does gasoline go bad
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Gasoline Facts: Does Gasoline Go Bad?

As the most economically vital petroleum product in the world, gasoline remains quite an expensive commodity. Despite the ongoing efforts to shift to other sustainable sources of energy, gasoline is still the most reliable fuel for internal combustion engines.

So, the most common question on everybody’s lips is: Does gasoline go bad? This article will answer this and other related concerns.

Does Gasoline Go Bad?


With the ongoing travel restrictions and the growing tendency to work from home, many people have their vehicles sitting idle in their garages and driveways for weeks. While this has enabled them to significantly reduce their daily expenses, they’re worried about the state of the gasoline in their cars. How long can gas sit in your vehicle before it goes bad? Does it go bad in the first place?

The answer is yes. Gasoline has a shelf life. But the shelf life of your gasoline depends on its type. For instance, regular gasoline will remain useful for three to six months, while diesel will last up to one year before it expires.

Organic-based ethanol loses its combustibility after one to three months, mainly due to vaporization and oxidation. So, it’s important to monitor the age of the gasoline in your vehicle to avoid engine problems. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to know the age of your gasoline because its shelf life starts in the refinery.

Although most oil refineries don’t store their products for a long time due to their limited supply and high demand, some of them can store their fuel for indefinite periods before they supply it to different gas stations. That’s why you need to do your research to know how long your preferred refinery keeps its fuel in its stores before transporting it.

When the oil gets to a gas station, it can again sit there for an extended period, depending on the demand. Therefore, perhaps the fuel that’s pumped into your tank is already one-month-old.

According to energy experts, numerous factors affect the shelf life of gasoline, including heat levels, oxygen, and humidity. But the other question that many people ask is: How can gasoline expire so easily while crude oil can last hundreds of millions of years underground without going bad? The short answer is that by the time gasoline gets to your local gas station, it’s a completely different product from the initial crude oil.

Gasoline is a combination of hydrogen and carbon atoms put together to form a range of energy-rich compounds known as hydrocarbons. Before crude oil becomes usable gasoline, it goes through a rigorous refining process to remove impurities like sulfur, which forms sulfur oxide. Other substances are added to create the end product and improve its performance.

During the refining process, engineers will put additional substances to the product to give it the right octane number. This number is critical as it represents the amount of compression the fuel can handle. A high number of octane shows that the fuel is less likely to be ignited by excess pressure.

The final product comprises hundreds of diverse compounds, some of which are difficult to identify and describe. Most of these compounds are highly sensitive to excess heat and oxygen. That’s why gasoline has such a short shelf life compared to the original crude oil.

How Can You Tell If Your Gasoline Is Bad?


Now that you understand why gasoline has a limited shelf life, perhaps you are wondering how you can know when your gasoline has expired. When gasoline begins to downgrade, its chemical composition and properties change, making it difficult for your car engine to process it correctly. So, if your engine is having difficulties processing fuel, you could be having expired fuel in your tank. But if you are still not sure if your gas has gone bad, here are some clearer signs to look out for.

1. Delayed Acceleration

If you notice that your car doesn’t accelerate immediately when you step on the gas pedal, then there could be bad fuel in your car’s internal combustion chamber. It means that your engine is experiencing hesitation. Sometimes your car will take two or three seconds to react to the acceleration or it will completely fail to accelerate. This sign becomes more apparent when you continuously try to accelerate.

2. Abnormal Changes in Speed

Bad fuel will not only prevent your car from accelerating but it will cause your car’s speed to change spontaneously. These changes will occur even when you are barely stepping on the gas pedal. Sometimes you’ll notice abnormal changes in speed when your foot is off the gas pedal. So, if your car’s speed keeps changing drastically for no good reason, start by changing the fuel.

3. Spoiled Fuel Filter

If your car is always demanding a new fuel filter time and again, you need to check the quality of your fuel. A fuel filter prevents dirt and debris from entering the gas tank to adulterate the fuel. So, if your car’s fuel filter is getting damaged frequently and allowing debris to contaminate your fuel, consider changing your fuel or buying fuel from a different gas station to see if the situation improves. Check your fuel filter periodically to make sure it’s in perfect condition.

4. Engine Failure

If you are driving and your car’s engine suddenly stops running, it could be due to bad fuel. This normally happens when the internal combustion fails to generate enough power to keep the engine running effectively.

5. Ignition Failure

When your damaged fuel filter allows dirt to get into the fuel tank or if the expired fuel in your tank has excess water, you’ll have problems starting your car. However, there are several other reasons why your car’s engine may fail to start, including low or discharged batteries, loose battery cables, ignition switch failure, and more. But if you’ve noticed any of the other signs listed above, then you should consider changing the fuel.

6. Strange Appearance and Smell

You can tell bad gasoline by how it looks and smells. As fuel starts to expire, its color changes to a darker, muddier appearance. Its typical smell also changes to a sour and disagreeable odor. Some people who have experience in determining the quality of gasoline will even claim that the gasoline smells spoiled.

How to Keep Your Gasoline Fresh


With the current volatility in fuel prices, you should ensure that no drop of your fuel goes to waste due to expiration by finding effective ways to keep it fresh. Fortunately, there are several ways to keep your gasoline fresh for a long time.

The first step is to ensure that your car doesn’t sit idle in your driveway for a long time. Make a point of driving your car at least one or two times a week.

This prevents the fuel from becoming stagnant. It also creates room for fresh gasoline to be added. That way, the fuel in your tank will remain fresh. You can also keep your fuel fresh by topping your tank off whenever you fuel your car.

This leaves no room in your tank for oxygen and moisture that are known to degrade gasoline. Moisture is particularly dangerous for your fuel because it will prevent the internal combustion chamber from processing fuel properly and cause corrosion in the fuel tank. Oxygen, on the other hand, increases the evaporation of your gasoline.

You can also increase the shelf life of your gasoline with a fuel stabilizer. This is a preservative that prevents fuel breakdown. A fuel stabilizer is added to a full tank of fuel to keep it fresh for a long time. If you are storing gasoline in your house, make sure it’s kept in an airtight container and stored in a cool, low-oxygen, low-humidity area.

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