Gasoline Options Explained

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How can I prove that a gas station is selling watered-down gasoline?

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This happened to me –

I had just purchased about 15 gallons to top off my 20 gallon tank and within two blocks, the car stalled and wouldn’t restart.

I called a towing company and had the car taken to my regular mechanic. Several hours later, the shop owner called to say they’d just drained my gas tank of about 8 gallons of gas and about 12 gallons of water.

The shop had to remove and clean my gas tank, flush the fuel pump and fuel lines, pull the spark plugs, dry the cylinders and do some work on the carburetor. In all, it was a pretty extensive repair and the bill was about $500, plus a fres.

4 Most Common Types of Fuel, and What You Should Know About Them

Updated May 1, 2020

Drive up to almost any gas pump in the United States and you will see three fuel options. What do these mean?

Most drivers choose the cheapest option or lowest grade fuel; however, others purchase the most expensive or highest grade because they assume it is best for their vehicle’s engine. If you are confused by the three buttons, don’t mistakenly pull up to the diesel pump because that’s confusing territory, too. Basic knowledge of fuel types and grades is useful for any driver and will help you make decisions that will improve the function of your car. Below are the types of fuels available today, their characteristics, and their common uses.

Types of Fuel for Cars

Gasoline

Gasoline is the most common automobile fuel and is used all over the world to power cars, motorcycles, scooters, boats, lawnmowers, and other machinery. It is a specialized fossil fuel made from petroleum, hence its nickname “petrol” in the U.K. It is also important to note that hydrocarbons in gasoline and carbon dioxide from producing it contributes to pollution and smog. Despite this, you can find a gas stations all over the place.

Gas is commonly available in three octane ratings or “grades.” Grades are denoted by the research octane number (RON) and AKI of a specific formula. Stickers or labels will inform drivers which pump releases each grade. 87 AKI is generally the lowest octane rating and cheapest option. Next is mid-grade with 88-90 AKI. Lastly, premium or high grade gasoline has an octane rating of 90-94 AKI.

The different grades of fuel don’t burn the same way. The less octane, or the lower the grade, the faster and stronger it burns when pressurized. SUVs and sports cars run better on plus or premium (higher octane) since their motors produce more fuel compression for better drivability. But most vehicles function just fine on the lowest and cheapest gasoline option. You won’t realize a better fuel economy if you opt for plus or premium gas for a car that recommends regular gas.

The following video gives you an idea of different grades and their usage:

Diesel Fuel

Diesel fuel is also made from petroleum but is refined using a different method than that used to create gasoline. Many large and industrial trucks use diesel fuel, as do transfer trucks and agricultural equipment. There are two types of diesel fuel, one specifically for automobiles and one for off-road vehicles.

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A resurgence of diesel powered vehicles has taken place in the past few years because of the rising price of all fuels, including gasoline and diesel. Diesel powered cars typically get better gas mileage or fuel efficiency than gasoline powered vehicles. Also, some drivers feel that they get a better value for their money even if diesel is more expensive. Volkswagen is a well-known manufacturer of diesel cars. The next video will illustrate the difference between petrol and diesel engines:

Bio-diesel

Diesel fuel that is created using vegetable oils or animal fats is called bio-diesel. It can be made using soybean oil, lard, algae, and vegetable oils. Some inventive drivers have found ways to recycle used cooking oils into biodiesel that powers altered car engines. Watch the following video to learn more about biofuels:

Ethanol

Although ethanol is not widely used as a general automobile fuel, it is added to our common gasoline as an additive. Many car manufacturers are designing vehicles that can be powered by ethanol because it is a cost effective fuel made from renewable resources like corn and sugarcane. If you are in the market for an ethanol powered vehicle, there are a few car models that can run on 100 percent ethanol.

Most cars these days run on gasoline, but others are increasing in popularity, especially battery powered vehicles. Make sure that you are purchasing the correct type of fuel for your vehicle for peak performance.

