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What is 88 octane? Can you use it for your new truck?


We know all about premium fuel, and the trucks that recommend or require it. But have you ever heard of 88 octane? We hadn’t. So, of course, the idea of 88 octane raises the question of what in the heck it is and whether you can use it for your new truck.

This question comes from viewer Aaron B. who is seeing it around his area, and he wonders if he can use it with his new Ford F-150 PowerBoost. While the question and answer pertain specifically to the F-150, it will also apply to all newer trucks.

The question:

I live over on the other side of Nebraska here in Omaha, and we have three types of octanes to choose from, 87, 88 and 91.  I know that 87 and 91 are straight gas and the 88 is and ethanol blend (due to that it’s cheaper than 87).  I know that Ford says to use at least 87 on the hybrid, but is the 88 ok?  I have read and heard from some mechanic friends of mine that the ethanol blends are not recommended for the turbocharged engines (supposedly due to too much build up on the injectors and thus could mess up the turbos).  I was wondering what your thoughts are or if you could even get your contacts at Ford to say something about it.  Any insight would be appreciated.

So, what’s the deal with 88 octane?

I actually had to Google this one as well as check the Ford F-150 owner’s manual. The owner’s manual says don’t use more than 15% ethanol — this excludes the use of E85, then, which is 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline.

Interestingly, according to the state of Iowa, 88 octane is 15% ethanol and 85% gasoline.

It is really up to the marketing behind the gas label which is saying it is either 88 or E15. Since 88 Octane was approved for 2001 and newer vehicles and Ford says you can use up to 15% ethanol, you should be fine to run this fuel.

The bottom line

So, the short answer is: Yes, you can use 88 octane in your truck IF the owner’s manual approves of 15% ethanol and IF you follow the directions for its use. The important takeaway: Always read your owner’s manual.

Editor’s note: The featured photo is courtesy of Bill Crittenden, who answered a Twitter plea for a photo with an 88 octane button on a gas pump. This photo was taken at Thornton’s gas station in McHenry, Illinois. Thanks, Bill!!


Tim Esterdahl

Automotive Journalist Tim Esterdahl has been a lover of trucks and SUVs for years. He has covered the industry since 2011 and has pieces in many national magazines and newspapers. In his spare time, he is often found tinkering on his '62 C10 pickup, playing golf, going hunting and hanging out with his wife and kids in Nebraska.

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  1. Kurt Turner November 13, 2022

    “Thus, it is exactly the same thing as E85,” is not correct.
    E85 is 85% ethanol.
    E15 is 15% ethanol, and is what’s referred to as 88 octane.
    E85 is not 88 octane.

    1. Jonathan Heberling November 23, 2022

      Agreed Kurt! Thank you for clarifying!


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