Virginia Auto Service

Ask the Car Guy: What Fuel is Right for My Car?

“Does my car really need premium fuel?”

Matt Allen, Owner of Virginia Auto Service, cohost of Bumper to Bumper Radio
Matt Allen, Owner of Virginia Auto Service, cohost of Bumper to Bumper Radio

Different vehicle manufacturers will have different requirements for the grade of fuel they want you to use. This information can be found in the owner’s manual and possibly on the gas cap door. It is always best to follow the guidelines set by the manufacturer. If the manufacturer says use regular then it is not worth the extra cost on premium.
When you put premium fuel in a car that does not require it, not only are you wasting money, but it could also have a negative effect on your vehicle. It could result in a decrease in fuel mileage and even accelerate carbon and deposit build up in the valve train and combustion chamber, resulting in higher maintenance costs.

Even worse would be to use regular fuel in a car designed for premium. Doing so could cause engine damage, poor performance, and reduced fuel mileage. Regular fuel would ignite in the engine at a lower temperature which results in pre-ignition/detonation, often referred to as pinging. Through various sensors, the car’s computer will detect this and make changes to the ignition timing causing a decreased performance. To use a higher octane fuel than necessary may just mask a problem or maintenance issue that already exists in the engine.

You may be surprised to learn that not only high performance sports cars can require premium fuel. Many common vehicles also suggest its use. Subaru, Volkswagen, GMC and many Nissan models, among others on a list of cars that should use premium fuel…even a Nissan Sentra!

You used to have to buy premium to fuel to get the additives and detergents. Now you will find that most retailers have it in all grades of fuel. I would recommend filling up somewhere that has a Top Tier fuel rating.

The best advice would be to follow the recommendations of your car’s specific manufacturer. Doing so will help your car achieve the best performance possible.