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Saturday, December 08, 2012

What's Your Theory About Gasoline Usage?

Remember when you used to pull your car up to a gas pump and an attendant would pop his head in your window and say, “Regular or unleaded?” If not, you are probably younger than 40.

Some cars ran on regular (leaded) and some on unleaded, so it’s not like we really had a choice. The attendant was just asking which type of fuel your car required.

Getting gas was simpler then.

After we learned leaded gas wasn’t the wisest choice, manufacturers built engines that only ran on unleaded gas, but somehow we ended up with three blends. I never know which one to use.

But as I talk to people about gas prices, gas usage, etc., I’m amazed at how strongly opinionated they are about which blend to use and why. Some even have strong opinions about when you should fill up and when you shouldn’t. And others have opinions about which stations you should frequent and which ones you should not.

Here are the opinions I’ve heard about the three different blends of unleaded gas:
  • Leaded gas with ethanol is cleaner, and therefore better for your vehicle. Since ethanol is also the cheapest, it seems like a no-brainer to use ethanol then, right? Well, not so fast.

  • Regular unleaded (non-ethanol) doesn’t burn as quickly as ethanol. If that is true, the question that always comes to mind is, how much longer does it last and does the additional expense at least even itself out? And if it only evens itself out, what’s the difference?

    As a side note, calling a blend of unleaded gas “regular” is confusing for those of us over 40. Regular used to mean something else. Yes, my tongue is in my cheek. But only slightly.

  • Premium unleaded prevents engine knocking, so it’s the way to go. It also supposedly has more detergent to prevent engine build up. It’s ridiculous price tag keeps me from testing either theory.
Is it wishy-washy to so say I don’t really have a strong opinion about which type of unleaded gas to use? I tend to go with ethanol because of the price, but if my vehicle seems to delay or knock, I go with regular unleaded (that phrase still seems like an oxymoron to me). I never use choose premium.

Here are two theories I’ve heard about when to fill up:
  • Never go below a fourth of a tank because it is hard on the engine. Easier said than done when a tank of gas costs $50.00 or more.

  • Always run the tank as close to empty as possible because if your car starts acting weird, you’ll know who to blame. The theory is, you’ll be able to go back to the gas station to complain, or you will know not to use their gas in the future or you will know which blend of unleaded not to use in the future.
For me, this decision is an economical one. I put gas in my vehicle when I have the means to do so. When I don’t, it gets a little closer to empty than I would prefer.

Additional theories/opinions:
  • Always buy gas from the same place. You know what you are getting, and presumably it should be the same every time.

  • Never trust discount stations because their gas isn’t of the same quality. I’m not sure what people mean when they say discount stations, but doesn’t 87 octane mean 87 octane no matter where you go? Maybe not. I don’t know.
I rarely stop at the same station twice in row. My stops are based on convenience and means.

So, I’m dying to know your theories/opinions about gasoline usage. Share away in the comments.


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