And finally, those new drivers, who are still learning how to pump gas, will find the following guide useful:

Engineering Explained: Gasoline Vs Diesel Engines

What are the differences between gasoline and diesel engines? Here’s everything you need to know

Gasoline and diesel engines operate on essentially the same four stroke cycle: intake, compression, power, exhaust. Where they differ, however, is how this cycle is executed, and how they increase power output. Let’s look at four major differences between gasoline and diesel engines:

  1. Spark vs Compression
  2. Throttle vs No Throttle
  3. Air Fuel Ratios
  4. Engine Braking

1. Spark vs Compression

Perhaps the biggest difference between gasoline and diesel engines is how they ignite the air and fuel during the power stroke. To understand the difference, we need to understand the self-ignition temperature (SIT), which is the temperature at which an air-fuel mixture will ignite without the use of a spark plug (purely due to heat).

Compressing air raises its pressure and thus raises its temperature. Diesel engines have high compression ratios, thus heating the air significantly, so that when fuel is injected the air is above the SIT, and thus the fuel combusts when it is injected into the cylinder.

Gasoline engines, on the other hand, must keep the temperature in the combustion chamber below SIT, as the spark plug (rather than the fuel injectors) dictates ignition timing. This means gasoline engines will have lower compression ratios than diesel engines. As an example, a 2020 VW Golf TSI (turbo gasoline) has a compression ratio of 9.6:1, while a 2020 VW Golf TDI (turbo diesel) has a compression ratio of 16.2:1.

Managing a gasoline engine for knock can be a bit tricky, because even if at the start of ignition the temperature of the mixture is below SIT, the area furthest from the spark will begin to rise in pressure and heat up (as the flame front moves closer). The spark must ignite all of the fuel mixture before any pockets self-ignite, in order for smooth combustion.

2. Throttle vs No Throttle

Though no longer true for all modern diesels, typically a big differentiator between gasoline and diesel engines is that diesel engines lack a throttle body. When you press on the accelerator pedal in a diesel, you’re simply telling the fuel injectors to inject more diesel. With more fuel injected, more power is created, and this means more exhaust, more air from the turbo, and the power output continues to rise.

Some diesel engines have implemented throttle controls allowing for a greater level of regulation of the intake manifold pressure, which helps to increase the amount of exhaust gas recirculation. Adding a throttle valve also helps with shutting the engine off, as you can taper the amount of air allowed in for a smoother drop in engine RPM.

Gasoline engines, on the other hand, require a throttle body. As you press on the (inappropriately named) gas pedal, you’re simply opening up the throttle and allowing for more air to flow into the engine. More air means the injectors send in more fuel, and more fuel means more power.

3. Air Fuel Ratios

Understanding that diesels create more power by injecting more fuel might be perplexing without understanding that diesels have a larger range of air-fuel ratios for which combustion can occur. Both gasoline and diesel have very similar stoichiometric air-fuel ratios (the ratio at which all oxygen and fuel is used entirely, about 14.5-15:1), but they have very different ranges at which they can operate.

With the hydrocarbons that make up gasoline, combustion is possible within an air-fuel ratio range of about 6:1 to 25:1. Most gasoline engines will keep this ratio within 12:1 to 18:1 (turbos will sometimes dip a bit lower) as this is the range where the most power as well as the most efficient burn can be found.

Diesel engines, on the contrary, operate at much higher ratios, typically operating with air-fuel ratios around 18:1 to 70:1. It sounds strange, but it has to do with how the air and fuel mixes. With a gasoline engine, the air and fuel is generally well mixed before the spark ignites. With (direct injection) diesels, there are pockets of combustible mixtures, and then areas which are too rich or too lean. Combustion occurs wherever pockets exist with acceptable air-fuel ratios.

