Ideal fuels for wintertime storage | Fuel Facts

Photograph Courtesy Frederik Højfeldt Nielsen/Unsplash

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About to put that car away for the winter? Filling the tank with the right fuel now can put you in a better spot come springtime. 

Cleanliness Matters:

When it comes to fuel cleanliness, explains Zachary J. Santner, technical specialist at Sunoco, a more refined fuel like a higher-octane product or a race fuel contains less gum, varnish and other unstable compounds. Those impurities, he continues, can lead to deposits within the fuel system.

A Top Tier fuel also contains more detergents to clean away any deposits caused by those kinds of compounds. Santner adds that all of Sunoco’s fuels carry that Top Tier designation. 


Freshness Matters:

Fuel goes stale as it sits, and stale fuel is harder to ignite. 

Here’s the science to back up that statement: Gasoline is formed of aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons, which can be called open chains and closed rings. Those light ends, technically known as short-chain aliphatic hydrocarbons, evaporate first, Santner explains. That leaves behind the long-chain aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons that are harder to ignite because they need a higher temperature to vaporize enough fuel to support combustion. 

To help fight that aging process, pump gasoline contains antioxidants that are consumed as they react with oxygen. But there’s a catch: These antioxidant packages cost money to produce, so they’re more likely to be found in higher-octane pump fuel and specialty race products. (See a trend here?)


Alcohol Content Matters:

Most pump fuels contain ethanol, and that ethanol attracts the moisture found in the air we breathe. (Why is ethanol inside fuel? It’s an easy way to make horsepower and serves as a renewable fuel source.) However, water doesn’t burn nearly as well as gasoline and causes other issues in the fuel system–like, potentially, problems in the tank, lines and pump. Ethanol-free fuels can be your friend for storage.


Given a choice, a premium, non-ethanol fuel is better for storage than a lower-octane product that contains ethanol. But does the perfect storage fuel exist? Santner points to a product designed to tick all the boxes: Sunoco’s Optima is highly refined, free of alcohol and loaded up with antioxidants.

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