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With the cost of fueling your car up being higher than ever today, many already skip premium fuel in favor of regular unleaded. Some go even further – they go to unbranded fuel outlets. You may be uneasy about this method – won’t faceless fuel damage your engine? The short answer is that whether you buy high-tech fuel from a major brand or cheap stuff from some no-name place, you won’t see a performance or reliability drop. Here’s why.
All Fuel is the Same
In developing countries around the world, even buying gas from brand-affiliated outlets is no guarantee of quality – they tend to adulterate fuel with anything from vegetable oil to diesel mixed in. In developed countries with proper enforcement, though, you don’t need to worry about this kind of problem. All you need to think about is whether basic fuel by itself is bad for your car.
All fuel starts out the same, no matter what fuel station, brand or technology level you choose – refineries supply the same base fuel to every fuel distributor and brand. It includes 200 or so additives as mandated by law to reduce emissions, make fuel less explosive, keep a car’s engine clean and so on. When various brands and no-brand distributors receive this fuel, they either sell it on just the way it is or add their own patented additive cocktails for further enhancement. It is this additive package that makes premium branded fuel more expensive.
You can simply get separate fuel injector cleaner additives and apply them every time you fill your tank up with no-name fuel.
What this means is that unbranded fuel isn’t actually crude stuff. It does have plenty of additives to ensure that your car is safe. At worst, it may not offer extra performance or better engine protection. It’s important to keep in mind, though, that none of the additives in branded fuels are proven stuff. A few careful consumers tend to go the extra mile and actually call up fuel companies to ask for independent laboratory test results that substantiate their claims. They find that the proof offered is weak in general.
Check Your Car’s Manual
Many car owners simply assume that branded fuel is the best way to go – they never consult the manual. On a wide variety of luxury cars, though, regular unleaded fuel is all the manufacturer recommends. It may cause unreliable performance to put in premium fuel with extra additives.
Branded fuel isn’t somehow better refined, purer or more powerful. It’s absolutely the same as no-name fuel, except for a few additives. If your car’s manufacturer doesn’t want them, you shouldn’t get them.
Performance Additives and Octane Boosters
For drivers who want even better fuel than what the best premium brands offer, manufacturers offer all kinds of extra performance additives and octane boosters to add at home. In US, brands such as Torco Octane Booster, Royal Purple Octane Booster and NOS Racing Formula Octane Booster, are popular.
If you’re still uncomfortable, perhaps you’re thinking of a different time.
Even 15 years ago, engines were not made smart – they had fixed requirements. If they weren’t supplied with the fuel type recommended, they experienced knocking problems – fuel would ignite before the piston cycle was ready. Modern cars have intelligent distributors that adjust engine timings on the fly, though. It doesn’t make sense worrying too much about the fuel you use.
Automobile manufacturers routinely tear down their engines after running them on base fuel for years, to look for any signs of deposit buildup or other damage. They report never finding any signs of damage. While it doesn’t hurt to fill your tank up with branded, premium fuel once a year or so, the rest of the time, you can happily go all the way to the bottom-shelf product – regular unleaded from a no-name fillingstation. There’s no downside to it.
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Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we may receive an affiliate commission, at no extra cost to you. This helps us keep this website alive. Learn more here.