Not All Gasoline Is Created Equal

AAA Auto Repair Article
By AAA Automotive
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New testing from AAA has uncovered significant differences in the quality of gasoline sold at fuel retailers in the United States. The independent laboratory testing compared gasolines that meet TOP TIER™ standards, often marketed to consumers as having enhanced engine-cleaning detergent additives, with gasoline brands that do not participate in the automaker-backed program.

The Fix

Among brands tested, the use of non-TOP TIER gasolines resulted in up to 19 times more engine deposits than TOP TIER brands after just 4,000 miles of simulated driving. Such carbon deposits are known to reduce fuel economy, increase emissions and negatively impact vehicle performance, particularly on newer vehicles. To protect your vehicle investment and practice effective car maintenance, AAA recommends the use of gasoline that meets TOP TIER standards for engine cleanliness and performance.

“AAA was surprised to learn the extent to which detergent additives impact gasoline quality,” revealed John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “As advertised, TOP TIER gasolines kept engines remarkably cleaner than other fuels we tested.”

In response to increasing levels of carbon deposits in modern engine designs, the Environmental Protection Agency mandated a minimum level of detergent for all gasoline sold in the United States in 1996. However, some automakers believe the minimum does not go far enough to ensure optimal vehicle performance and their ability to meet increasingly-stringent fuel economy and emissions requirements. The TOP TIER program and performance standard were developed to guarantee that program participants’ gasoline meets stricter targets for engine cleanliness.

“When it comes to selecting a gasoline, automakers got it right – TOP TIER gasoline performs best,” continued Nielsen. “By selecting a quality gasoline, drivers can minimize engine deposits, increase vehicle performance and improve fuel economy.” In other words, opting for quality gasoline is a form of good car care.


Gasoline Statistics

Despite the fact that two-thirds of U.S. drivers believe there is a difference in quality of gasoline sold by different gas stations, a AAA survey reveals that Americans value convenience and price over quality when it comes to selecting a gas station.

  • Three-quarters of U.S. drivers choose a gas station based on location (75 percent) or price (73 percent).
  • Nearly one-third (29 percent) of U.S drivers choose a gas station based on a rewards program.
  • Only 12 percent of U.S. drivers select a gas station based on whether the gasoline contains an enhanced detergent package.
  • Nearly half (47 percent) of U.S. drivers do not regularly buy gasoline that contains an enhanced detergent additive.
  • Men (44 percent) are more likely than women (26 percent) to regularly buy a gasoline that contains an enhanced detergent package, as are baby boomers (41 percent) compared to millennials (32 percent).
“Americans are six times more likely to choose a gas station based on the price of gasoline rather than the quality of the fuel,” continued Nielsen. “Since TOP TIER gasoline is widely available and only an average of three cents more per gallon, AAA urges drivers to reconsider their priorities when selecting a gas station.”

To ensure a gas station sells a high quality gasoline, consumers should research the fuel options near them. As of June 14, 2018, 62 brands of gasoline meet TOP TIER standard for fuel quality. If you think the gasoline you are using may be causing driveability problems, poor performance or reduced fuel economy, it could be time to visit an auto repair shop.


Finding Quality Auto Repair

AAA recommends that you plan ahead for vehicle service by finding an auto repair shop and technician you can trust before you need them. AAA.com/Repair provides information on nearly 7,000 Approved Auto Repair facilities that have met AAA’s high standards for appearance, technician training and certification, insurance coverage and customer satisfaction. AAA regularly inspects every Approved Auto Repair facility and surveys their customers to ensure ongoing performance. In addition, AAA members receive special benefits that include auto repair discounts, an extended 24-month/24,000-mile parts and labor warranty, and AAA assistance in resolving repair-related issues.

Additional Resources

Fuel Quality Report
Fact Sheet
TOP TIER™ brands


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