Auto Maintenance: Which Fuel Octane Should You Use?

Octane ratings and what they mean when it comes to performance.

Octane levels rate the different types of gasoline available. The number signifies the burning properties the fuel will produce when it reaches your engine. The standard octanes are 87, 89 and 91. The higher the octane rating the cleaner the fuel burns in your engine. Because of the clarity of the fuel, those with higher octane levels burn faster.

For cost effectiveness when gas prices are high, even if you normally use a higher octane, you can safely run your car on 87 octane and see no ill effects. In most cars performance won't diminish. However, when used on a regular basis, over time there will be some amount of buildup in your fuel injectors. Because it is the lowest grade of fuel, manufacturers have designed all their vehicles to run on 87 octane. Auto makers will recommend that you use premium or supreme in some cars; but realistically the system is designed to run solely on 87 octane.

Both 89 and 91 octanes are faster, cleaner burning fuels that will help reduce and eliminate buildup on your fuel injection system. If you do a considerable amount of driving it would be wise to consider using these on a regular basis, because of the wear and tear to which your engine is exposed. High performance vehicles should be run on higher octane fuel to help keep the engine running in top condition. For example, you can safely run 87 octane in a Ford Escort for the life of the car and not really see any difference. However, if you usually drive a Chevy Corvette, 91 octane will be beneficial to you and the car. It's safe to say that if you've spent that much money on a car you're going to do everything you can to keep it in tip top shape.



What's the safe grade for your car? If you do an average amount of driving; meaning you put the normal ten to fifteen thousand miles on your car each year, 87 octane will be fine. As a preventative measure, it's a good idea to fill up with 89 or 91 octane once in a while. Once a month should be just fine and will accomplish a good cleaning of the fuel injectors in your vehicle. Any buildup will be removed and you may notice a change in performance and fuel economy as well. A good fuel injector cleaner or gas additive will do the same thing. Ask your local auto supply or mechanic to recommend one that suits your car and the performance you'll want to get out of the treatment. If you choose the additive route, you'll want to include it once a month as well just as you would a tank of high-octane gasoline.

For people who normally put substantial miles on their vehicle each year whether for work or otherwise, higher octanes will be beneficial to your vehicle. Just as oil changes extend the life of your motor, higher octane fuels help the engine to run smoother and reduce the wear and tear on the motor considerably in vehicles that are used a lot. Buildup from low octane reduces your fuel economy and makes the engine have to work that much harder to accommodate your driving needs.

The owner's manual for your vehicle will provide the recommendations for your car. If there are any certain guidelines they provide you can follow those as well. Being that your car is the second biggest investment in your life, it's best to listen to the manufacturer's recommendations.

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