Why You May Make a Sale if You Talk to Your Customer About Gasoline Octane Ratings and Performance

The Mechanic Doctor – Resources for Amateur and Pro Auto Mechanics

Drivers make many mistakes. One of them happens at the pump. As their mechanic, your customers may appreciate it if you check with them about the gasoline they are using and whether it is right for their car.  Even better, this discussion may lead to a discussion about performance, which may bring more business your way.

High Octane Gas Required

Many luxury vehicles need high octane gas. If they don’t use it, they are depriving their engine of what it needs.  If your customer doesn’t understand this, you can explain that premium gas has a higher octane rating of 91 or 93.  This gas can stand more heat and will not detonate until it reaches a higher compression rate.

Every time that detonation happens at the wrong time, it is chipping away at the engine’s performance. If the driver repeatedly uses regular gas, rated at 87, the sophisticated engine will decline and perhaps have a shorter road life as a result.  Smart customers will appreciate your honesty and advice.

What’s more, using high octane gas ensures that the car will be as powerful as it was built to be. It also affects fuel efficiency as the electronic control unit works to account for the difference in octane levels.  Furthermore, using the low octane fuel will lead to engine knock. This is a step toward the engine damage that your customer really wants to avoid.  While you might earn more from car repair if they ignore your advice, you will likely earn their thanks by sharing your concerns.

When discussing octane ratings with customers, it is essential to emphasize that using a lower octane rating than recommended can void the warranty.  Even if their car is old, they can understand that the manufacturer was serious about its requirements.

Regular Gas

That being said, you need to make sure your customers understand that there is no benefit from using high octane gas if their car requires only regular gas.  Using high octane gas will not help their fuel efficiency. It won’t make their car a better performer.  It doesn’t help with emissions either. There’s simply no reason to pay more for high octane gas. That’s according to the Federal Trade Commission, which studied the issue.

Consumers are often confused about the difference between regular and high octane gas. They think that more expensive means better. Mechanics needs to help customers understand that spending more on gasoline will not improve their performance.

That said, there are probably things you can do as their mechanic to improve their vehicle’s performance. So, if that’s your customer’s goal, you are the one who can actually make a difference.  Of course, not all vehicles lend themselves to performance improvements, but this may be an opportunity to upsell your services without taking advantage of a customer.

Adding to the confusion over octane ratings and performance, some manufacturers will state that a higher octane level is recommended but not required. In those cases, a higher octane fuel may improve the engine’s response.  According to AAA, the difference is only slight, but it is there.

Improving Performance the Right Way

Once you’ve established if better performance is an issue for them, you are positioned to offer some upgrades that could make them very happy.  Here are some of our favorites.

Spark Plug Replacement

If they tell you that performance is dropping, that’s your cue to mention replacing the spark plugs. It could be a little early in terms of the recommendation, but we all know that worn-out spark plugs cause ignition coils to work too hard.  If you replace them, the customer should immediately see a return to old performance and fuel efficiency levels.

Stiffer Front Suspension

Many vehicles have so-so cornering ability. You can assist your customer with that by adding a strut tower brace.  This will stiffen the front suspension and help even out the force during turns taken at speed.  There are other options as well.  A stiffer sway bar is an excellent way to stop understeer on a front-wheel-drive vehicle. If your customer drives a rear-wheel-drive vehicle, a stiffer sway bar can correct for oversteer.

Cold Air Intake

With a cold air intake kit, you can direct this cooling air into the internal combustion engine. To explain it to your customer, you can simply say that you help the engine breathe more easily.  In scientific terms, this is because cold air is denser than hot air. The kit will cost them a few hundred dollars, and you could make a few hundred by installing it.

Upgraded Bushings

If your customer’s car is older, there’s a good chance that they have rubber bushings. By replacing them with polyurethane bushings, you can improve performance. They will add strength and absorb energy better, improving the sway bars’ response and control arms.

New Exhaust System

If your customer really wants to make a difference, you could encourage them to consider a cat-back exhaust system. You would be replacing the stock muffler and exhaust pile with a high-performance exhaust system.

Last Words

When you consider how much information gets thrown at people today, you can appreciate how your customer may need your expertise. So don’t hold back. Tell them what you think and find out what’s bugging them. You may just upsell them on something you weren’t expecting, a performance upgrade that they will love.


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