How Much Do You Know About Gasoline?


By: John Miller

6 Min Quiz

Image: [Virojt Changyencham] / [Moment] / Getty Images

About This Quiz

In some ways, it is the lifeblood of American society, powering millions upon millions of machines – particularly motor vehicles. It is gasoline, a fuel that’s necessary for the operation of a multitude of modern marvels. Without gas, our high-tech civilizations would quickly grind to a halt, in large part because no other fuel source can (currently) serve as an appropriate substitute. In this high-combustion quiz, what do you really know about gasoline?

Before the late 1800s, no one gave a whit about gas. It was a byproduct, a waste liquid that didn’t really have much practical use. But engineers began tinkering with gas-powered engines, including the kind that became central to motor vehicles. In a matter of years, gas had its rags-to-riches story, as the fuel became vital to the growth of the car industry. What do you recall about the history of gas during the proliferation of automobiles?

As cars became more and more common, scientists did further studies on gas, refining its chemistry to improve its performance. They began adding a specific type of substance … but it made the fuel incredibly toxic. Do you remember what that substance was?

These days, gas is a critical but controversial fuel, one that contributes to the greenhouse gases that cause global warming. Researchers and politicians are maneuvering to bring about a new age of fuels, but the revolution may yet take some time.

Burn through this high-octane quiz now! We’ll find out what you really know about gasoline!

In the United Kingdom, what name do people use for gasoline?

In the U.K. (and many other parts of the world), it's not gas -- it's "petrol."


What's the name of a common fuel additive?

Ethanol is a widely used fuel additive. In parts of the U.S. it makes up about 10% of the volume of gasoline. A lot of people avoid ethanol because they believe it might harm their engines.


Gasoline is made from which resource?

Gasoline, or gas, is made by refining crude oil, or petroleum. Gas is very common fuel for all sorts of modern machines.


In the late 1800s, before gasoline caught on, most of the crude oil in the U.S. was refined into which product?

Crude oil was first refined to produce kerosene, which was used in lanterns and street lamps. Gasoline was considered a "waste" product and often simply dumped into rivers, which sometimes caught fire, and we did not make that up. Hey, free fish!


A fuel with higher octane ratings is best for _____.

High-octane gas can handle more compression before it combusts, a fact that makes it appropriate for high-performance, high-compression engines like motorcycles and sports cars.


What's the purpose of detergents that are added to gasoline?

Gasoline tends to leave a variety of deposits in the fuel system. Added detergents -- even in small amounts -- do an amazing job of minimizing those deposits and keeping engines running smoothly.


Gasoline with low octane ratings may lead to which problem?

Low-octane fuels ignite more easily than high-octane fuels, in effect causing higher pressure inside your car's engine. This "engine knocking" can destroy a motor in some situations.


Why did gas prices skyrocket in 1973?

In 1973, Middle East countries began an oil embargo, which caused the price of oil to skyrocket. Gasoline prices soared, too, and long lines formed at gas stations around the country.


In the U.S., ethanol is primary derived from which sustainable product?

Ethanol makes up roughly 10% of gasoline in the U.S., where it is derived mostly from corn. Because ethanol is made from biological sources, it's more sustainable than straight fossil fuels.


When did gasoline engines finally create a market for gas as a fuel?

In the 1890s, the first gas engines were created, and suddenly gas was no longer treated as useless waste. About a decade later, the automobile industry was born, and gas was all the rage.


When did the United States ban lead in gasoline?

Decades and decades after researchers first identified leaded gas as health menace, the feds finally banned lead as a fuel additive in 1986. By then, tens of millions of people had their health impacted by lead.


Gas lasts longer if it is stored in _____.

Air exposure ruins gas -- it causes oxidation and moisture that affects the fuel's quality. An airtight container works best.


Unused gasoline will last for about how long before it starts to become chemically unstable?

Gas, like beer, is a product that's best consumed fresh. If it's stored properly, the fuel is stable for about six months before it begins to break down.


