Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Don't use cheaper gas in cars if premium fuel is required, experts say

LOS ANGELES — With fuel prices on the rise, some drivers are pumping less-expensive regular-grade gasoline into cars for which premium fuel is recommended.

Although that might save money initially, auto experts are divided on the wisdom of such a strategy, which some say could end up costing motorists more.

What you save at the pump can be lost on the road as the electronics in the engine ratchet down performance to deal with the lower-grade fuel, experts say. Using the cheaper gas might also damage the vehicle over a long period.

"If the owner's manual says premium fuel is recommended, then you can switch down," said Steve Mazor, manager of the Auto Club of Southern California's Automotive Research Center.

Using a lower-grade fuel will trim maximum horsepower a bit, impede acceleration and "drop fuel economy by a couple of tenths of a percent," Mazor said.

But it's not a good idea to use regular gas in vehicles for which the manufacturer says premium fuel is required, experts say.

Harold Schock, director of the Engines and Automotive Research Labs at Michigan State University, said it's not clear what the long-term effect might be on a vehicle's engine.

Modern cars have knock sensors that detect whether the vehicle is about to misfire and change the engine's timing to prevent this from happening when a driver uses a lower-grade gas. Knocking, in which gas burns out of synch with an engine's timing, can damage the motor. But the sensor stops it from occurring and prevents any immediate damage to the engine.

"If you use fuel with the lower octane rating, our engines will deal with it," said Thomas Plucinsky, a spokesman for BMW. "But why would you do it in a car like our 335i? You are not getting the power and performance you are expecting and paid for."

It's also not clear whether the repeated triggering of the sensor would eventually hurt engine life long after the vehicle is out of warranty, Schock and other automotive engineers said.

"What appears in the owner's manual is the best set of practices for operating a car if you want to get the longest life and the best performance out of it," Schock said.

Just about all of the experts agree that drivers can exact far greater savings by paying more attention to their vehicles' upkeep and their driving habits.

"It's probably better to follow the gas recommendation in the owner's manual and then learn to drive less aggressively and to slow down a bit," said John Swanton, an air pollution specialist with the California Air Resources Board. "Why handicap the vehicle's performance?"

Don't use cheaper gas in cars if premium fuel is required, experts say 03/30/12 [Last modified: Friday, March 30, 2012 11:03pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Review: Arcade Fire open hearts, play with passion at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa

    Blogs

    Gloves off, hearts open and disco balls glittering, Arcade Fire scaled the stage for the first time ever in Tampa, pouncing and flailing and performing with all the passion that’s made them one of the world’s most celebrated rock bands this century.

    Arcade Fire performed at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa on Sept. 22, 2017.
  2. Lightning's Steven Stamkos looks close to top form in first game since November

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — The wait felt like forever for Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, having gone 10 months without playing in a game.

    A scramble in front of the Lightning goal has Matthew Peca, far left, and Erik Cernak, middle, helping out goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy during the third period of a 3-1 win against the Predators. Vasilevskiy, who made 29 saves, was “exceptional,” coach Jon Cooper says.
  3. Rays journal: Alex Cobb may have pitched last game in Rays uniform (w/video)

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — RHP Alex Cobb pitched well enough to lead the Rays to an 8-3 win over the Orioles on Friday.

    Wilson Ramos gives thanks after hitting a grand slam during the second inning, putting the Rays up 4-0.
  4. Steven Souza Jr. vindicating big trade for Rays

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — There was a time when the three-team, 11-player transaction the Rays orchestrated to get Steven Souza Jr. from the Nationals looked liked a bad deal.

    The Rays’ Steven Souza Jr. has 30 home runs this season while improving his defense and baserunning but wants to improve on his .236 batting average.
  5. Fennelly: Lightning's Manon Rheaume made history 25 years ago Saturday

    Lightning Strikes

    The name is part of Lightning history, hockey history, sports history.

    Lightning goalie Manon Rheaume became the first woman to play in an NHL game 25 years ago today.