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Premium or Regular? Which Gas to Choose?

Every time you stop at the gas pump, you're faced with a choice: Regular or premium?

For some drivers, the choice isn't a hard one: Simply put the cheapest option in the tank and drive away. Others spring for the more expensive version feeling it's the better route to take.

But what exactly makes these options different? Your car is powered by a combustion engine; fuel goes in and combusts, forcing a crankshaft to turn. A transmission then uses that rotational power to turn the wheels.

A selection of gasoline types at a gas pump stall.

A combustion engine needs air, ignition and fuel to work. If you put the wrong kind of fuel into the engine, it won't work properly. Some engines work better with certain ratings of fuel. That's where different gas types matter.

To help determine the type of gas to use in your car, start by reading your vehicle's manual. You may also look for a label or sticker on the inside of the fuel door.

In most cases, you'll see one of three options:

  • Premium gasoline required: Use premium grade fuel only
  • Premium gasoline recommended: You may use regular, but the car may not operate as efficiently
  • Regular gasoline: You may use any grade

Follow the gas recommendations as set forth by the car manufacturer. In most cases, only high-horsepower, high-compression or super-charged engines – such as those found in high-performance vehicles – require premium gas.

Is there a benefit to using premium gas in a car, even when it's not recommended? In most cases, the answer is no. However, if you have an older car and you hear a "ping" or knocking sound while the engine is idling, you may want to try a tank of premium gas. If the knocking sound goes away, premium gas may help prolong your engine's life.

One important note: Diesel fuel may be used in diesel engines only. It's thicker than regular gas and combusts differently. If you put diesel in a non-diesel car, it may cause the engine to clog and seize.

Putting regular gas in a diesel engine can be extremely dangerous. Don't start a diesel car with regular gas in the system; instead, have it towed and the fuel line drained.

It's easy to choose the right type of gas for your car. Simply follow the manufacturer's instructions while you're at the pump to give your car the fuel it needs.

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