Consumer Investigations

Memorial Day Travel: Know your fuel

CHARLESTON, SC (WCBD) -- Millions of people will be spending part of their Memorial Day weekend driving, which will require a lot of gas.

Most gas pumps offer three different octane grades: Regular (87), mid-grade (89), and premium (93). Count on 2 investigators spoke to an automotive expert to determine the difference among the grades.

Buzz Varella is the program coordinator for Automotive Technologies at Trident Technical College.

He says drivers first need to understand how gas affects the engine.

“It will need air, compression, and a spark event. The fuel itself is what stores the energy,” said Varella.

The different grades of gas determine how fast the fuel burns.

"If we lit a piece of paper on fire, 87 burns slower, compared to if we lit a piece of paper on fire how 91 would burn--it would be like flash paper,” said Varella.         

The higher gas grades are typically used in a higher performing engine, an engine that gets hotter, like a Corvette.

“[That’s] opposed to your traditional daily driver who would run typically 87,” he said.

So, what happens if drivers who regularly use unleaded gas choose to use premium?

“Absolutely nothing,” said Varella. “Where you will notice it though, is in your pocket book.”

He also says even if you have a high performing vehicle it most likely won’t hurt your car to use the lower grade. However, Varella says drivers should follow the fuel directions in the car's owner’s manual.

Other tips for getting the best gas for your money:

-Use a well-traveled, brand-name station. Varella says some smaller gas stations that don’t get much business will keep their gas underground or too long. That may affect the quality.

-Choose a gas pump that says less than 10% ethanol.  

-To get the most fuel efficiency, travel a normal speed and don’t accelerate too quickly. Also, use cruise control when possible.


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