which generally refers to either gasoline or diesel, is what ignites in order to create energy to move our cars.  Driving in our hometown, most of us will have a gas station we typically go for fuel – someplace that we trust and which has good prices. But say you’re on a road trip and don’t know anything about the gas station you are forced to stop at. You have the option of regular or premium gas—is it worth it to get the premium? Can you trust the gasoline is purely premium and not cut with lower quality fuel? There is a lot of skepticism about which fuels are better for your vehicle, and whether gas providers are honest about what they offer. If you’ve ever spoken to a graduate from an auto mechanic college about fuel, they would tell you to go ahead and stop at that gas station way out in the boonies— because the quality of fuel, whether premium or regular actually has very little effect on your engine.

Brand Name and Off-Brand—What’s the Difference?

Gasoline is expensive, which prompts many people to consider buying off-brand gas – but they are scared of the repercussions it may have on their vehicle. Thankfully, with today’s technology this isn’t something you have to worry about. Service advisor training would teach you that a vehicle’s onboard computer is able to adjust for inevitable variations in fuel, meaning you won’t notice a performance drop by using cheaper gas. The only time fuel variation would be of concern is if your vehicle has a carburetor, which most cars made after 1990 do not. As per government regulations, all gasoline must contain some form of additive which helps clean the engine. Therefore, the only difference could be that higher priced branded gasoline may have extra additives in its formula. Some experts suggest using the off-brand to save money, but then buying brand name gas every third or fourth tank so that the additives can clean your engine between refills.
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Contaminated or “Dirty” Gas

Now that it has been established that branded and off-brand gasoline are safe for your vehicle thanks to government regulations, we must address another common concern: contaminated fuel. Auto training schools instruct students that while different brands of gas will not damage an engine, contaminated fuels can corrode and rust the fuel system. There have been various stories on the news of recalls on contaminated gasoline due to customer complaints and lineups at auto repair shops. Contaminates can include abnormally high levels of polymeric residue, sourced from the refinery. Fuel can also be contaminated at the gas station, where underground storage tanks may be contaminated by sediment or water run-off which can seep through improperly sealed fuel caps. While not considered a contaminant, much of the gas found today in the U.S. contains at least 10% ethanol – a result of initiatives to source fuel from locally grown corn crops. The presence of ethanol, while not destructive for newer cars, has been seen to deteriorate the engines of older vehicles.

Damaged Vehicle Parts

As we have already mentioned, your engine will bear the brunt of most of the damage resulting from contaminated fuel. Fuel injectors are very susceptible to rust from the overuse of contaminated fuel, or fuel with an insufficient amount of additives. Fuel injectors will fail when debris such as water, rust or sediment find their way into the system, eventually plugging the nozzle. There is concern that a 15% ethanol blend with gasoline could accelerate engine wear, and trigger the “Check Engine” light on your vehicle.  While it is unfortunate to hear, some gas stations will mix water with their gasoline in order to gain greater profits. There have been several lawsuits for this type of fraud, which typically results in costly engine cleanings and repairs exceeding $500.

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