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What’s The Real Difference Between Gasoline Octane Ratings?

This is a common question I get asked when people are buying their new cars. I think that there’s a lot of misconceptions about octane rating and the effect it has on your car. Commercials will often have you believe that a higher octane rating means a higher output, but that’s simply not the case. First of all, always check your owner’s manual for the type of fuel the manufacturer recommends. The reason for that is because some higher performing vehicles require higher compression to run at peak levels.

Octane Explained

With modern spark-induced engines, your car’s pistons compress air and gasoline and when the spark hits, it forces the piston away, creating the power that your vehicle has to go down the road. The temperature at which your engine operates during this time is very high and can often ignite the fuel within the compression chamber without the use of a spark, causing your engine to ‘knock’. Higher octane fuels ignite at a higher temperature so it will resist the ‘knock’ of prematurely ignited fuel. As I said earlier, some high performance vehicles recommend higher octane fuels due to the fact that their engines are finely tuned and regular gas may cause a ‘knock’.

Here’s a great video I found going into a bit more detail than I did.

There you have it! Higher octane fuels do not give you better gas mileage or higher power output, it’s all dependent on the engine that’s in your car. Again, be sure to check out your owner’s manual before coming to the conclusion of which octane rating gasoline you need to put in your car. The extra $4-5 per fill-up of higher octane gas is just not worth it if your engine is designed to run on regular gasoline.

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Common Questions: What Does The “2” & “L” Mean?

Being in the car repair business, we field questions regarding the ins and outs of your vehicle on a daily basis. One that I get on a consistent basis asks what the different settings are for your automatic transmission. Everyone knows the P (park), R (reverse), N (neutral), and D (drive). But what are the other numbers and letters? Here’s a rundown and how/why they should be used.



This number denotes that when you are in this position, your car will not cycle out of 3rd gear. You’re probably asking yourself why you wouldn’t want to get out of 3rd gear, but there are situations that warrant it. You would use “3” if you were stuck in sand or snow (more power to wheels, less speed).



This number tells you that your vehicle will not cycle out of 2nd gear. You would use “2” if you were pulling a trailer up a hill (more pulling power, but less speed than 3).



You would use L or LOW basically when you need power to the wheels, like pulling a heavy trailer, driving on ice, or any situation when traction is of the utmost importance…


But remember, don’t drive in any of these lower gears for an extended period of time or at high speeds, these settings are situational.


Checking Your Tire Pressure With Your Eyes


Let’s be honest, we don’t check our tire pressure as often as we need to. In fact, we oftentimes let our tires run low way longer than we should. I’m just as guilty of it as everyone else. Regardless of the benefits of maintaining the correct tire pressure, we still are slow to stop by the 7-11 to put a few pounds of air in them. Don’t trust the tire’s shape to tell you whether or not they are low. If you have new tires without a lot of miles on them, they may not show any signs of low pressure until it’s beyond critical.

Properly maintained tires will:

  • Increase gas mileage
  • Enhance handling
  • Wear your tread longer
  • Help to prevent accidents

Most of our new Buicks and GMCs come with a tire pressure monitoring systems so you will be alerted when one of your tires is getting low, but cars more than a couple years old probably aren’t equipped with them. I’ve always used tire pressure valve caps. They offer a visual representation of your tire’s pressure. All you have to do is look at them and you can tell whether or not you need to put air in your tires. They are simple to use, all you have to do is replace your current valve stem covers with them and you’re all set! You can buy them in a few different tire pressure settings (28, 32, 36). Double check the placard inside your driver’s side door to make sure you keep the proper pressure in your tires. You can get them at just about any auto parts store for about $10 for a set of 4.


How Do Run-Flat Tires Work?

Run flat tires

A common question I get asked here at work is “How do run-flat tires work?” Run-flat tires are a great invention that allows you, the driver, to make better decisions as to what you do when you realize you have a flat tire. First, the sidewalls of these tires are designed to withstand the weight of the car when your tire loses pressure. After all, when you have properly inflated tires, the air is what carries the weight of the car, not the tires. Secondly, these tires have a redesigned bead to maintain the connection between the tire and the wheel, so once you lose tire pressure, your tire stays attached to the rim. This also prevents your wheels from ever hitting the ground.

Most run-flat tires can withstand about 50 miles, but some have been shown to go over 200! With that being said, these tires are not meant to be driven without proper tire pressure, they are merely a safety precaution to allow you to get off the side of the road and to a tire dealer or repair shop.

There are a few things you should take into consideration before purchasing a car with run-flat tires.
1. These tires are heavier and will hamper your car’s efficiency.
2. These tires are NOT cheap!
3. Once a run-flat tire has been punctured, it cannot be patched.

Check this video out for a little bit more in-depth analysis!

We recommend tire pressure monitoring systems that will notify you, while you’re driving, if one of your tires is dangerously low. The combination of run-flat tires and a TPMS is your best defense against ending up on the side of the road with a flimsy jack underneath your car. Come by and let us show you some of the models that they come standard on.