February 26, 2013 | Back to: News

Tahoe car care: Is cheap gas harming your engine?

TRUCKEE, Calif. - With high gas prices at the pumps, it's easy to justify a trip to Reno to purchase "cheap" gas at one of the many non-branded stations. But how might that cheap gas be harming your engine?

Ask any auto mechanic and most will agree that the "cheap" fuel can decrease performance, decrease fuel economy and cause problems in the fuel injection system of your vehicle. Understanding the benefits of using a Top Tier fuel will help you to understand why you should seek out this specific type of gas.

In the early 1980s, a consortium of major automakers - BMW, General Motors, Honda, Toyota, and Volkswagen/Audi - designated a gasoline that contains a prescribed level of detergent additives as Top Tier Detergent Gasoline, see www.toptiergas.org . In simple terms, this is gasoline that contains higher levels of detergents in order to prevent the build up of gunk in the fuel system. Yes, gunk is a real term and as you can image, it is not a good thing.

Fuels that do not meet the Top Tier designation contain lower levels of detergents which can lead to carbon build up around the fuel injectors and intake valve and eventually damage the catalytic converter or require a costly cylinder head rebuild. This gunky build up hinders the efficiency of the fuel system and vehicles experience loss of power, start up troubles, rough idle, higher emissions and lower fuel economy. Eventually, a costly repair may be required to keep you on the road.

It is important to know that I am speaking of the brand of gasoline as opposed to the octane level of supreme, midgrade or regular. If you are wondering about the grade of fuel to use, consult your owners' manual for the manufacturer recommendation. Again, it's easy to save money and go for the cheapest grade. But if your vehicle is designed and tuned for a premium grade, you are doing your vehicle harm by using less than the grade required.

If you are a regular cheap fuel user, or are just missing the power your vehicle had when it was new, consider an engine cleaning service such as the MotorVac Fuel System Cleaning or the BG Induction Cleaning. These services are suggested for vehicles experiencing a decrease in performance due to carbon build up. If you are towing a trailer, this will also help performance.

Both services use a high concentration of cleaning fluids to the effected areas to strip away the levels of deposits and restore performance from the pedal. Regardless of the type of fuel you use, a specialized cleaning service will benefit your vehicle performance. Prices range from $130 to $180, a small price to pay for the power you need to merge onto I-80 or potential savings at the pump.

Although I will never admit that I was once a cheap gas user, I did have the MotorVac service on my Chevy Silverdo with over 130,000 miles performed at Quality Automotive and Smog. I was able to instantly feel a difference in acceleration and experienced an increase in gas mileage.

I can't say that I will always buy Top Tier fuel. However, being aware of the effects of the continuous use of lower quality fuels in my vehicle makes it a little easier to spend more at the pump.

- This article was submitted to the Sun from Quality Automotive and Smog, located at 11357 Deerfield Drive in Truckee. Learn more about the business at www.qualityautomotiveandsmog.com.

Sheila Greeno
Special to the Sun


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Feb 26, 2013 01:39PM Published Feb 26, 2013 01:38PM Copyright 2013 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.