Toyota Tundra Tips: Premium Gas vs. Regular

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Here’s the deal: Toyota recommends 87 octane for the new Tundra. In most states, that’s the lowest octane available. Because the Tundra was designed for the lowest octane, you should only use the lowest octane available, regardless of the engine you have. If you live at high altitude, you can even use 85 octane with no problems.

But wait — what about better engine performance? Or better gas mileage? These claims (typically made by the gas companies) are bogus. While there may be some slight benefits to using high octane fuel, the extra cost doesn’t justify the extra expense. Don’t believe it? We found this article that explains exactly why Tundra owners shouldn’t buy premium.

However there is one benefit to premium that the Car Guys didn’t mention: Most high octane fuel contains detergents that will clean your fuel system. These detergents are similar to (but less concentrated than) a bottle of gas treatment that you would buy at the auto parts store. Fuel system treatments are good preventative maintenance — over time, impurities will deposit themselves at the natural “choke” points in your fuel system. Typically, that’s your injectors and your fuel pump. Eventually these deposits can foul an injector, reducing fuel economy and performance. In fact, if the injectors become too dirty they will require replacement. So cleaning your fuel system is a good idea.

But the problem with using premium gas to clean your truck’s fuel system is that price difference between a full tank of premium and a full tank of regular is more than enough to buy a bottle of fuel system cleaner and pour it in yourself. But that’s assuming you remember to do it. If you’re like a lot of people, buying fuel system cleaner isn’t on your list of priorities. If you’re the type that forgets to do these things, then buying premium gas once a year will keep the fuel system clean enough.

Bottomline: Because the Tundra was designed to run on plain old low octane gas, adding higher octane has little or no benefit. Unless you don’t want to mess with putting some fuel system cleaner in your truck every 20k miles or so, there’s no reason to fill your new Toyota Tundra with premium gas. Take that Exxon!!

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  1. [...] of how it relates to the Tundra. Car Talk’s explanation (pics and everything): Car Talk Our Premium v. Regular Tundra Tip is that premium fuel typically does include some fuel system cleaners, so it might be worth running [...]

  2. Jeremy D Breaux says:

    ACTUALLY I have found after testing this out 3 seperate times that premium gas gives me 2 mpg better at 70 to 75 mph. I average 20.9 mpg at 70 to 75 mph from Central Louisiana to East Central Texas on I-10. I got that EXACT reading all three times. I tested the same trip 3 times on regular and averaged 18.4 for the 3 trips. Same speed, Same direction of travel (west), Using only Shell brand fuel, and I alternated the tests between premium and Regular. I drive a 07 Tundra DC 5.7L stock. If you run through all the math at a 20 cent a gallon bonus cost per gallon it cost me 4 bucks extra but I can go about 50 miles farther on the same 20 gallons netting me a better than $6 savings so I make $2 per tank. now if it is a .25 or .30 per gallon extra cost it washes out the savings but it is a economic savings most of my time to put premium in. I owned a 01 RAV 4 before I purchased this truck and it would average about 1 MPG better. My only guess for this is that the VVTI can adjust itself for better use of the Premium.

  3. sam wells says:

    the other two comments are very good. the reason premium can increase gas mileage and power is that most new trucks have almost 10 to 1 compression ratio which will cause detonation and blow holes in the pistons. to stop this a knock(detonation) sensor decreases the ignition timing only when the truck is working hard. like high speed, high heat, towing, wide open throatle(wot)etc. priemium fuel stops detonation. and can let you get better Mpg and power.

  4. Jeremy D Breaux says:

    And i thought it was ’cause the magic monkeys were happier.

  5. Virg says:

    There is NO reason to use premium gas in a vehicle that is designed to use regular (87 octane). The detergent levels in gasolines is federal directed and is enough in ALL grades to keep vital parts deposit free, especially in “top tier” gasolines. Pay attention to your owners manual and use as directed. These folks designed the vehicle and know best. Save your money in both gas choice and additives.

  6. Jeremy Breaux says:

    Virg, Read above comments. Learn.

