Types of Gas: How Many Types of Fuel are There?

September 9th, 2022 by

Gas keeps your car running, but how much do you really know about it? Do you use the best type for your vehicle, or do you always choose the same type out of habit? Here, we’ll break down the different types of gas so you can make the right choice for your set of wheels and your wallet.

Regular Gas

Regular gas is a common, budget-friendly gas. It usually has an octane rating of 87. The octane rating reflects the pressure at which the gas auto-ignites during testing. The higher the octane rating, the more stable the gas. Many car manufacturers recommend regular gas for their vehicles. It’s a good all-around choice if you just want to make sure your car reliably gets you from Point A to Point B. This gas is sometimes called unleaded gas.

Mid-Grade Gas

Mid-grade gas is a higher-end product than regular gas. With a typical octane rating of between 88 and 90, this fuel is more stable and more expensive. Some vehicles, such as sport-utility vehicles, require a mid-grade gas or better. This gasoline’s higher octane level can improve performance, especially in high-performance vehicles and older cars that don’t have sensors to prevent knocking and pinging sounds in the engine. Mid-grade gas is sometimes called super gas.

Premium Gas

Premium gas is any gas with an octane rating higher than 91. In the United States, premium gas usually has an octane rating between 91 and 94. It has the highest octane rating, so it’s the most expensive option. Some manufacturers of luxury and sports cars recommend using premium gas in their vehicles. Premium gas is sometimes called super-premium gas.

Diesel

Diesel is the common name for petroleum distillate fuel. It has a much lower octane rating of between 25 and 30. It’s not really a type of gas, although you’ll find it at most gas stations. Diesel fuel powers vehicles with compression ignition engines instead of spark-ignited engines. While these engines make less horsepower, they work more efficiently and distribute more torque. You’ll usually find diesel engines in heavy-duty pickups and towing vehicles.

Flex Fuel

Flex fuel is a blend of 15% gas and 85% ethanol. Due to this mix, it’s sometimes labeled E85. Flex fuel is a more environmentally friendly option than traditional gas, as ethanol is a renewable resource that reduces emissions. Flex fuel is only suitable for flex-fuel vehicles. These vehicles usually have a yellow fuel cap cover. Flex fuel pumps often have yellow nozzles to match the fuel cap. Flex fuel can ruin the engines of cars it’s not intended for by corroding the fuel-system components. You can use flex fuel or traditional gas with any octane level in a flex-fuel vehicle.

E15

E15 is another blended option that contains just 15% ethanol and 85% gas. This blend is safe for people with flex-fuel and gas-powered vehicles. It allows all motorists to enjoy the perks of ethanol-blended gas, including lower prices. You can expect to pay around 10 cents less than regular gas for a gallon of E15. Currently, E15 is only available in around 2,500 gas stations in 30 states, but it’s another great alternative if you can find it.

Recreational Fuel

Recreational fuel is an ethanol-free gas with an octane rating of 90. It gets its name because it’s typically used for recreational equipment, such as boats and jet skis. Many people also use recreational fuel for motorized items with small engines, including snowblowers, lawn mowers, chainsaws, and leaf blowers. You may see pumps with recreational fuel labeled with the abbreviation REC-90.

Top-Tier Gas

Some gas stations sell gas labeled as top tier. Top-tier gas has a higher percentage of detergent additives than average gases to keep your car’s components clean. Any gas labeled as top tier must meet Environmental Protection Agency standards for performance and cleanliness. Gas that meets these standards moves freely through your vehicle without leaving deposits on the fuel injectors and valves. Using top-tier gas may reduce your maintenance costs over time. You can find regular, mid-grade, and premium top-tier gas.

How To Know Which Type of Gas You Need

Your owner’s manual specifies which type of gas the manufacturer recommends for your vehicle. Using the right fuel for your vehicle helps it perform as well and as efficiently as manufacturers expect.

You can choose gas with a higher octane level for your vehicle, but it may have limited benefits. However, if you’re experiencing engine knocking, choosing gas with a higher octane level can be a simple way to solve the problem. Choosing a lower octane level than recommended won’t hurt your vehicle, but it can reduce the power of your engine and its fuel economy. Different states have different standards for gas. It’s worth checking the octane rating when you’re traveling to make sure you choose the gas your car prefers.

Putting the incorrect gas type in your vehicle can cause serious damage. Diesel is thicker, denser, and less combustible than gas, as it’s not made for spark-ignited engines. If you accidentally put diesel in your gas-powered car, it may clog the fuel filter and injectors. This can gum up the engine and cause it to seize. If you add regular gas to a diesel tank, it can ignite too quickly and cause serious damage to the motor. Repair bills for these problems can be substantial, and most insurance companies won’t cover the bill, so stay alert at the pump.

What Should I Do if I Use the Wrong Type of Gas?

If you notice you’ve accidentally put the wrong type of gas in your vehicle, don’t panic. With immediate action, you can prevent serious problems. Get your car towed to a garage or dealer’s service center to prevent the wrong gas from entering the fuel line and engine system. The vehicle technicians can drain your tank and get you on the road again.

All those choices at the pump can be confusing, but each type of gas suits a different type of vehicle. Understanding the different types of gas and their uses can help you give your car what it really needs and prevent serious damage to your pride and joy.

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