Have you ever wondered whether trying to save a few bucks by buying off-brand gas at the cheapie station is having a bad effect on your vehicle? If so, you’ll be relieved to find out that off-brand gas probably won’t harm your engine one bit. That’s according to Edmunds.com, who surveyed automotive experts to get the lowdown on the subject.
The experts, who included engineers with the Automobile Club of Southern California (ACSC), advise drivers to buy the least expensive gas at a station that’s closes to you, because obviously, if you drive a 20 mile round trip out of your way to the el cheapo station, you end up negating the fuel savings with the extra mileage. They also say that cheap gas won’t harm your engine or decrease your vehicle’s performance, because onboard computers can adjust to different fuel varieties. That means you can forego the fuels at major brand gas stations that are mixed with a host of additives that are meant to improve performance and engine longevity.
For some people, buying the most expensive gas has the psychological effect of assuring them that they’re keeping their auto investment in primo shape. This is especially true is they’ve just shelled out big bucks for a top end new ride and want to baby it in every way possible. But in reality, they’re not increasing the health or longevity of their vehicle. Petroleum companies will swear that all the additives they mix into their gas have beneficial effects, but that’s something that’s up for debate.
Basically, all gasoline starts out the same, but depending on the company, it gets mixed with various chemicals that supposedly reduce emissions and clean vehicle engines. The EPA regulates what substances can be use as gasoline additives. The gas companies can charge more for fuel with additives, but it hasn’t been proven that the extra dollars add up to a healthier vehicle.
Steve Mazor, chief automotive engineer with the Automobile Club of Southern California, says his organization blind tested samples from various gasoline outlets – both major brands and discount brands - and found no difference in performance or fuel economy. Edmunds quotes Mazor: “We tested emissions, fuel economy and performance and we could not tell the difference.”
Randy Stevens, an engineer for Toyota, is also quoted in the Edmunds article saying that he isn’t convinced that gasoline additives make any difference in engine performance. His engineers test Toyota Avalon engines after they’ve run on various gasoline brands for 10,000 miles to see if there’s any discrepancy. "Honestly, in the 10 years I've been in charge of Avalon, I've never seen one come back with any sort of deposit issue," he says. Still, he admits to adding a bottle of Techron to his gas tank every six months or so, just to be on the safe side.
Regardless of what type of gas you pump into your fuel tank, the experts say to consult your owner’s manual to see what kind of fuel they recommend. Then, if you want to pay more for gas with additives, go for it, but if you go for the off-brand without the extras, there’s no reason to worry.
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