  7. Chris says:

    the manual says 87 is recommended but also says premium was used in testing

  8. Virg says:

    Jeremy, I have learned. That’s why I use the fuel the owner manual recommends. That’s also why I drink tap water instead of $10 per gallon bottled water like so many “hip” folks do.

    • TROGDOR says:

      You’re a little late to the insult party. All the pizza is gone and the DJ played all the good music already.

  9. Wade says:

    Toyota Tundra (2005) fuel – accelerating problems.
    From a full tank of gas until it is half full, I have no problems with accelerating. The truck runs like a scared rabbit!! Problems occur when the gas tank is at half full or less. When accelerating (aggressively), the engine hesitates. The engine rpm will drop from 3,000 rpm down to about 1,500 rpm rather than accelerating to 4,000 – 5,000 rpm. There are no fuel filters (according to the dealer) that could be plugged. I thought it was water in the fuel and have run 3 tanks of gas with ‘Water in Fuel’ remover. I have also run a couple of tanks of premium gas with no changes. The next item to look at is the fuel pump unless someone has a better idea (and cheaper).

  10. Wade – Sure sounds like a fuel pump to me.

  11. Curtis says:

    Let me clear the CR*P up… lower octane fuel has a higher energy to mass ratio. Lower octane = better fuel economy. The end… Higher octane = lower energy to mass ratio and more resistance to detonation. The ONLY reason for higher octane is to prevent damage to your pistons / engine. Higher octane is more resistant to premature detonation and allows for machines designed with a higher compression ratio prior to spark being introduced to the cylinder. Why? because a higher compression ratio equals a higher performance engine. Don’t buy high octane unless you experience engine “knock”. Sorry guys but chemistry don’t lie :)!

  12. And reality is an even better measure. I got better mileage. A man with an experiance is NEVER at the mercy of a man with an argument.

    BTW, the reduced predetonation tendency allows for more agressive timing. This increases power at specific rpm’s allowing the engine to not have to work as hard. Thus the Honda dual HP ratings on the engine in the minivan several years ago. I agree that in a lab you are right but the complexities of the modern engine sometimes surpass the sum of the numbers. Any way, I DO get better mileage from both my van and my Truck with premium on the highway, in town they both just drink like a angry camel.

  13. Moe says:

    When I first start my Tundra up and let it run for about 5 minutes the engine starts to knocks and this last for about 10 minutes,then its goes away. What could this be ?

  14. Jason (Admin) says:

    Moe – Piston slap? Valvetrain noise while the oil circulates? Either way, not a big deal. Piston slap is pretty common in clearance engines, and some earlier 2nd gen Tundras (07-08) are louder than others.

  15. Jeremy the AWESOME! says:

    Not piston slap. The valves noise is LOUD in the 07-08 5.7 until the oil gets circulated. I had a diesel like noise added to the valve noise that was a bad idler pulley. The two together is quite disturbing. IF it completely goes away it sounds like the valves. If it can be heard after the oil is warm, check the pulley. There is a TSB on it.

    I know, It has been forever since I posted here. I am still crying about having to sell my baby to get a gas sipper.

    • Jason (Admin) says:

      Happy to see you back! Sorry to hear you had to get rid of it, but don’t feel like you can’t comment on the new stuff we’ve got coming out.

      Hope everything is well.

  16. Frank says:

    this article has false info on the tundra. i own a 2010 5.7L V8. and the owners manual says 92 octane is recommended for best quality.. i dont know where this article got 87 from.. maybe from the 4.6L V8 or whatever it is. but deff not the 5.7. and for those of u who are saying that higher octane dont do anything for your engine are retarted. what type of octane level do you think nascar uses..? do a little research. higher octane deff brings out more hp out of your engine.

  17. Anti-Frank says:

    Frank says some people are “retarted”…! HAHAHAHA! He misspelled retarded, used “dont” instead of “doesn’t”, started sentences with lower case letters,and most importantly, tried to use NASCAR ENGINES as his point of reference, without knowing their ACTUAL OCTANE RATINGS or COMPRESSION RATIOS!!!

    oh, he also didn’t clearly read the owners manual….

    HAHAHAHA!