4. Engine Braking

When you let off the accelerator pedal in a vehicle that is in gear, the engine is now slowing the vehicle down – this is engine braking. The process is fairly simple for gasoline engines, because as you let off the accelerator pedal, the throttle body closes, creating a vacuum between the throttle body and the cylinders. This vacuum (as a result of the intake stroke) is what helps to slow the vehicle down, as well as all of the inefficiencies of the drivetrain (friction).

In a diesel engine, however, since there is no throttle body, engine braking cannot be done by creating a vacuum in the intake. It’s important to realise that nearly all of the energy used to compress air during the compression stroke goes right back into the drivetrain during the power stroke (the air compresses, then decompresses, with little energy lost).

If you can’t brake using the throttle body, and the compression stroke doesn’t slow the vehicle down, how does engine braking in a diesel work? The solution is actually very simple, and very clever. When the cylinder is around top dead centre during the compression stroke, the exhaust valve is opened to allow that pressurised air to escape. Now that energy is not returning to the crank, and thus the force of compression can be used to slow the vehicle down. The reason engine braking with diesel engines is so audible is because you’re hearing that compressed air leaving the exhaust.

Is gasoline an effective restoration material to use?

A fellow rider just picked up an old mountain bike which has some rust and plenty of gunk in the gears to wash out. He intends to use gasoline to clean the entire bike.

This is the first I ever heard of using gas to clean the chain, gears, spokes, pedals, derailleur. Does it work? Save time? It stands to reason it might cut through the grease but can it restore any luster to rusty components?

If no –> the materials & methods YOU use to clean/restore bikes would be appreciated.

also Is there anyway to get rust off the wheels, handlebars, nuts/bolts etc?

Please do not use product names, company names or backlinks in your answer; this is not an invitation for spam.

NOTE “Water, soap, elbow-grease, oil & rubber-protectant” is not an acceptable answer – looking for insight not a statement of the obvious.

7 Answers 7

Gasoline aka petrol, is a volatile fluid that will dissolve grease and oils. It will penetrate, soften, and loosen impacted and congealed dirt and dust.

Petrol / Gasoline will NOT fix your rust, nor remove your rust. It will not restore chrome.

Petrol is not terrible for rubber parts, but I wouldn’t leave them soaking in the fluid.

The best use for petrol is to clean your parts, before doing a close inspection to decide whether they are serviceable still, or need replacement.

Downside for petrol is that right now its NZ $1.97/litre in my country (approx US $5.36/US Liquid Gallon) and that adds up. You can’t reuse the dirty petrol for anything, and the grease won’t settle out so it can’t even be decanted.

Petrol is also hard on your skin, so wear gloves, and clean up immediately afterward. Moisturising your hands before starting is surprisingly good protection too.

Rust

Rust is oxidised iron, which comes from steel being exposed. Often appears on friction points like chainring teeth, and anywhere that the paint has been damaged letting fresh oxygen to the steel.

There are options:

  • Leave it alone. This uglifies your bike and makes it less desirable to thieves, as long as its still mechanically and structurally sound.
  • Paint over it – this is a very short-term fix and will not last more than a month before the new paint is bubbling off.
  • Remove the rust then paint it – this is elbow work with a file and sandpaper, or some motorised tool doing the same thing. You MUST paint the surface within a few hours, else the virgin steel starts to rust again.
  • Treat the rust – There are many rust treatments which transform red rust into a more stable black oxide of iron. Most contain Phosphoric Acid and require PPE. The fumes are something else! Once the rust has blackened and dried, you can sand and overpaint.

Petrol would be used as a degreaser on the rust before sanding. Turpentine would be similar, but that’s even more expensive than petrol.

Have a look at Suggestions for removal of old chrome? where I am doing something similar to some handlebars. That question will be updated as progress continues.

$US 2.35/gal in LA, CA @ time of this writing 11/16. – Tapper7 Nov 5 ’16 at 14:32

Gasoline does work for cleaning parts. But it’s also extremely toxic and flammable, and may damage rubber or plastic parts (depending on the parts). So don’t bother, just use degreaser. (If you want to get the strong stuff, go to an auto parts store. If you want to get massive quantities of the strong stuff, go to a janitorial supply or restaurant supply store.)

