Will Gas Really Go Bad?

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Does gasoline goes bad is a question that comes in the mind of people very often. Some people have believed that it is another urban legend. People who worry about old gas and spend money recklessly are wasting psychic energy as well as cash. But gasoline does degrade over time and lead to a number of problems. It can range from hard starting to rough running to no start at all.


Gasoline, unlike crude oil, is a highly refined product. It is brewed to a certain chemical composition with very specific characteristics. One of the characteristics is its volatility. It is a term used to define how easily and under which conditions the gas evaporates. It is just for the purpose that it can efficiently burn in your car engine.

The most volatile components in gasoline also tend to evaporate over time. As it happens, the remaining fuel’s volatility and ability to combust properly shall degrade. The less volatile the fuel is, the less effectively it burns in your engine. The result is diminished engine performance.

Good news: once we consume old gas and the tank is topped off with fresh fuel, the problem should cure itself. If we make sure that the gas cap is secured tightly, the evaporation of volatile compounds can be limited. At the same time, make sure all portable gas containers are sealed tightly as well.

Oxidation: a more serious problem

Hydrocarbons in the gas when reacting with oxygen produce a new compound that changes the chemical position of the fuel. This leads to the deposition of gum and varnish in the fuel system.

Such deposits and impurities can clog up gas liners and filters and the small orifices in the carburetor. This can also clog up the orifices in a fuel injector. If we remove these deposits, it can be expensive and your vehicle may not run properly.

Water Contamination

Condensation can make home inside your gas tank and lines from heat cycling. Fuels such as E85, have a high concentration of ethanol alcohol. It is susceptible to water contamination. Ethanol can draw moisture out of the air surrounding it.

Water contamination can be an obstacle at gas stations with light traffic. This is due to a different kind of heat cycling. The underground storage tanks experience up and down in temperature. This creates moisture and contaminates the fuel. Such low traffic stations have other contaminants in their underground storage tanks like rust. They should be avoided whenever possible.  

We can reduce the chance of water contamination by keeping car’s gas tanks close to full as possible.

How do you identify bad gas?

The best way is to eyeball it. If the fuel is oxidized it turns darker over time and can smell sour. We can check the stored gasoline by pouring some into a clear gas container. Then compare with fresh gasoline. If the sample looks noticeably darker than the fresh gas. It is clearly evident that the gas has gone bad.

It is a rule of thumb to avoid gas in your storage container for more than a couple of months.

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