Engine Oil/Gasonline Grade Question

I recently bought my first ever nice car.* In the past, since I’ve always owned clunkers, I’ve always gone the cheapest route possible when it comes to vehicle maintenance. I want to take care of this one, though. Problem is I know next to nothing about cars. I have a few questions.

Gasoline: The owners manual says to use “at least” 87 octane fuel. Would there be any benefit to using the more expensive fuel?

Engine Oil: When I get my oil changed, they always give me the choice between synthetic (most expensive), regular (cheapest), and something in between. How much difference is there really between the types of engine oil?

Any other tips for taking good care of a car? I’ve already started checking my tire pressure when I gas up (never bothered before).

*Ok, so it’s a Saturn. It’s still the nicest car I’ve ever owned.

Gasoline: 87 octane is fine, and anything higher is wasting money - it does NOT improve performance. High performance engines require higher octane because they are designed to (i.e, have higher compression ratios that require the higher octane). Simply putting higher octane fuel in the tank does nothing, because that doesn’t change the internal engine parts that would take advantage of the higher octane. Also, it helps to know that octane requirements go down as you rise in altitude - in some Rocky Mountain areas you will find 86 rather than 87, and at that altitude 86 is acceptable.

Oil: For a Saturn, I’d use regular oil, and just change it as needed.

Other items: I don’t think I’ve seen it mentioned in recent owners manuals, but I’ve always planned on some parts as needing periodic replacement no matter what: Hoses, belts, spark plug wires, and battery cables. These components have a long life but do eventually degrade. I replace hoses, belts, and spark plug wires about every 4 years, and battery cables about about every 8 years depending on how corroded they are, (oh yeah, the battery itself will last about 4 years, maybe a year or two longer, but not forever). These are not expensive parts and are easy to change, yet a failure will be a pain if you are on the road.

No. If the engine had significant internal carbon deposits and was pinging because of that, higher octane fuel might alleviate the symptom, but otherwise there’s really nothing to be gained.

There can be significant differences, but conventional oil is quite adequate provided it’s changed often enough (which may well be less often than the oil change place suggests – check the schedule in the owner’s manual). There are benefits to using synthetic oil, but it’s arguable whether it’s cost-effective compared to using conventional oil. For engines that require synthetic oil, it’s a different story.

It depends. If the owner’s manual says to use 87 octane fuel then using anything higher is not only a waste of money, but it can make your car run worse. However, your manual says “at least” which is an important couple of words there. My Cadillac says 89 or better octane, and gets better gas mileage from 91 than 89, but not enough better to justify the higher price. Conversely, my wife’s Toyota says 89 octane (it doesn’t say “or better” or “at least”) and gets worse gas mileage with 91 octane than 89. You can try it on yours and see if it makes any difference, but the difference in performance probably won’t be greater than the difference in price. You are probably best to stick with 87 if that’s what it is designed for.

Note that octane rating only refers to how compressible the gasoline is before it spontaneously goes boom. Put too low of an octane fuel in your car and the compression of the cylinder will cause it to detonate before the spark plug makes it detonate. This can be quite harmful to your car. Most modern cars have knock sensors that will retard the timing and make sure you don’t actually do any serious harm to your engine, but still, it’s not a good thing. Generally speaking, a higher octane doesn’t provide you any benefit because you are paying extra money for gasoline that won’t spontaneously combust from compression pressures that your engine never reaches anyway.

Octane rating has absolutely nothing at all to do with energy content. Higher octane fuels do not have more energy in them. In fact, it can quite easily be the opposite. Take some 87 octane fuel and add a bunch of alcohol to it. You’ll boost the octane rating and drop the energy content simultaneously.

In my opinion, not that much. I’ve always used regular oil, not synthetic, and I always drive cars until they rust and fall apart. I’ve had several cars with far more than 200,000 miles on them and they haven’t had any sort of engine problem at all.

Drive on 87 octane, change the conventional oil at the intervals recommended in the manual and relax.

It’s a Saturn. There are variables, ifs, buts and other things to add for oil and gas discussion, but not for this discussion. Your car has no special needs. That is a good thing.

And me saying ‘it’s a Saturn’ is not an insult. For example: There are some Toyota drivers out there who should use synthetic oils, because they have Toyota V6’s from certain model years that are notorious for sludging up… and synthetic oil can help prevent that.

I never miss a chance to take a dig at Toyota.

Happy motoring! Beep beep!

Thanks guys! Nice to know I don’t need to worry about it too much.

For just a sec, I misread the title as “Engine oil/gasoline grenade question”.

