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How Stale Gas Can Affect the Performance of Your Car

Posted by: Bell Performance

So why does gas go bad? It all has to do with gasoline's chemical composition.

How_Stale_Gas_Can_Affect_the_Performance_of_Your_CarGasoline is a refined petroleum product designed to be volatile so it can be efficiently burned in a vehicle internal-combustion engine.

The storage quality of gas is not what it used to be, primarily because of refinery cracking methods that are employed to maximize the most yield of gasoline out of each barrel of oil.  

Here's a look at some of the effects of poor gasoline:


When hydrocarbons react with oxygen exposure, the chemical composition of the gasoline mixture effectively changes. Free radicals are produced that lead to oxidation and deposits in the fuel system that clog up the lines and filters and also impact other parts of the engine. The end result is an engine that operates inefficiently and will also likely need maintenance soon.

Water Buildup

Most gas these days contains some sort of amount of ethanol. Ethanol has properties to where it's susceptible to drawing water molecules into the fuel from the surrounding environment. And water is detrimental to a fuel mixture as it has the tendency to cause hard starting and a poor running engine. It also has the tendency to cause rust in the fuel system which can lead to further engine issues.

As you can see, stale gas can lead to poor running quality, less mpgs and poor overall engine health. So how do you keep your car's gas from going stale? First, you can fuel up at a reliable service station, where you know you're getting good quality ethanol-free gasoline. Secondly, make sure that gas isn't sitting in your car. A good way to ensure that gas stays pure is to drive your vehicle often so that gas is continuously cycling through your engine. And last, and perhaps most importantly, administer a fuel additive to your fuel mixture. Additives work to remove ethanol from a fuel mixture so that you're getting the most pure mixture of gasoline possible.

Stale gas can lead to the likes of:

  • Oxidation
  • Water Buildup

Each of these has the potential to wreak havoc on an engine. Be sure you're taking the necessary measures to combat stale fuel. Some simple housekeeping can go a long way. And some simple, inexpensive products like fuel additives can pay off big dividends in the long run as well.

What You Need To Know About Today's Ethanol Fuels

Photo Credit / Creative Commons / No Changes Made

This post was published on April 7, 2014 and was updated on April 15, 2021.

Topics: Cars and Light Trucks, Gasoline, Car Care