Written by Lee Wyatt (last updated May 25, 2010)
Since gas prices seem to be constantly fluctuating, usually upward and rarely downward, everyone can surely use help in saving some money at the pump. One of the best ways to save money on anything, gasoline included, is to understand what it is that you are buying. Understanding gasoline is not difficult and involves learning about the various grades of fuel that are available.
No matter which gas station you go to, there are on average three grades (Regular, Midgrade or Plus, and Premium) of gasoline that are sold. These grades are based on the octane ratings that the petroleum industry and government developed. The higher the octane, the more difficult it is to produce, which increases cost. This is illustrated quite nicely at the local pump through the higher cost of premium gasoline. But what is the real difference in the various octane ratings?
Octane is the rate at which the gasoline. In other words, it is the volatility of the gasoline. Higher octanes generally have smoother burning which results in fewer pre-ignition problems, or the engine knocking or "pinging" you might have experienced. Lower octanes are easier to burn, making the likelihood for pre-ignition problems to occur. Regular gasoline is usually rated as having an 87 octane, but can range from being equal to 85 octane to just under 88 octane, hence the 87 octane rating. Midgrade gasoline usually has a rating of about 89, but it can also range from as low as 88 and as high as just under 90. Premium gas is usually rated at 92, but can in actuality be anything above a 90.
There is a real reason for the different grades of gasoline. That reason is performance, and often the type of gasoline that is used plays a role in how an engine performs. That role is covered in more depth in another article.
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