Not all gaso­line cre­ated equal, AAA re­ports

The Calvert Recorder - Southern Maryland Automotive Trends - - News -

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. Among brands tested, nonTOP TIER gaso­lines caused 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 ve­hi­cle in­vest­ments, AAA urges driv­ers to use a 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,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s man­ag­ing direc­tor of au­to­mo­tive en­gi­neer­ing and re­pair. “As ad­ver­tised, tested TOP TIER gaso­lines kept en­gines re­mark- ably 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,” Nielsen said. “By se­lect­ing a qual­ity gaso­line, driv­ers can min­i­mize en­gine de­posits, in­crease ve­hi­cle per­for­mance and im­prove fuel econ­omy.”

De­spite the fact that twothirds 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. Ac­cord­ing to TOP TIER, one-third of gas sta­tions meet the TOP TIER stan­dard for fuel qual­ity.

“For­tu­nately, con­sumers can re­verse some en­gine de­posits sim­ply by switch­ing gaso­line brands,” said Greg Bran­non, AAA’s direc­tor of Au­to­mo­tive En­gi­neer­ing. “After a few thou­sand miles with TOP TIER gaso­line, per­for­mance is­sues like rough idling or hes­i­ta­tion dur­ing ac­cel­er­a­tion can of­ten be re­solved.”

For test­ing pur­poses, AAA selected TOP TIER and non-TOP TIER gaso­lines from a south­ern Texas mar­ket that rep­re­sents the type of gaso­line sold across the ma­jor­ity of the United States. To mea­sure in­take valve and com­bus­tion cham­ber de­posits, AAA en­gaged the ser­vices of an in­de­pen­dent In­ter­na­tional Stan­dards Or­ga­ni­za­tion 17025 cer­ti­fied en­gine test­ing lab to per­form an ASTM In­ter­na­tional stan­dard test on fu­els.

To eval­u­ate con­sumer gaso­line pref­er­ences, AAA con­tracted with a na­tional re­search com­pany to per­form a tele­phone sur­vey of 1,002 adults (18 years of age and older) liv­ing in the con­ti­nen­tal United States. Sur­vey re­sults are an ac­cu­rate rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the to­tal con­ti­nen­tal U.S. pop­u­la­tion, 18 years of age and older, with a mar­gin of er­ror of +/- 3.1 per­cent at a 95 per­cent con­fi­dence level.

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF AAA

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