Cheap gas Orange County
Yung Kim of Placentia cleans his windshield as he fills up Friday morning at an Arco station in Anaheim. Gasoline in California meets a high environmental bar.KEN STEINHARDT, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
BY NICOLE KNIGHT SHINE / STAFF WRITER
If this week’s record spike in gasoline prices sent you scurrying to a budget station to save a few bucks, you’re not alone. And maybe you wondered: Is a cheap fill-up bad for my car?
The difference between what you’d pay for gas at an independent station versus a name-brand one stood at nearly a dollar on Thursday. According to GasBuddy, you would have spent $3.79 for a gallon of regular at Fountain Valley Fuels, while a gallon of regular at the 76 on Costa Mesa’s 17th Street would’ve set you back $4.65.
While there’s a lively debate among auto experts, mechanics and motorists over whether all gas is created equal, we turned to science to suss out the truth behind gas lore.
Our goal is to save you money – and give you peace of mind – the next time you pull up to the pump.
Is cheap gas bad gas?
Rest assured, penny-pinching at the pump isn’t bad for your engine.
“Buy the cheapest gas you can get that’s convenient and close, ” advised Steve Mazor, chief automotive engineer with Automobile Club of Southern California Automotive Research Center, who has been testing gas for 30 years.
He said that cheap gas isn’t dirty, as some may claim.
A few years back, Mazor ran lab tests and road tests at the Los Angeles County fairgrounds on three samples of gas from independent and major stations. The tests measured emissions, fuel economy, acceleration and driveablity. And this was in a blind test, so Mazor didn’t know which gas was which.
Was there a difference?
“No difference, ” Mazor said of the results.
In 2012, Consumer Reports also came down on the side of generic gas, debunking the myth that no-name stations supply low-quality fuel.
You can credit strict federal and state regulations.
“At the end of the day, all the gas sold in the U.S. needs to meet a minimum standard, ” explained Denton Cinquegrana, chief oil analyst at OPIS, an industry news service in New Jersey.
Californians fill up with a unique blend of gas that meets a high environmental bar. All gas sold today contains very little sulfur – which can foul catalytic converters over time – or once-widely used chemicals like benzene. And all gas must contain detergents to clean the fuel injectors and carburetor, and rein in deposits.
Plus, Cinquegrana noted, much of the gas starts in the same place, with major brands and independents buying from the same refineries, even though it can be difficult to trace who buys from where. Sometimes, the brands sell to one another.
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