  18. Jason (Admin) says:

    Frank – NASCAR runs high octane race fuel because they run at a higher compression ratio – the Tundra is at 10.4:1 and NASCAR motors sit at 12:1. That means they need a higher octane rating.

    As for what the 2010 manual says, on page 110 of my copy of the 2010 Tundra manual it says to use 87 octane or higher…you might want to check it again.

    Anti-Frank – Good work. You were 100% correct on all counts.

  19. Darrel says:

    Good information here. I have a 2009 5.7 and have used primarily 87 octane with no issues. Sometimes when the wallet is full I will run some 94 Octane.

    Anti-Frank !! L O L

  20. Jason (Admin) says:

    Darrel – It’s a good idea to run a tank of premium fuel every now and again, mostly because the premium fuels may have some additional cleansers that can help clear your injectors.

  21. TECHNOMAGE The Jeremy says:

    This is the thread that never ends. In My Tundra the premium helped for better mileage. In my Civic it doesn’t matter a hill of beans. Some vehicles it works for, some it doesn’t. It is sort of like oxygen and brain activity. Some people have brain activity after breathing oxygen, some never will. :-| It is so much easier to say something will not work than to actually do a test. Yea, I’m looking at you nay sayers.

  22. Curtis says:

    Hello my wonderful friends! In short – There is more (actual) energy in a gallon of 87 octane than 91 octane. (See Jeremy and Curtis above).

    It is true that some vehicles will show a slight (1 – 4%) improvement in fuel economy when using higher octane based on engine design (compression ratio and computer programmed ignition. (btw at 4% which is unlikely unless you drive a high performance exotic you would need to buy regular at $3.85 and premium at $4.00 to break even)

    Most Toyota V8 engines are designed to run at either extreme and have corresponding benefits at each end.

    Lower octane is a price benefit, as the mileage increase of 91/93 octane is offset too far negative for the price difference. 91/93 octane is a performance increase and potentially could extend the life of the engine, although you would be foolish to believe the engine life is affected enough to justify the added cost.

    I believe Jason’s statement of a tankfull from time to time is true, as gasoline refineries add extra detergents and further refining to get the octane rating to 91/93.

    Here’s something just for fun:

    Ask yourself what weighs more: A Gallon of premium or a gallon of regular. Theory says the regular has more hydrocarbon chains to break (more energy) but the added detergents in premium make the weight similar. Detergents arent energy carriers they are either energy neutral or negative. These detractions are slight and relatively insignificant.

    The BEST ways to improve fuel mileage is to keep your tires and vehicle in good shape, keep your foot light as a feather and watch your MPG computer (or hook up a vaccuum gage to the intake and keep the vaccuum as light as possible!

  23. Jason (Admin) says:

    Jeremy – If it works for you, that’s proof enough for me. I’ve never had the same luck, but I can’t argue with yours. Good to see you around here again! :-)

    Curtis – Great comments, and great advice.

  24. Pat says:

    Federal gov’t and oil companies want you to use junk gas, because you have to spend more to get same place. 110 bucks per week on junk and 97 on premium. 2008 tundra!

  25. Pat says:

    Forgot to add, that’s 84 extra miles round trip to work, on premium. I used to have put more gas in on Fridays, not anymore!

  26. Anti-Pat says:

    Pat – Your comments make NO SENSE as written… But through the miracle of interpretation, I believe you are correct and incorrect.

    Oil companies would love to sell you the least refined fuel possible… Lower cost to refine! Did you know that jet fuel is basically the lowest refinement level fuel? LOTS of hydrocarbon chains there, unfortunately our engines can’t tolerate the stuff!

    Government is exactly the opposite, the EPA wants the cleanest burning fuel possible, which is why we now have ultra-low-sulfur diesel… this stuff isn’t cheap to make!

    My first inclination was to destroy you due to your lazy writing (best case) or stupidity (more likely). However I chose to take the high road and educate you!

    BTW… Congratulations on the savings you claim! Just be sure to read the little numbers on the bottom of the pump… They change daily…

  27. [...] This is such a confusing topic. Everyone makes so much sense that you don't know who is right. This article seems pretty cut and dry on using 87 octane. But the comments made by others at the bottom makes a lot of sense to. Toyota Tundra Tips: Premium Gas vs. Regular | Tundra Headquarters [...]

