Chevron with Techron worth it?
July 12, 2007 1:33 PM   Subscribe

Is "brand" gas - like Chevron with Techron - worth the extra 10-15 cents/gallon?
posted by joshuaconner to Travel & Transportation (26 answers total)
According to this guy, probably not.
posted by saladin at 1:36 PM on July 12, 2007

Nope, though I would not be surprised to see differences in combustion of brand gasoline in a laboratory setting. In the practice, these differences are negligible or non-existent.
posted by geoff. at 1:39 PM on July 12, 2007

For me personally, the price difference is worth the general difference in restroom cleanliness (no snark intended).
posted by Asherah at 1:41 PM on July 12, 2007

It's probably all in my mind, but I swear my car (02 VW GTI 1.8T) performs better with Chevron with Techron 92 gas (it's a turbo, so it does require the higher octane). It just feels... peppier. But I'm in Vancouver, where the gas prices are very consistent between brands; there's very rarely a difference in price between Chevron, Shell, and Joe-Bloes-Gas-N-Go. The few times i'm in Seattle I do go out of my way to find a Chevron, but I'm not sure if i'd pay the extra $$ if I had to every single time I filled up.
posted by cgg at 1:46 PM on July 12, 2007

I'm not really qualified to speak on the engine performance aspect (my mechanic swears by the Shell premium, with engine-cleaning ingredients of some kind, but for all I know he's getting a kickback or something), but some people might feel that one gas company's politics and environmental policies and whatnot are less objectionable than another's, and that those differences are worth ten cents a gallon.
posted by box at 1:54 PM on July 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

The hydrocarbon mixes are (almost) exactly equivalent, but the additives may be different.

To expand: the octane numbers from $1.02/L gas from Joe's Gas Bar mean exactly the same as the $1.05/L gas from Shell down the street. The energy content of the gas is no different.

What is different are the additives. These are soaps to improve engine cleanliness, additives to prevent knock, and improve "lubricity" and reduce engine wear. In these days of electronic ignitions and fuel injectors, my feeling is that these make much less of a difference now than they did for carbureted engines with mechanical distributors.

Indepedents all buy their gas from one of the majors. Do majors blend different additives based on who retails the gas? Most don't I suspect. The racking would be too complicated.

Also, quality control on even the cheapest gas now is much better than it was on the best gas brands 20 years ago. This is largely due to much stricter regulation today, but this is very regionally dependent.

In short, I don't think the difference is huge if you drive a modern car.
posted by bonehead at 2:01 PM on July 12, 2007

The only difference would be the detergents which are used. Studies, such as the one quoted in saladin's comment (more on that one here) show them to be essentially similar. However, the detergents are trade secrets and the only way to know if one is better is whether it performed better. That kind of long term study is beyond simple news organizations. There probably is no functional difference, but who knows? I buy my gas based upon the convenience of the station location and right now that means Sunoco (being close to work and not having to fill up often makes me a little price insensitive compared to convenience).
posted by caddis at 2:04 PM on July 12, 2007

Don't know if it's worth the difference but the Techron fuel additive (in the bottle by itself) is the only cleaner that the Porsche/BMW mechanics I know have ever recommended.
posted by Carbolic at 2:11 PM on July 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

There are other ways to decide which gasoline to buy, such as the Sierra Club ranking, in which Sunoco comes out a winner by the way.
posted by caddis at 2:26 PM on July 12, 2007

For whatever reason, my car (1996 Honda) actually runs *worse* on Chevron w/Techron than the same grade of stuff from the generic gas station across the street. Don't know why, don't really care, since I get to buy the cheaper stuff and be happy about it.
posted by katemonster at 2:52 PM on July 12, 2007

I've always rationalized the additional two cents a gallon at Chevron with the dubious theory that bargain places get the nastiest, stalest, cheapest gas possible, and store it in the rustiest, leakiest underground tanks. Plus, the pumps at 7-11 are always heinously dirty and battered and covered in soda or urine.

Honestly, though, I think for most average cars (like mine), it doesn't make much of a difference.

I like that Sierra Club ranking thing - too bad neither of the top companies operate in my neck of the woods.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 2:56 PM on July 12, 2007

Psst, industry secret:

All companies' gasoline flows through the same pipelines! Shell, Exxon, BP... as mentioned above, the fuel is literally all mixed together as they enter the pipeline network. It's not as if Exxon's refining is better than Shell's, they're all mixed together. Get your gas at the place that has the highest volume with the lowest price for the octane rating your engine requires, and you'll be fine. Is it worth the extra 10/15 cents a gallon? Unless you take regular money baths or your owner's manual states otherwise, most likely not.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 3:05 PM on July 12, 2007

Not sure about the gas, but concentrated Techron is rumored to be one of the best fuel system cleaners available*.

*This is mostly regarding cleaning off the car with a bench.
posted by IronLizard at 3:10 PM on July 12, 2007

I know a guy who knows something about this; enough that he's in the habit of calling the stuff "product".

There is no "cheap gas". Almost all gas comes from the same distribution point, a meta-gas-station. There, a tanker fills up with stuff and when he types in his "FooBrand" code, it also injects a few millimeters of extra goo per gallon. That's the only difference in brand.

Now, the place where the gas is stored just before you get it, that matters, to some degree. All storage tanks get sediment and water and crap in them. When they're very low or freshly filled, the pipe that sucks up what you're going to shove through your fuel injectors also gets some of that flotsam.

So, brand matters not a whit. If it's an old station, stay away. If it's low on gas (you can't tell) or if the tanker is just done stirring the pot (you can almost never tell), then *ahem* stay away.
posted by cmiller at 3:11 PM on July 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

bench = flowbench
posted by IronLizard at 3:11 PM on July 12, 2007

You can have your techron AND your generic gas.