Why did chemists begin adding tetraethyl lead (TEL) to gas in the 20th century?

Chemists began adding tetraethyl lead, or TEL, to gasoline to reduce engine knocking. The downside? TEL contains lead … and lead is extremely toxic.


What denotes the performance rating of a particular type of gasoline?

All types of gasoline have an octane rating, which denotes the fuel's performance. Higher octane gas always costs more than those with lower octane ratings.


What happens if you "huff" (inhale) gasoline fumes?

"Huffing" gas vapors is a social problem in poverty-stricken areas, a technique for getting high to escape a miserable life. It is incredibly dangerous and causes so many health problems (like mental retardation) that we can't even begin to list them all here. Never huff gas.


If you're going to store a gas-powered vehicle for a while, what should you do?

A liquid fuel stabilizer goes a long way toward extending the life of gasoline. So if a motor is going to sit unused for months on end, add a stabilizer to reduce problems down the road.


True or false: the first U.S. planes used gas made for cars.

In the earliest days of U.S. aviation, there was no market for aviation-specific gas. So those primitive planes simply used regular gasoline made for cars.


The combustion of one gallon of gas creates about 19 pounds of ______.

Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming … and cars produce plenty of carbon dioxide. Burn just a single gallon of gas and you've generated about 19 pounds of carbon dioxide.


True or false, is leaded gasoline still used in some places?

Most of the world has banned leaded gas. However, in six countries (Iraq, Algeria, Myanmar, North Korean, Afghanistan and Yemen) you can still fuel up with poison (and also experience violent oppression).


True or false, does gas contain known carcinogens (cancer-causing agents)?

Gas is by no means a harmless substance. It contains chemicals such as benzene, as well as other carcinogenic substances. With prolonged exposure to gas, there's a good chance you'll develop health problems.


What's one problem with gasoline that contains ethanol?

Ethanol is a common fuel additive, but it has a drawback -- it makes the gas more likely to absorb moisture. And moisture causes all sorts of problems in engines.


In the U.S., aviation gasoline contains a dye. Why?

In the U.S., kerosene-based rocket fuels are clear … and you don't want rocket fuel in a plane. Aviation fuels are dyed to prevent such mixups.


Researchers investigated leaded fuels in the 1920s. What did they find?

Worried that leaded gas might be harmful, scientists began examining areas where cars traveled. In garages and in street dirt, they found particles of lead dust … a poison that was sure to impact the health of people everywhere.


After the refining process, one 42-gallon barrel of crude oil yields ____ gallons of gas.

The refining process cuts much of the volume of a barrel of oil. One 42-gallon barrel yields about 19 gallons of gas.


The United States makes up about ____ of the entire world's gasoline consumption.

America is notorious gas hog. The country makes up about 45% of all gasoline consumption each year.


In America, why is your gas mileage sometimes better in summer compared to winter?

In the U.S., gasoline supplies are formulated differently for different seasons, in part so your car starts and runs easier on brutally frigid day. Summertime blends have a bit more energy and so often provide an MPG boost.


In the 1920s, what happened to some workers who handled adding tetraethyl lead (TEL) to gasoline?

Right away, chemists knew that adding TEL to gasoline was a dangerous idea. Workers who handled the TEL at refineries sometimes simply died … and corporate executives knew about it, but pressed for TEL's use, anyway.


During WWI, the U.S. eventually became the top supplier of gasoline for the Allies. How did this affect their war machines?

The U.S. form of gasoline had lower octane ratings than the fuels the Allies used at the beginning of the war. Thus, with U.S. gas, Allied war machines saw a substantial drop in engine power and efficiency … to the point that some missions were endangered.


Some researchers think that leaded gasoline may have had a major impact on what social issue?

Lead is so toxic that it makes people do crazy -- and often criminal -- things. Many researchers believe that leaded gasoline may have played a role in violent crime rates in the 20th century.


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