  28. Redneck Al says:

    As the name indicates, I just might be a bit simple minded… I’ll also apologize now for the long post.
    It seems that there’s some really good information here but there’s also a lot of speculation and half facts, I don’t mean to be insulting but I do intend to try and be completely accurate (which means someone will likely dissect my statements just for the fun of it, have at it Anti-Frank…)
    Common misconception, high octane gas is more explosive, WRONG, actually it’s less so hence the higher octane rating, everyone does realize that an octane rating is an indicator of a fuels resistance to self-ignite? Ref (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Octane_rating) “The octane rating is a measure of how likely a gasoline or liquid petroleum fuel is to self-ignite”
    2nd common misconception, high octane fuel burns faster, WRONG, it burns slower but much hotter. Side note: When using higher octane fuel, your timing must be retarded, which is very difficult to do on older engines with mechanical timing curves (the variation of timing based on engine RPM) [that may be redneck ease…]. Newer engines with computers that control the timing are much easier to adjust the timing tables on [yes most vehicles have multiples] and the newest stuff has, what to us laymen, appears to be dynamic timing, in that it senses pings and automatically adjust for optimum timing for performance. In the case of the Tundra’s 5.7, it also has split viable valve adjustments that are made as well (the intake and exhaust values are separately timed or adjusted. What this should mean is that the engine is disproportionally powerful for its displacement and that it’s ideally suited for taking advantage of a hotter fuel. This is proven by the 5.7L’s (~347.8 ci) 381 HP; it’s commonly believed that with a naturally aspirated engine that optimal HP was about 1HP per ci.
    I’m not an engineer but many factor come into play when choosing a fuel grade, likely the most important is the compression ratio, it’s common practice to burn 87 octane up to about 11:1. Bore and stroke (the dimensions of the cylinder) also affect how much an octane rating change may benefit you, a longer stroke with a smaller bore has more time to burn…

    3rd misconception, it takes a large change to make this worth considering the use of a higher octane fuel, rather than saying wrong lets crunch the numbers. We need some assumptions to work with, in my case I’m getting ~15MPG [10% eth gas] and currently paying $3.85 a gallon, 92/93 octane at +$.20 (sometimes +$.15) a gallon. Our goal is to determine how much change in MPG does it take for me to break even?

    Typical fuel up is ~20 gal adverge fill up cost me ~$77, I get about 300 miles, I can buy ~19 gals of 93 octane for the same price, which means my break-even point is ~15.79 MPG (~5% improvement). The truth is that we can argue all day about this but what matters is what someone really experiences, my point in reading this material was to determine if I could use 92/93 octane without buying a tuner, the manual and the dealer say that I can use any fuel 87 octane or better…

    Another side note, my previous vehicle, a 2010 GMC ¾ ton, I was getting 12.4 MPG, got a tuner and running 93 octane my MPG increase to 14.3, which is consistent with what I’ve seen here. I play to post my results for the Tundra…

  29. Jason (Admin) says:

    Redneck Al – I think the problem with your comment is that it’s misdirected. The 1st misconception you mention – that people think higher octane gas is more explosive – isn’t mentioned in the article or in any of the comments (at least as far as I can tell).

    Same goes for your 2nd misconception – only one talking about burn rate is you my friend. :-)

    Now for the third question, there is some debate about the fuel economy benefits of higher octane fuel. My experience tells me that there are no fuel economy benefits to higher octanes (none), but there are some trusted truck owners here who swear it makes a difference, and it’s certainly possible that they are correct. Just as you said, there are many factors that go into choosing whether or not to run an engine on higher octane fuel, compression ratio being the biggest. However, if a specific truck is running a little richer than normal, higher octane fuel could improve fuel economy for that specific vehicle.

    Mostly, however, the bottom line from my article and your comment are the same: Most of the time, higher octane fuel has little or no benefit. My article might not go far enough in explaining why some vehicles benefit from higher octane sometimes, but my honest-to-goodness feeling is that it’s too easy to credit higher octane gas for fuel economy improvements that might just as easily be attributed to slower highway speeds, proper tire pressure, better weather, etc.