Also, don’t go too crazy when cleaning your chain. You don’t want to remove all the grease, you just want to get the dirt off the surface.

Gasoline may work as a degreaser, meaning it may improve the looks of your metal by removing the superficial coat of oil/grease.

I would not recommend the use of gasoline, because it will have additives that are intended for motor engines, and you do not know the effect they will have in your parts. Secondly, I would not recommend using it in a chain, because manufacturers often discourage usage of kerosene in them, which is similar to gasoline (may damage chain parts).

That being said, it is important to remember that gasoline, as a strong non-polar solvent, may easily damage rubber, plastic parts, paint clear coat, etc. Something to definitely keep away from most parts of your bike.

You may use a standard citrus degreaser, which is sold by major bike maintenance companies. As they are water based, you should remove it after with a dry cloth. They will not rust your parts, unless you leave the part soaking for a couple of days in it.

If you have rust spots, the recommended solution is to replace the part, as rust removal techniques are somewhat limited. If it is, for example, a rusted chain, I would definitely recommend the replacement of the part.

If you have minor spots of rust in your frame (assuming it is a steel frame), you could use some sprays for rust. They convert iron oxide to a more stable form, and it may stop the process right away.

However, if the rust area is large enough to compromise structural integrity, I would replace the the part. It is better to spend money in the part, than in the hospital after the part fails.

It needs to be emphasized that gasoline/petrol is extremely flammable, much more dangerous than most of the other alternative solvents. It should only be used “out of doors”, or at least in a garage with the vehicle door open and no nearby source of ignition such as a water heater. Even flicking on a light switch in a gasoline-fumed garage could be hazardous.

Gasoline is also quite toxic. While many of us have, in our youth, survived using gasoline for cleaning bike and automotive parts, eventually the inhaled fumes will affect your liver. If your liver is reasonably healthy you’ll likely not have a noticeable problem, but if you have liver disease already then repeated exposure could “push you over the edge” to liver failure. Plus there are problems you can have with your skin, eyes, lungs, and kidneys.

And, contrary to what’s stated elsewhere here, it’s critical to keep gasoline away from any rubber components, and some plastics. Even the fumes are damaging. While most tires and plastic parts will survive a brief exposure, I have seen rubber and plastic bits instantly dissolve in gasoline, and, in particular, “gumwall” tires are highly susceptible to damage if splashed gasoline is allowed to sit on the sidewall for more than a few seconds.

As to it’s effectiveness, note that all gasoline will do is dissolve hardened grease and certain poorly-chosen (DIYer-applied) paints. It’s not going to do anything for rust, and is apt to make some paints duller. And other solvents (such as one might buy at an auto parts place) are just as effective and at least somewhat safer.

Regarding the use of any petroleum-based solvent, understand that any bearings soaked in it need to be properly relubricated. If pedals are soaked in a solvent, eg, they need to be disassembled and the bearings re-greased.

For rust, I have had some modest luck using an oxalic acid solution (or “Barkeeper’s Friend” scouring powder which contains oxalic acid) to remove light rust from chromed surfaces and even brake cables. The oxalic acid solution is available from paint stores as “wood bleach”.

For rusted brake cables (a common problem with the bikes we rehab for charity) I dribble the oxalic acid solution down the cable into the housing, and usually a frozen cable breaks free within 5 minutes or so. (I’ve devised a scheme, using some rubber tubing, for forcing liquid into housings that are really tight at the ends.)

For, eg, chrome fenders with bits of rust showing through, scrubbing with a damp cloth and Barkeeper’s Friend generally improves appearance significantly. (I suppose it would be good to follow up with a waxing, to prevent further rust, but we don’t usually go that far.) For rusty bolts, to improve their appearance, I treat them first with a spray of the oxalic acid solution, then dry and oil the item to prevent the rust from reappearing.

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