Aaron Widmar
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What Is Top Tier Detergent Gasoline, and Why Is It Better for Your Car?

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Gas Pump top tier gasoline

The world of gasoline is a mysterious one. For most of us, our only interaction involves driving up to a gas station, putting filling up our car, and driving off. There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes though, so picking the right gas station makes a big difference to the health of your car.

Your car’s owner’s manual probably recommends using “Top Tier detergent gasoline.” If you’re one of the many people who don’t know what that is or where to obtain it, here’s the scoop.

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How is a Top Tier gas different?

Official EPA standards are actually quite low for gasoline. They only call for the bare minimum but don’t require many additives to actually aid in how it interacts with your car’s engine over time. And, because gasoline is a dirty, unstable compound, perpetual use leads to gunk buildup that impedes on the engine’s operations.

Back in 2004, a bunch of automakers stepped up to start voluntarily improving the effects of gasoline on their brands’ engines by developing and overseeing the addition of particular detergents in the gasoline. The goal is to preserve their engines’ original performance and emissions over time.

To qualify as a Top Tier gas, the fuel must

  • maintain a cleanliness level that’s at well above EPA standards
  • contain certain amounts of detergent additives
  • contain no metallic additives
  • be supplied at all octane grades

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Should I use Top Tier gas in my car?

Practically all the major automakers — including the Big Three — recommend the use of Top Tier detergent gasoline in their vehicles, as identified in the owner’s manuals.

In 2016, AAA did a thorough study on the effectiveness of Top Tier detergent gasoline and confirmed that it does indeed do what it claims: cause less gunk build-up in the engine than non-detergent gasoline.

Over five dozen gas station retail chains in the U.S. and Canada are licensed carriers of Top Tier gas, including well-known companies like BP, Sunoco, Shell, and Exxon. As for grocery gas stations, many of them receive their supply from major gas companies, so you’ll have to check who your particular location’s supplier is.

If you’re unsure if the gas station you’re filling up at is a licensed retailer carrying Top Tier detergent gasoline, look for the required logo prominently displayed at the pump. You can also use the AAA app on your smartphone, which includes a Top Tier-licensed station locator, or go directly to the Top Tier website.

Sources: Consumer Reports, TOP TIER™