It's been almost 20 years since the EPA banned leaded gasoline. How far has the car industry gone since?
Before "lead awareness" became a thing, lead was added to just about everything from paint to petrol. In 1919, researchers found out that adding lead, specifically tetraethyl lead, reduced occurrences of auto-ignition, which happens when combustion temperatures ignite the mixture too early. This caused engine knocking and, eventually, damage.
Although still used by other vehicles such as off-road vehicles and farm equipment, leaded fuel is out of the passenger car category. Tanking up your ride with leaded gasoline is grounds for a $10,000 fine. Today, many new and used cars for sale at Indianapolis dealers such as Fletcher Chrysler Dodge Jeep RAM run on either unleaded gasoline or diesel.
While Waiting for Hybrids…
Unleaded engines are the next best thing to electric cars, which are still few and far between. By taking harmful lead out of the mixture, emissions become less dangerous and lead levels in the blood drop. Replacing lead is ethanol, usually derived from corn, which does the job just as well. Most gasoline today contains at least 10 percent ethanol, hence its name: E10.
In addition, oil companies introduced new refining methods so that the fuel can resist knocking by itself such as catalytic cracking or shortening hydrocarbon chains. This gave rise to the term "octane rating," present in every gas pump in the country. Regular unleaded has a rating of 87 and is also the most affordable ($3.034 as of this writing in Indianapolis).
A Step Higher
While car dealers often recommend regular unleaded for standard cars, it's not exactly a rule set in stone. If the engine knocks while running on regular-grade, the Federal Trade Commission recommends the next level. Many cars are designed to run on high-octane levels, so don't worry about ruining your engine in the process.
If this fails, the car may need a tune-up; after which, return to regular-grade unleaded. Dealers of quality used cars in Indianapolis have service wings where vehicles can be brought for point inspections and repairs. In fact, having a service center near the lot makes it easy for customers to resolve issues found in a used car when buying.
Today's car owners can drive knowing that they're making less of an impact on the environment and health. With gas prices expected to slump throughout the end of 2014, buying a new or used car has never been this opportune.
(Source: "Why Lead Used to be Added to Gasoline," Today I Found Out)