I don’t think that kind of talk is allowed on this board… :stuck_out_tongue:

The lowest octane that your engine can run will give you the best performance and mileage. My last Mustang GT recommended 87 octane, but I had the timing advanced so far that 93 was the minimum I could run.

Congratulations on the new car. [Dad mode]Don’t forget to check your oil.[/Dad mode]

This would be a good time to establish a relationship with a good mechanic. Some people prefer to have dealers perform scheduled maintenance while others (myself included) think that if you have a good responsible independent mechanic, he’ll (or she’ll) be fine for most of the normal stuff. Many people also have strong negative feelings about Jiffy Lube et al.

When my daughter went to college, I checked out the local full service gas stations (they still exist in some places), found one that I liked and got her a credit card for it. She always fills up there so that they get to know her and has them perform her maintenance. It’s good peace of mind.

I guess that was all Dad Mode.

Congrats!You sound like me. My first 7 cars probably cost 2000 dollars all put together!

Gasoline- Doesn’t matter. That is why you have a gas filter. I buy mine at Walmart because it is not imported from Saudi. This is just something I do for my own reasons.

Engine Oil- This is huge! This is the life blood of your car. I only use Mobile One. I can’t stress this enough that you need Mobile One or synthetic oil and you need to change it sooner then your owners manual says to. Every three thousand miles works for me. I also check it every other week and look for oil spots. If you never open the hood you won’t see a blown head gasket. I got 360,000 miles out of a car and the engine did not burn a drop of oil. The body rusted out but the engine was still good. With a Saturn you should not have the rust problems.

While your under the hood checking your oil do a visual of all the fluids. There is a fill line and it needs to be at the fill line. Never add more oil or any other fluid above the fill line. It can damage the car. Check the belt or belts for wear and cracks. When ever I buy a car I go and buy new wiper blades. They cost about 7 bucks and snap on. I don’t know how old they are and if you lose one in the rain you will scratch your windshield. A scratched windshield is not repairable and can run you 400 bucks. Up North I switch to winter blades for the winter because snow is heavy and it can save you a wiper motor. I also use good windshield wiper fluid. It’s orange and has rain guard. You can see so much better in the rain with this brand.

Don’t forget to check your tires. I always do a visual to see if I need air in them. You can tell if one looks flatter then the others. Correct tire pressure gives you more life in your tires and filling up a low tire will save the tire.

Get Triple AAA. One tow pays for it for the year and you get some good discounts online. Keep a pair of jumper cables in the trunk just in case.

If you find a good mechanic treat him like gold. I never go to dealerships because they rip you off. A good mechanic will tell you what you need to get fixed next and how much it will cost before they do any work. They will give you a heads up that your brakes are going or you need a tune up. They will charge less then 75 dollars an hour in labor.

I recently learned I had been adjusting my mirrors wrong all my life. There is a video on how to adjust them correctly on UTube. I no longer have a blind spot.

Sorry so long but I am the same way with my son about keeping up with his car maintenance. I see so many young people run cars into the ground by not checking on things in time or changing their oil. I bring my car in to my mechanic not only for an oil change but because he checks everything for me. Never go to Jiffy Lube they don’t have licensed mechanics and they could care less about your car.

You are using synthetic and changing every 3000 miles :eek:

Most new cars these days even on severe driving schedules say you can go 5000 miles on conventional. You can get easily double that on synthetic. You are wasting a lot of money changing synthetic oil that often.

My incredibly rough, probably wrong estimate is that over the course of those 360,000 miles, you spent about $4500 more than you would have if you’d used conventional oil every 5000 miles.

Rather than take the time to detail everything that is cockeyed, misleading, or wrong in Perciful’s post, I’ll just say that the part about adjusting the mirrors is good.

Thanks Gary. I was so shocked to learn that I had been doing my mirrors wrong and giving myself a blind spot.

I think everyone missed the main point that good oil reduces friction in the engine. It lowers engine pressure and temperature, two things that cook your engine. If you don’t want to use mobile one use a generic synthetic blend. The comparison is asinine because we all know what a blown engine costs to replace.

Also this is a young person and every time they bring it in to get an oil change the mechanic has a chance to spot a potential problem that they might not know about. A stitch in time saves nine. A leak can cost you thousands if not caught.

I know exactly how to blow a rod, been there done that. I was stranded on Rt. 91 at 21 with strange guys pulling over. Thank God the state trooper showed up. I blew a second engine on 95 with my infant son strapped in the car. I don’t mess around anymore with Jiffy Lubes and not having a well trusted oil, mechanic and routine schedule of maintenance.