Fuel Tips: Why Top Tier Street Fuels Matter

By Staff Writer
Apr 6, 2021 | Sunoco, Fuel Tips, Sponsored Content | Posted in Features | From the May 2021 issue | Never miss an article

Sponsored Content Presented by Sunoco Race Fuels.

When you stop to fuel up your street car, what’s the most important draw? Price? Location? Points? Clean toilets? Artisan sandwiches sporting the perfect amount of lettuce?

Probably not the gasoline itself, right? After all, aren’t all pump fuels the same? 

Well, no.

Some gasolines qualify as Top Tier. These fuels meet the performance standards set forth by a group of vehicle makers: BMW, General Motors, Stellantis, Ford, Honda, Toyota, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and Navistar. 

“The Top Tier gasoline program was started by auto manufacturers who wanted cleaner fuels to reduce mechanical failures of their vehicles,” explains Zachary J. Santner, technical specialist at Sunoco Race Fuels.

What makes these fuels so special? Detergents. 

“Gasolines with higher amounts of detergent can prevent gunk and deposits from building up on valves, pistons, fuel injectors and intake runners,” Santner continues. “A clean engine will perform better, get better mpg and lower emissions. Top Tier fuels come from the same refineries as all other fuels but are given a higher treat rate of detergent at the terminal level. A Top Tier fuel like Sunoco can help keep your engine cleaner than a fuel that meets the government’s lowest additive concentration of detergent.”

In 2016, AAA set out to test that claim, running both Top Tier and non-Top Tier fuels through a 2.3-liter Ford engine mounted in a dyno cell. Each fuel was run for 100 hours, simulating about 4000 miles of real-world driving. After each fuel sample, the engine was disassembled so that deposits could be measured.

The full report covers 33 pages–you can find it at aaa.com–but here’s its take-home message: “The test engine operated on a Top Tier gasoline averaged 19 times fewer intake valve deposits than when it was operated on non-Top Tier gasoline.”

Which fuels meet this standard? Some 55 brands sold in the U.S., including these national chains: 76, ARCO, Amoco, BP, Citgo, Chevron, Conoco, Costco Wholesale, Diamond Shamrock, Exxon, Marathon, Mobil, Phillips 66, QuikTrip, Shell, Sinclair, Sunoco, Texaco and Valero.

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rpasea New Reader
4/7/21 8:50 p.m.

I wonder what they mean by "19 times less". Does it mean 5% of the deposits of the non detergent fuels?

Patientzero HalfDork
4/7/21 10:34 p.m.

I have a Conoco and Phillips 66 in my town.  Neither advertise as having Top Tier fuel.  The Phillips 66 a couple towns over does have the Top Tier sticker on the pump and I have noticed an increase in fuel mileage with that fuel.  I drive the exact same 100 miles everyday so it's pretty well controlled.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
4/8/21 1:44 p.m.
rpasea said:

I wonder what they mean by "19 times less". Does it mean 5% of the deposits of the non detergent fuels?

You can read the entire report, but here are some of their findings:

8/9/22 11:58 p.m.

In reply to Patientzero :

I go to an Arco station that has top tier fuel and it's one of the least expensive sources in our community.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
8/11/22 9:21 a.m.

In reply to timcking :

Wow, haven't seen an Arco in years. 

kb58 SuperDork
8/11/22 9:43 a.m.

Was talking with a auto repair shop and the owner said that they see a near 100% corelation between cars with gummed up valves and the owners using off-brand/mini-mart fuel.



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