Fresh Fuel: Using Gasoline Before It Goes Bad

Fresh Fuel: Using Gasoline Before It Goes Bad

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Just like you need to eat right to feel your best, your vehicle needs fresh fuel for optimum performance.

And similar to the food that passes its expiration date and may not be pleasing to eat or provide proper nourishment, old gasoline also becomes stale with time. 

Not everyone drives their vehicle all of the time, and old gas can sit inside of the tank, losing its freshness with each passing day. And because moisture and oxygen inside the tank contribute to fuel degradation, the less fuel inside, the quicker it spoils. 

It's essential to monitor the quality of the fuel in your tank because should it cause mechanical issues, your insurance company probably won't pay for repairs. When gasoline goes bad, it no longer provides the ideal fuel for your car's engine and might cause damage to internal components, as well as the fuel system. 

Although gasoline does have a shelf life, there are several practices for keeping it fresh and preventing degradation. 

How long does gas last? Does gasoline go bad?

Let's explore the subject of the shelf life of gasoline, how to recognize the symptoms of bad gas, and some ways to keep the fuel in your tank fresher.

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How long does gas last?

According to Greg Bannon, director of automotive engineering and industry relations for AAA, "The key thing to remember is that gasoline is a living chemical." 

Because of this, fresh gas slowly degrades over time and, if it becomes stale, can cause an array of engine issues.

Typically, regular gasoline has a usable time limit of three to six months. And knowing the age of the gas in your fuel tank may prove challenging, as it goes through many steps before arriving there.

Gasoline starts at a refinery, where it sits in storage for days or weeks before it reaches the pump. And even then, depending on the level of traffic at a particular gas station, it could go unused for even longer. Before you fill up your tank, a specific batch of gasoline may be over a month old. 

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What are the symptoms of bad gas?

As gasoline ages, its composition changes, and its octane rating suffers over time. With today's engines designed for specific grades of fuel that have unique octane ratings, this can have a negative effect on engine performance. 

You can tell if old gasoline goes stale in several ways. 

Perhaps the most obvious indicator is the illumination of the check engine light. If your car is up to date on all maintenance and has plenty of oil, bad gas may be the cause.

Or if your typically smooth running engine begins to exhibit rough idling, decreased power under acceleration, or won't start, the cause may be stale gasoline. There might be damage to the fuel pump or fuel injectors in that scenario. If this happens, visiting a mechanic may be a good option. 

You can also discover whether or not gasoline is bad by its appearance or odor. Stale gasoline is usually darker in color and has a pungent smell compared to fresh fuel. 

If your tank is full of bad gas, it's a good idea to have it pumped out and replace it with new fuel.

That's because, in addition to causing poor engine performance, stale gasoline may cause damage to internal components or leave behind a gum-like residue in the fuel lines. And if the gas you use contains ethanol and goes bad, it can attract water vapor that leads to corrosion in the fuel system and tank.

How to prevent stale gasoline

You can try several methods to keep fuel fresh. 

The first is regularly driving your vehicle, even for short trips, which stops fuel from going bad. In addition, it creates the need to fill up the tank now and then with new gas. 

If you don't drive much and have concerns about your fuel becoming stale, topping off the tank is one way to retain its freshness. When you fill up your gas tank, it squeezes out excess air, lessening the chance of condensation build-up and fuel degradation. 

A full gas tank also lowers the amount of oxygen inside, giving gasoline less of a chance to evaporate and helping to retain its chemical properties. 

A fuel stabilizer is another way to ensure the longevity of a tank of gas. 

Fuel stabilizer works to prevent gasoline degradation over long periods. It's crucial to add a fuel stabilizer to fresh gasoline for the best results, but pouring some into a tank of bad fuel does help in stopping further spoilage. 

You can find a fuel stabilizer at your local auto parts store, and it typically comes in small bottles. Common brands of fuel stabilizers are Sta-Bil and Sea Foam.

When storing gasoline, it's best to use containers with a three- to five-gallon capacity and airtight lids and keep it in a cool area with low oxygen and low humidity. 

Keeping fresh fuel in the gas tank is just one way of maintaining a vehicle in excellent condition. And when you're in the market for a used car, you want something that's been well-cared for and stands the test of time. With Shift's best-in-industry service contracts, you know your new-to-you vehicle's good to go, mile after mile. With a Shift Vehicle Protection plan, not only are essential components covered, but you receive roadside assistance. Wherever you happen to be in the continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, or Canada, help is just a toll-free phone call away, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. And for extra reassurance, any car you buy from Shift has a seven-day refund policy. In case you aren't fully satisfied with your purchase, you're able to return it with no questions asked.

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Author
Shift Editorial Team