Why do pumps still specify "Unleaded" gasoline?

I’m just old enough to have actually seen and remember when gas stations still sold both leaded and unleaded gasoline. I know it was only 1996 when leaded was officially outlawed for on-road vehicles, but it’s been at least 20-25 years since I’ve actually seen it.

My question is if commercial pumps cannot legally sell leaded gasoline, why do they still specify “unleaded”?

What do you want them to call it? It’s gasoline with specific properties, so it needs some sort of specific epithet to distinguish it from other gasoline. Everybody knows what unleaded means, so what would be the point of changing it?

Back in the “old days” there were at least two types of gasoline sold at every station: regular or standard gasoline and super or premium. As a generalisation your old cars ran on standard, the new cars (ie, late 60s and newer models) ran on premium.

Then unleaded was introduced, and it replaced standard because by the mid 80s cars were capable of getting good performance on standard. So most stations sold unleaded and premium for many years. Then leaded was phased out altogether, and there were premium unleaded and unleaded. Now there are also various alcohol blends and so forth.

So, with all those different types of fuel and all those types of engines, what do you suggest we call unleaded? We could go back to calling it regular I suppose, but it hardly seems to achieve anything that calling it unleaded doesn’t also achieve.

I suppose “regular” would be acceptable. “Unleaded” just seems archaic.

Leaded gas is still sold for marine and aircraft engines as well as for agricultural equipment. It may be irrelevant 98% of the time, but it still makes sense to mark which is which.

Regulations exist in all states and at the federal level defining what constitutes each fuel and you will have to get all these descriptions changed. The following is one such example.

New York State Weights and Measures Regulations
1 NYCRR Part 224

Issued December 28, 2007

Can you provide a cite for this?

To distinguish

It wasn’t until last year that NASCAR eliminated leaded gasoline.

Also, pretty much every car on the road says “UNLEADED FUEL ONLY” on the gas cap and on the gas gauge. If you don’t label the pump as unleaded you’re going to get someone who’s confused.

I think the simplest answer is because that’s what we have always called it. I don’t think if a gas station changed all the “unleaded” signs to “regular” tomorrow, people would start freaking out that they might be buying leaded gasoline. But then again, what’s the motivation to change the signs in the first place?

In 20 years, someone will ask you “Why do you still call your phone a cell phone? As if there is any other kind of phone”. And all you will have to offer is that this is what you have always called it.

The Avgas fuels are dyed to distinguish the different types. 100LL is blue, 80/87 is red, 130 is green, and 82 lead free is purple. About the only aviation fuel sold any more is 100LL which means people with engines designed for 80/87 have to add a lead scavenging additive to keep the plugs from fowling.

If you avoid bird strikes I assure you that you will never, ever have a fowled plug.

I’ve seen “regular” used to designate the lowest octane gas variety at a particular pump, with “premium” and other descriptors used to designate the higher octane versions.

Don’t you have diesel 4WDs and light trucks in the US? Differentiating the petrol pumps from diesel pumps would be one reason to still specify “Unleaded” fuel… Also, there’s ethanol blended fuel (E10) which is sold alongside Unleaded and Diesel fuel at many petrol stations here too…

I remember when AMOCO sold 100 octane unleaded gasoline.
Just why they sold it was a mystery-I don’t think and cars were sold in the USA (save a few Ferraris and Maseratis) that had engines with compression ratios >10.5:1.
The stuff must have sold though-it was available until the early 1990’s, i think.

Diesel is designated “diesel” and shouldn’t (although it sometimes still does) get confused with gasoline. This was true before in the introduction of unleaded gas.

Yup, and it’s usually marked in big bold letters on the pump, plus the pump is usually in a different color than the others. I believe the nozzle is a different diameter/configuration as well, to help avoid problems with putting the wrong fuel in.

The nozzles for leaded and unleaded are different sizes, so that, back when we had both, I couldn’t fit a leaded gas nozzle into the tank on my unleaded car. That probably isn’t why the pumps are labeled as they are. I think they are labeled “unleaded” because that is the kind of gas that is in there, the “gasoline” is understood. Its the name that has always been used and changing it would be confusing.

It still happens sometimes. My stepmother did it over the winter. Cost her $800 to get the tank dumped and the system flushed. Fortunately she realized it quickly or it could have been worse.

Guess you never had an American muscle car from the 60’s then? Plenty of them had 11:1 compression or more. The L88 Corvette, for instance, came from the factory with 12.5:1 and required 100 octane.