  30. Jeremy says:

    Again. My actual test proves It completely. On highway it makes a difference. In town none. This has all been explained and the power figures are different on premium fuel. No amount of doubt, parroting, or whining will change the actual results I got.

  31. TK says:

    SO….seems to be a debatable subject. I know my ’99 2.7L Tacoma sees no difference when using premium gas. However, I just bought a 2007 Tundra, 5.7L to pull my horse trailer and as a daily driver. I live in Colorado, so our lowest octane is 85 and 87 is the mid grade. The article starts out stating that 85 is just fine- does anyone have any experience with this?

    • Jason (Admin) says:

      TK – I too live in Colorado and have run 85 in everything except a Mustang Mach 1 and an Integra GS-R, as both those vehicles required 91 (the first had a chip, the second was designed for 91 at the factory). As for the Tundra, I never noticed a difference between 85, 87, or 91.

  32. Rival says:

    So what gas should be recommended for a lifted 2010 Toyota Tundra sitting a 20″ rims and hauling one of the heaviest tire (Nitto) ?

  33. LouisT says:

    Want better gas mileage? Try using Ethanol free fuel as opposed to the E10. E85 is terrible. 2012 Tundra on 87 octane E10 at 75 MPH gets 20.5; Straight gas 87 octane on the same route I get 22.7. Cost for both here is the same. Not available everywhere though!

  34. Jeremy the Great says:

    I wish that were an option here.

  35. justadude says:

    Yes, higher compression needs higer octane, low octane and high compression
    Equals bad things (not being able to shut off engine)
    No one mentioned the knock sensor, once it senses a ping, retarding (or advancing, i always forget) timing.. That hurts economy…

    Another thought, it takes the computer a long time to forget a knock, due to self preservation.

  36. Than says:

    I just punched a new 2012 tundra with a 4.6. This truck is awesome. I have only used 87. When I first filled up, I referred to my owners Manuel, for the proper octane to use. The Manuel stated to use 87, and if experiencing pinging, move to a higher octane. I was shocked, that they did not have a definite 87 rating. With that being said, some gas stations use lesser quality grade of gas. For instance WAWA. WAWA is the cheapest around town. When I had a 98 ford 3.0 ranger, I was using 87 from WAWA, and experienced pinging. When I purchased Seafoam fuel cleaner, from autozone, I told the guy that sold it to me, that my truck was pinging. He asked if I used gas from WAWA. he said a lot of people were experiencing the same thing. When I started using citgo or shell, I did not have the same pinging problem as much. When I went to a higher octane, it went away. My 93 5.0 had stock 9 to 1 compression, and recommended 91 octane. My Tundra has 10.2 to 1. So I get it, it’s designed to run on 87, but their are other factors like, quality of gas as well as , mods , towing etc. I guess you just have to use you’re best judgement. Like the Manual says, if it pings, move up to a higher octane rating.

  37. Felix says:

    TO the editor about Premium Vs. Regular you are so wrong. I dealt with different gas companies and octane levels, and so far I stand by Shell’s Premium gas. I get a better response, quieter engine, and better fuel mileage. I get about 20 to 35 miles more on the higher octane.

  38. wele says:

    hi every one … i just wanna ask about the green fuel that has octane 95 for the tundra 2007 5.7 engine which i’m using is it good or not ??? than x

    • Tim Esterdahl says:

      Wele,

      It is probably good, however, the best way to tell is to fill up with it and track your MPGs yourself. This is the best way to see if the fuel matches your engine and driving style.

      -Tim

  39. Murphy says:

    Here is a bit of info that seems to apply to just about everyone that’s posted above. It’s called “The Law of Logical Argument “. The law of logical argument simply says—- ” Anything is possible when you dont know what you’re talking about”

  40. Logical says:

    I prefer the law of Experiance and Empirical Evidence. Yet AGAIN I say, VVTI can and does make a difference. Dyno it. On a side note. DANG this is the post that will not die.

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