Driver exposes why you should never buy 89 grade gas

@youknownat/TikTok @schoolhousecaulk/TikTok (Licensed)

‘It’s kind of bamboozling me’: Driver exposes the real reason you shouldn’t buy 89-grade gas

'Now I understand why my car manual was saying I could use midgrade, but I should really be using premium.'


Braden Bjella


Posted on Mar 23, 2024   Updated on Mar 23, 2024, 8:23 am CDT

If you go to a gasoline pump to fill up your car, you’re likely to see 3 different types of fuel: Regular gasoline (87 octane), mid-grade (89 octane), and premium (92 or 93 octane). But what do these choices actually mean?

According to TikTok user Michael (@schoolhousecaulk), the answer might surprise you—and deter you from buying mid-grade gasoline ever again.

“The button that says mid-grade gasoline at gas stations in the United States usually doesn’t actually lead to a separate tank, which is kind of bamboozling me. It’s just mixing regular fuel and premium fuel at a specific ratio,” Michael explains in his video, which currently has over 183,000 views as of Saturday.

In Michael’s telling, as leaded gasoline was being phased out in the 1970s due to EPA regulations, gas stations transitioned to offering three options: Regular unleaded, premium unleaded, and leaded gasoline. When leaded gasoline was completely phased out, gas stations began “offering mid-grade fuel with a middle-of-the-road octane number.”

“So these gas stations were like, well, maybe car manufacturers will eventually start building cars for mid-grade fuel, but no car is built specifically for mid-grade fuel,” Michael says. “Some of them recommend it, but they can run on regular fuel. There’s no car that is only running on mid-grade fuel.”

So is what Michael is saying true? According to Capital One Auto Navigator, yes it is.

“Only a handful of modern vehicles—all from Stellantis brands—call for 89-octane gas. Even then, it’s not required, only recommended. Using 87-octane fuel in any of them won’t harm the powertrain,” the article reads. The article later notes that cars are unlikely to see performance improvements from using 89-octane gasoline, saying, “Your Toyota RAV4 won’t see a performance benefit from a tankful of mid-grade or premium.”

On that note, an article from Vox argues against using most premium gas products in the first place. 

“…For the vast majority of cars on the market, it’s simply not necessary to prevent knocking,” writes author Joseph Stromberg about purchasing higher-grade gasoline. 

@schoolhousecaulk What is the purpose of midgrade fuel at gas stations #history #science #fyp #usa #gas #oil ♬ original sound – Michael

Commenters were amused by this discovery.

“It’s a two flavor soft serve machine with the twist option!” joked a user.

“I love that my ’04 keep liberty user manual specifically says to use the lowest grade,” said another.

“Can confirm, my internship made the specific valve that mixed that fuel to make mid grade. Part is in Gilbarco pumps (Costco uses them),” recounted a third.

In an email to the Daily Dot, Michael elaborated that having the “mid-grade” option at the gas pump is a good idea.

“It makes the practice of mixing premium and regular fuels more convenient for the few that need it,” he said. “Living in an economy of convenience, I see how this button has remained a staple at so many fuel pumps even if its presence is redundant.”

He said that from time to time, someone will try to convince him to use mid-grade fuel but ultimately “researching how the octane rating works and taking time to check the fuel recommendation in the car manual ultimately saved me money.”

“For most people, mid-grade does nothing and that is good to know,” he continued.

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*First Published: Mar 23, 2024, 10:00 am CDT