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Engine Alert: Could Cheap Gasoline Be Sabotaging Your Motorcycle?

Can cheap fuel damage my engine? This is a question many motorcycle owners ask themselves, especially when they are on a tight budget.

This is the extended version. You can read the short version here.

The answer is not straightforward, as it depends on several factors, including the type of fuel, the engine’s design, and the fuel quality. However, one thing is clear – using low-quality fuel can have a negative impact on your engine’s performance and longevity.

Understanding Fuel Types is crucial when determining whether cheap fuel can damage your engine. Gasoline and diesel are the two most common fuel types used by motorcycles. I know Diesel motorcycles are uncommon, but I clearly remember a Diesel military version of the Royal Enfield. There are also other fuel types, such as ethanol, biodiesel, and hydrogen, but I’m not sure if there are bikes that use those.

Each fuel type has different properties that can affect your engine’s performance and longevity. For example, ethanol can corrode certain engine parts, while biodiesel can clog fuel filters. Therefore, it is essential to know which fuel is suitable for your motorcycle and stick to it.

Understanding Fuel Types

As a car owner, it is essential to understand the different types of fuel available in the market and their impact on your engine. The fuel you choose can significantly affect your engine’s performance and longevity. In this section, I will discuss the most common fuel types and their effects on your engine.

Regular Unleaded Gas

Regular unleaded gas is the most common type of fuel used in cars. It has an octane rating of 87 and is suitable for most motorcycles. It is also the most affordable fuel type, making it a popular choice for many bike owners. However, using regular unleaded gas in an engine that requires a higher octane rating can cause knocking and reduce your engine’s performance.

Premium Gas

Premium gas has a higher octane rating, usually between 91 and 94. It is more expensive than regular unleaded gas but is suitable for high-performance engines that require a higher octane rating. Using premium gas in an engine that does not require it will not improve performance or fuel efficiency. It’s just a waste of money!


E10 is a blend of 10% ethanol and 90% gasoline. It is a common fuel type in the United States and is suitable for most vehicles. However, it can reduce fuel efficiency and cause damage to engines that are not designed to use ethanol.

You can check a list of motorcycles that are okay to use E10 on the UK government site Here. The site is well done with a search tool that is easy and quick to search.


E15 is a blend of 15% ethanol and 85% gasoline. It is a newer fuel type and is not yet widely available. It is suitable for some vehicles, but not all. Using E15 in an engine that is not designed to use it can cause damage. Almost all motorcycles can’t use E15 gas. Using E15 in your motorcycle can damage the motor.


E85 is a blend of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline. It is suitable for flex-fuel vehicles designed to use it. Using E85 in an engine that is not designed to use it can cause damage. Most of the motorcycles cannot use E85. Some manufacturers, like Royal Enfield, are working on the E85 model.

High-Octane Gas

High-octane gas has an octane rating of 91 or higher. It is suitable for high-performance engines that require a higher octane rating. Using high-octane gas in an engine that does not require it will not improve performance or fuel efficiency.

Usually, only highly modified motorcycle need High-Octane, and at this point, I don’t thinks they have to look on my site to find the information on Fuel. But for the common motorcycle rider, let’s assume that your compression doesn’t require special fuel. “An octane rating, or octane number, is a standard measure of a fuel’s ability to withstand compression in an internal combustion engine without detonating. The higher the octane number, the more compression the fuel can withstand before detonating.” As stated by Wikipedia

In conclusion, using the correct fuel type for your vehicle is crucial for optimal engine performance and longevity. Always consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual to determine the appropriate fuel type for your engine.

Fuel and Engine Performance, the infamous knocking sound.

Premium fuel is often marketed as a way to improve engine performance. However, in most cases, using premium fuel won’t make a noticeable difference in your car’s performance. Using higher octane fuel than your engine requires can decrease performance and fuel efficiency.

Now, let’s talk about engine knock. Engine knock occurs when the fuel in your engine combusts too early, causing a knocking sound. Higher octane fuels are less likely to cause engine knock, but if your engine is designed to run on regular fuel, using premium fuel won’t prevent engine knock.

In common language, engine knock occurs when the gas in the piston chamber ignites before the spark plug ignites it. Regular fuel ignites at lower compression than high-octane fuel. You would want the fuel to ignite when the piston is at TDC (Top Dead Center). That’s why if you have a low-compression engine, you don’t need High octane fuel.

In conclusion, using cheap fuel won’t necessarily damage your engine, but it can impact engine performance and fuel efficiency. It’s essential to use the fuel recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer to ensure optimal performance and longevity of your engine. If you’re experiencing engine knock or decreased performance, it’s worth checking to ensure you’re using the correct fuel for your engine’s specifications.

illustration of the damage that can be cause on a motorcycle using cheap fuel.

The Impact of Cheap or Unclean Fuel on Engine

When you use cheap fuel, you risk filling up your engine with impurities, such as dirt, dust, and other contaminants. These impurities can accumulate over time and clog up your engine’s fuel system, leading to decreased performance and damage.

Usually, in North America, you will not often have to rely on cheap fuel. If you stick to the most reputable gas station, they must stick to excellent quality fuel.

