Hello my Freaky Darlings,

I drive a 1997 VW Golf Chico that takes leaded petrol, which admittedly does go against my environmentalist tendencies, but unfortunately I can’t afford a new car that takes unleaded, let alone a beautiful hi-bred. I also know absolutely nothing about cars. Over the last few weeks I’ve noticed that fewer and fewer petrol stations have been stocking leaded or Super 93, which leaves me and all those other people who drive older a cars with a bit of a problem.

Ever since I got my license I’ve been told that you DO NOT put unleaded petrol in a car that is meant to have leaded fuel, so this morning, on my way to work, when my tank started to look a little on the empty side I went in search of a petrol station. I stopped at five of them (yes, that’s right – five), none of them had my petrol on tap, they also didn’t have any lead replacement fuel.

By the time I reached the fifth one, my tank was decidedly empty and my emergency tank was coming into play. I was also on the verge of having a minor melt down. Being stuck on the highway between Pretoria and Johannesburg is not my idea of fun. The attendant was unfortunately the one to have to deal with my panic attack. He also informed me that it didn’t matter what petrol I put into my car. As long as I didn’t put diesel in, it didn’t matter. “A petrol is a petrol,” as he put it. So with much trepidation and tears in my eyes, I filled up with unleaded.

The whole way to work I expected my car to come to juddering end. Strangely enough I made it to the office with my car still intact. But I’m still nervous about what the long term effects will be to my cars engine, since according to other sources it is a big NO NO. So, I ask you car type people who know these things, am I and my car screwed (and not in a good way)?

2 thoughts on “Petrol

  1. A ’97 car should be OK on unleaded. The reason for lead was to protect soft metal valve seats from damage. But pretty much anything made after around ’92 should have hardened seats.

    In any case damage is long term and gradual even on a car that’s not designed for unleaded. Existing lead in the car’s system will afford it several thousand miles of protection and provided the engine isn’t thrashed you could run on unleaded for years without major problems. If you’re worried you can buy lead substitute additive that you pour into a tank of unleaded.

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