Arizona roadways can get pretty busy, especially during the summer. But you can't get anywhere without gas and not all gas is created equal.

While most motorists have never heard of Top Tier fuel and have no idea what it is, AAA's Travis Mock says it's the only gas he puts in his car.

"Top Tier fuel is fuel that has additional detergents and additives that help keep the engine cleaner and free of deposits," Mock explained.

According to a study released by AAA, Top Tier fuel is the best gasoline for your vehicle because the added detergents cut down on carbon buildup on fuel injectors and intake valves.

In fact, AAA's study shows a car driven for 4,000 miles on non-Top Tier fuel had 19 times more engine deposits.

"If you're looking out for the long health of the car, Top tier fuel is the way to go," Mock said.

When we're talking about Top Tier fuel, remember we're not talking about octane levels like 87, 89 or 91. That's totally different. We're talking about Top Tier fuel, which means the fuel contains a detergent.

Some gas stations like Valero mark their pumps with a Top Tier logo so you know what kind of fuel you're getting. Other stations use Top Tier fuel, as well, but they use their own names.

Shell calls their Top Tier fuel "V-Power." Mobile calls it "Synergy," and Chevron calls their Top Tier fuel "Techron."

But whatever you call it, AAA says it works.

On this day, Mock says he was repairing a car brought in because it was idling rough and stalling. A quick inspection revealed the driver hadn't been using a Top Tier fuel and it created carbon deposits.

You can get that carbon cleaned out but it'll cost you about $100. If you don't, you'll experience reduced fuel economy and, according to Mock, the carbon buildup will negatively impact your vehicle's performance.

"Over the course of time running a Top Tier fuel, that detergent is going to start eating away at that carbon," he explained. "[It's] sort of like washing the dishes. Water will get your dishes clean; soap will really get it clean."

Top Tier fuel is a little more expensive but mechanics like Mock say it's worth it. And drivers we spoke with say they would try it out. "Would you be willing to pay a little bit more for something called top tier if it helps your car?” “Yeah, yeah definitely."

And paying a little more now could save you problems down the road. "We all like better fuel economy, crisp throttle response, good acceleration, good idle characteristics, those are things you can preserve in your car by running top tier fuels."

Click or tap here for a list of retailers that carry Top Tier fuel.

PDF: AAA's Fuel Quality research

Copyright 2016 KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

3 On Your Side Investigative Producer

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