When I talk about cheap or unclean fuel, I talk more about the fuel in your old oncle garage in the big rusty tank that he has bought used from a friend. This fuel is more likely to have impurities, and you should not use it in your motorcycle.

You can also encounter bizarre fuel stations if you travel a lot…Maybe if you are in the center of the African desert and the only gas you can get comes from a guy with two jerry cans strapped to his camel back, you can guess that the standard quality may not be at the top.

In summary, using cheap fuel can lead to engine damage and costly repairs. It’s best to stick with high-quality fuel to ensure your engine gets the best fuel possible and avoid any potential damage.

Fuel quality and motorcycle type

In recent years, I have followed many adventurers on their journeys to particular places, and you can see lots of them on social networks. Last time I checked, Itchy Boots CRF250l did not always drink high-end quality fuel and had a ride from the tip of South America to Yukon without any significant mechanical issues.

I could not say the same about engines reviving at very high speeds. Let’s think about it this way: if your engine is revving at 5000 rpm, there is way less stress on it than a racer that revs at 14 000 rpm. That’s why fuel quality is critical for racing engines or engines with more rpm.

I would argue for the common sense here. Try to follow the manufacturer’s information on what type of fuel you are using. If you are an adventurer stuck on a mountain top with an empty motorcycle, chances are that you are not driving a racing bike anyway.

The Role of Additives and Detergents

Using cheap fuel in your engine may cause harm to it, and the role of additives and detergents is to prevent that damage. Is it just what the industry wants you to believe, or is it real?

This article from the Consumer Report said that you should use Top Tiers fuel whenever you can, and that’s the cheapest option for your car in the long run. Cheapest Gas Can Still Be Top Tier, If You Do Some Research – Consumer Reports

But I remember the Shell Canadian Lawsuit from 2003, where the presence of an additive in the “bronze” fuel category caused issues on specific models of vehicles. You can read more on this here. So, my guess is to take this with a grain of salt.

Fuel additives are chemicals added to gasoline to improve performance and reduce engine wear. They are added to gasoline to enhance its octane rating, improve fuel economy, reduce emissions, and prevent deposits from forming in the engine. Some common fuel additives include detergents, corrosion inhibitors, octane boosters, and oxygenates.

Detergents are a type of fuel additive that helps to keep your engine clean. They work by removing deposits that can form in the engine over time. These deposits can cause engine knock, reduce fuel economy, and increase emissions. Detergents also help to prevent deposits from forming in the first place, which can help to extend the life of your engine.

In addition to detergents, other additives can help to improve the performance of your engine. For example, octane boosters can increase the octane rating of your fuel, which can help to prevent engine knock and improve performance. Oxygenates can also help to reduce emissions by increasing the oxygen content of the fuel.

If you don’t want to pay more for your fuel, you can also buy these detergents and parts cleaner separately from your standard fuel and add them occasionally.

In conclusion, the role of additives and detergents is to prevent damage to your engine caused by cheap fuel. They work by keeping your engine clean and preventing deposits from forming. By using high-quality gasoline with the right additives, you can help to extend the life of your engine and improve its performance.

Engine Alert: Could Cheap Gasoline Be Sabotaging Your Motorcycle?

What I do with my motorcycles

I always put premium fuel in my motorcycle. You can say that’s more a habit than anything else. I think that premium fuel additives can help with the deposit of carbon and make my motor more efficient. I also try to pay attention to the level of ethanol and refuel in the stations with less ethanol possible in the mix.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can use lower-quality fuel cause damage to my motorcycle’s engine?

Yes, using lower-quality fuel can cause damage to your motorcycle’s engine. Cheap gasoline may contain impurities that can clog fuel injectors and damage sensitive engine components. Over time, this can lead to decreased performance and even engine failure.

What are the risks of using cheap gas in my car?

The risks of using cheap gas in your motorcycle include reduced fuel efficiency, decreased engine performance, and potential damage to your motorcycle’s engine. Low-quality fuel can also lead to increased emissions, which can harm the environment and contribute to air pollution.

How does using low-quality gasoline affect my motorcycle’s performance?

Using low-quality gasoline can negatively affect your motorcycle’s performance in several ways. It can cause engine knocking, decreased fuel efficiency, and reduced acceleration. In severe cases, it can even cause engine damage or failure.

What are the potential long-term effects of using low-quality fuel?

The potential long-term effects of using low-quality fuel include decreased engine performance, increased emissions, and potential damage to your motorcycle’s engine. Over time, these effects can become more severe and lead to costly repairs or even the need for a new engine.

Is it worth it to save money by using cheaper gasoline?

While it may seem like a good idea to save money by using cheaper gasoline, the potential risks and long-term effects of using low-quality fuel may outweigh the short-term savings. It’s essential to choose a reputable gas station and use high-quality gasoline to ensure the best performance and longevity of your car’s engine.

What should I look for when choosing a gas station to ensure I get good-quality fuel?

When choosing a gas station, look for one with a good reputation for providing high-quality fuel. Check for signs of cleanliness and maintenance, and ask about the station’s fuel testing and certification procedures. It’s also essential to choose a station that has a consistent supply of gasoline to ensure that you are getting fresh fuel every time you fill up.

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