Reader Question: Feed the GTI Regular?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

David asks: Can you run a GTI on regular gas without damaging the engine? I realize you wont get the power but you don’t always need the power and cheaper gas is nice. Why spend money when you don’t need too?

My reply: You won’t hurt the engine by running regular unleaded (with lower than specified octane) because your GTI’s engine has knock sensors and will automatically dial back boost/ignition timing to compensate for the lower-octane fuel. In older cars without the ability to self-adjust for lower-octane fuels, you risked mechanical damage from pre-ignition if you didn’t use fuel of the specified octane rating.

However, you may actually hurt your mileage.

The reason being your GTI’s engine was designed to run most efficiently as well as make its maximum power on higher octane premium fuel.

Octane can be thought of as a measure of a fuel’s resistance to heat and pressure; lower octane fuels are more likely to pre-ignite from the heat and pressure inside a cylinder with high mechanical compression or which is pressurized via turbo-supercharging, like your GTI’s engine. High octane fuels are more resistant to heat and compression and so don’t ignite prematurely. The engine is able to compress the air-fuel mix to the just the optimum degree and then the spark plug ignites the mix.

When you use lower-octane fuel, the “burn” isn’t optimal and so power and efficiency are reduced.

Try a test: Fill your car’s tank with regular and drive as you normally do. Note the miles travelled and calculate your mileage. Then do the same with premium. It’s very likely you’ll see a reduction in your mileage on regular. It won’t be huge but it may be enough to offset the savings at the pump.

Hope this was helpful!

. . .

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  1. Why run regular? That’s basically $6 savings.

    If you ever tune the GTI, you’ll wanna stick to 91/93 anyway (wherever you live), and unless you suddenly get lead footed over the tune, you’ll get a bit more MPG (then comes the downpipe, the CAI, the Intercooler and other mods, plus DCT tune/Clutch depending on whatcha drive, and before long, you got a beast on your hands)


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