Techron is available by the bottle from your auto parts store. I use a bottle a couple of times per year to keep the injectors clean. Some saab dealers use it as a part of routine maintenance; it is often recommended as the first remedy to try if your engine is running a little rough.
posted by Kevin S at 3:13 PM on July 12, 2007

My brother chatted with a tanker driver who was offloading at a station while he (my brother) was gassing up. He asked the same question. The driver delivered to a variety of station brands. The only difference, according to the driver, was which packet of additives he tossed down the hole at the end of the delivery.
posted by trinity8-director at 3:25 PM on July 12, 2007

That's not exactly true Geckwoistmeinauto. Multiple companies do share pipelines, but they don't just mix their products together and shoot everything at once. Products, like gasoline, diesel, kerosene, crude oil, are piped through sequentially. The interface between products, the mixing zone between different products, is considered less valuable then the original products.

Dealers do sell the product their refinery produces, not some mixture.
posted by bonehead at 3:52 PM on July 12, 2007

bonehead, in many parts of the country, the dealer is independent. Everybody gets the same gas, it's just a different additive mixture, as others have said. In my hometown, every gas station gets product from the same truck, no matter the brand, and it's not the middle of nowhere.

The truck stops at the Shell station, then drives down the street to the Phillips station, then drives a little farther on to the Total station, then goes a bit farther and stops at the generic station.

Hell, half the time they dump excess 87 in the 92 tank and vice versa.

Where I am now there are several different dealers and the larger chains have their own trucks, but it's not like that everywhere, but it has a long history of hydrocarbon production and distribution.
posted by wierdo at 6:16 PM on July 12, 2007

worth the extra 10-15 cents/gallon?

Worth? Hmm not sure. Lets assume that using this gas in the long run gives you an extra 20,000 miles to the life of your car. Your car lives to 100,000 miles. Lets assume the lifetime ave mpg is 19.

Where I live gas is 3.80. Lets say you're going to pay 4.00 for the "good stuff." At 3.80 per gallon for a car that last 100,000 miles youre paying around $20,000 in gas. At 4 dollars youre paying 21,052.

So youre paying over 1,000 dollars on the off chance this detergent rich gas might make your car last longer. Thats a lot of money. I can drive 100k miles in 3 years. So thats like giving Shell a big fat check for 350 dollars annually just for some detergent. Hell, the nice stuff at the auto store is like 4 dollars a bottle and you can put it in monthly for less than 50 dollars a year! And it might actually do something!

Even if we assume that the good gas will add 20,000k milesto your engine, you're more or less just putting off the eventual death of your drive engine while you pour money into replacing items that the detergent cant help. You might as well just buy a newer fuel effiecient car at 100k. Youre also paying 1,000 dollars premuim in fuel just for the *chance* to get 20k miles extra out of your car. The value of your car between 100k and 120k drop more than 1k, I bet.

So youre paying 6 or 7x what a detergent at the store costs and if it works it, in the long run, will end up costing you more.

Cars are mostly disposable. Fighting that trend with expensive gas only enriches big oil. Sorry.
posted by damn dirty ape at 6:36 PM on July 12, 2007

From Click and Clack......The Car Guys

Does your owner's manual say "Premium Unleaded Only"? No? Then don't ever use premium fuel. There. We just saved you 40 cents a gallon... It pollutes more, it costs more, and doesn't give you any benefit in performance or fuel system cleanliness.
posted by saffry at 6:51 PM on July 12, 2007

Sometimes premium fuel does give you a boost in performance, sometimes it doesn't. With modern cars it all depends upon how the computer is programmed. Many have knock sensors which will advance the timing with premium fuel to a point where you get enhanced fuel economy and power. It is a minor benefit which for most will not be worth the money, but it is there in some cars. The Honda Accord V6 manual transmission is one such car. Supposedly, about a 10 hp boost (regular hp=240 or so) is available with premium fuel, according to one of the car's design engineers. That is as much as installing a high performance air intake and filter, not too shabby, and it won't cause you to stall going through a deep puddle.
posted by caddis at 7:28 PM on July 12, 2007

It's also useful if you have a bastard hybrid motor with more compression than it has any right to. Too much compression with regular gas will cause detonation just like over advanced timing. Unless you've done something nutty to your car or it requires/supports it, it's probably a waste of money and will make starting harder.
posted by IronLizard at 8:01 PM on July 12, 2007

id be interested to see if uptake of premium petrol in the UK since the tescos/morrisons problems a few months back. essentially a supplier of petrol had a problem with their petrol being contaminated), which resulted in a lot of engine problems. tescos and morrisons are both supermarkets, who have their own petrol stations - offering minor savings from the major "brands" of petrol station.

it would appear that its very lucky that it was a cheapo outlet that had the problems, as the damage to those petrol stations that stock "premium" brand fuels would have been catastrophic if it had been the other way around (with their premium fuels having been contaminated).

ive always gone on the assumption that its petrol, with the premiums you are just paying extra for the bright shiny label on the side of the nozzle. after the tesco fuel problem we decided to fill up with a tankful of premium fuel, and it didnt make any noticeable difference.
posted by dnc at 2:36 AM on July 13, 2007

A friend of mine is a service mgr. at a Ford Dealer and Ford recommends using chevron or using the Techron additive (different than the fuel injector)
For example, they get at the dealer vehicles with erratic fuel gauge readings and the cause is some kind of reaction in the fuel in the tank specially when cars are not driven much, using the additive takes care of the problem.....
I use a bottle every other oil change, then the fuel injector cleaner the other times.
posted by FLHunter3006 at 9:16 AM on July 13, 2007

erratic fuel gauge readings

Dirty potentiometer. They're not sealed and open to everything in the tank.
posted by IronLizard at 9:42 AM on July 13, 2007

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