Is Cheap Gas Bad for Your Food Truck?

Is Cheap Gas Bad for Your Food Truck?

Ask any food truck owner and they’ll tell you that gasoline is expensive and they’re always looking for every way possible to save money at the pump. Many already shy away from premium fuel, knowing that their food truck and generators don’t require it. They may even try to save a few pennies per gallon more by going to an off-brand gas station. But most we speak with can’t get rid of the nagging fear: Is the cheap gas going to damage their food truck’s engine?

Food truck gas station has researched this question and in the most basic terms, food truck owners can stop worrying about using cheap gas. You’re unlikely to hurt the engine of your truck by using it.

Because of the advances in engine technology, a truck’s on-board computer is able to adjust for the inevitable variations in fuel, so most vendors won’t notice a drop off in performance between different brands of fuel, from the most additive-rich gas sold by the major brands to the bare-bones stuff at your corner convenience store.

Still, spending a few extra pennies per gallon might provide peace of mind to someone who just purchased a $40,000 truck and wants to keep it on the street as often and as long as possible. Food truck owners with older trucks might be more concerned about their engine’s longevity, they too can buy the less expensive gas and still be OK.

While this doesn’t mean that all gas is the same, even though it starts out that way. The fuel from different filling stations comes from a common source: the “base gas” from a refinery. Workers there mix additives mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency into the base gas in order to clean a car or truck’s engine and reduce emissions. Then, the different gas companies — both off-brand and major brands — put their own additive packages in the gas to further boost both cleaning and performance.

A key difference is that the major brands put more additives in their gas and claim to have some secret ingredients. This extra shot of additives provides an additional level of cleaning and protection for your engine.

But is this extra helping of additives, which jacks up the price, really necessary? And, if you don’t use more expensive, extra-additive gas, how soon will your engine’s performance suffer?

“It’s not like any of the fuels are totally junk,” says John Nielsen, director of engineering and repair for the AAA. “If you buy gas from Bob’s Bargain Basement gas station because that’s all that’s available, it won’t hurt your vehicle,” he said.

The real difference is the amount of additives that are in the gas, Nielsen says. More additives essentially afford more protection — but they also cost more.

Food truck owners should look in their truck’s owner’s manual to see what the vehicle maker recommends and, when possible, follow that guideline. Vendors who are still concerned about gasoline quality can ask a specific oil company if it has performed independent testing to substantiate its claims.

Richard is an architect by degree (Lawrence Technological University, Southfield, Michigan) who began his career in real estate development and architectural planning. In September of 2010 he created Mobile Cuisine Magazine to fill an information void he found when he began researching how to start a mobile hotdog cart in Chicago. Richard found that there was no central repository of mobile street food information anywhere on the internet, and with that, the idea for MCM was born.