Can Cheap Gasoline Hurt Your Engine?

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First, if anyone knows where to find cheap gas, please let us know. We could use a break from paying close to, or more than, $4 a gallon.

As far as the pump price affecting engine performance or gas mileage, we doubt there is a direct correlation. In fact, the off-brand station that sells for less than the name brands may be pumping gas made by one of the name brands.

That dirty little secret of the retail gasoline business became public knowledge in August 2012 in the Chicago area, northwest Indiana and southern Wisconsin, when oil giant BP recalled more than 2 million gallons of gas contaminated with gunk that was causing cars to run poorly or stall. BP said at the time that most of the gas was delivered to its own stations, but some also was delivered to other brands, found here. Among the other brands were Phillips 66, Speedway and Citgo, as well as retailers such as Meijer, Sam's Club, Road Ranger and Thorntons.

Like other refiners, BP claims its gas is better than the others, but the convenience store across the street might be selling the same stuff, just at a lower price.

The price at the pump is, of course, based on wholesale prices, but it's also partly a result of marketing strategy and a pricing decision by the owner/operator of the station. Major brands that traditionally charge more, such as BP, do so because they spend millions on advertising to convince consumers that their gas is better. To us, all gas is about the same, and no company has a secret formula that gives it superior quality.

If you experience poor performance or other problems after filling up, it could be due to contamination at the refinery, which was the case with BP. More likely, it could be because the storage tank at the gas station is contaminated with dirt or water, and when you pumped gas, it was nearly empty so you pumped out the water or crud that was near the bottom.

If you track your fuel economy, try different brands and give each two or three fill-ups to see if there is a noticeable difference that can't be explained by weather or unusual driving patterns. You might find that the cheaper brand is just as good.

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By Rick Popely | April 25, 2013 | Comments (6)

Comments 

Kj

True or not: never fill your car with gas when a tanker truck is refilling the station's storage tank?

Ben

This article doesn't really explain the cheap/expensive gas differences well. Yes, all gas comes from a limited number of refineries, but there is a lot more to it than just the source.

BP and members of the Top Tier Gas consortium add considerably more than the minimum required levels of detergents to their gasolines to keep engine parts clean. Although BP may sell the "same" gasoline to off brands from their terminal, it does NOT have the same level of additives/detergents that you'll find in a BP branded station.

This may not be a problem with some cars, but if you have a newer car with direct injection, many owners have experienced serious and expensive problems from using cheap gasoline due to carbon buildup.

Really this comes down to: Do you want to keep your car for a while or not? Because don't expect to run cheapo gas for 10 years and have no issues. You can probably get away with it for a while just fine though.

It used to be safe to believe the only difference was octane ratings. But that was based on Senate hearings from around 50 years ago that concluded all gas suppliers used similar amounts and types of detergents.

Does anyone have any more recent sources? (Rather than opinions).

YEARS ago, we used to doa trip every so often from our home in Liverpool, to my uncles on the south side of London.

If we filled up at the supermarket (sainsbury's - this is the UK) or at Esso would make a big difference..
Sainsbury, the car would *need* a fillup again just before getting to the house, just after coming off the M25. If we went to Esso, we'd have enough to get to the house, and later go out and get it leisurely.

It was the same car, and would happen every time, and we alternated a lot. Car was a 89 golf with the 55hp 1.3 engine (4spd). Even happened if I drove (later on) rather than my father. So there can be differnces. Both using 95RON unleaded fuel.

Mark

Kj- Each fuel is stored in a different octane tank, so if you choose to believe that, you might check with the guy doing the refueling to see which tank ran out. But still, there shouldn't be any problem.

Working at a Shell franchise, we only made 5 cents on a gallon, a significant part of the charge was what the shipping company cost us, so this is pretty believable. It's hard to imagine there's 30 different shipping companies in California.

NO, in fact using the most expensive gasoline in your car when the automaker suggest to use the cheapest one, it does could hurt the engine and performance of your car. Read a little bit about the octane is gasoline and why some cars need the cheapest one or regular.

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