All fuels are not created equally

Driver Filling Fuel Tank

Owning a vehicle ain’t cheap.

Car payments, insurance, gas, and regular maintenance all add up to thousands of dollars a year, whether you drive a fifteen-year-old Toyota or a brand new Mercedes Benz. So naturally, when your tank is empty, you search for the cheapest gas you can find – even if it means filling up at the same place you buy your eggs and toilet paper, or the no-name shack with a giant inflatable gorilla on the roof.

But do you ever worry that the cheap gas you put in your vehicle might someday mess up your engine?

Well, you should.

That’s because with gas, like almost everything else, you get what you pay for. Buy cheap fuel, and you risk coating parts of your engine with thick gunky deposits that can dramatically affect your car’s performance and longevity, especially if you own a newer, direct injected vehicle.

So the question then is, how do you know which brands have the right kinds of detergents and additives to keep the inside of your engine clean? Before 2004, that was a tough question to answer, since no one really knew. But after unsuccessfully lobbying for higher standards, a group of automakers including Audi, BMW, GM, Honda, Mercedes, Toyota, and Volkswagen consulted with fuel suppliers to create a higher voluntary standard, now known as Top Tier Detergent Gasoline.

For gas stations to market their gas as “Top Tier”, all fuel grades (not just premium) must meet the minimum acceptable results for intake valve and combustion chamber deposits, fuel-injector fouling, and intake valve sticking. And while this may all sound like technical nonsense to the average person, it’s simply just a way of ensuring the fuel you put into your vehicle isn’t going to harm it.

Now, if a certain brand of gas doesn’t meet the standard, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to damage your engine. But using Top Tier fuel, even every other tank, will help your engine stay cleaner, perform better, and most likely last longer too – no matter what you drive. And if you love your car as much as I do, those couple of extra dollars sure do sound worth it.

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