Protecting Our Equipment

Why Ethanol is Being Added to Gasoline and Why Ethanol is Damaging to Small Engine Fuel Systems

Henry Ford originally designed the venerable Model T to run on Ethanol with gasoline as a secondary fuel. Amendments to the Clean Air Act of 1990 required that gasoline be oxygenated (have oxygen added) in certain high pollution areas. Originally, MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether) was used to meet the federal mandate. When that was found to contaminate ground water, Ethanol became the substitute. E10 fuel contains 10% ethanol and 90% gasoline. Oxygenated blends produce less pollution but provide lower fuel mileage. Today, over 45% of gasoline in the U.S. contains Ethanol and it is expected to grow about 7% a year.

What problems are caused by Ethanol in gasoline?

Gasoline is designed for primary use in cars and trucks. Other than lower fuel economy, there are relatively few problems in these vehicles. The major problems are found in boats, snowmobiles, ATVs, motorcycles and outdoor power equipment that is carbureted. A carbureted fuel system is directly vented to the atmosphere and as a result moisture is pulled into the system by expansion, contraction, and anything that would cause air movement. Most of this type of equipment is subject to periodic use and/or seasonal storage.

Gasoline deteriorates after 30-60 days which causes engine deposits and gumming of carburetors and fuel injectors. Upon storage manufacturers generally recommend draining all gasoline or treating it with a fuel stabilizer. It is nearly impossible to completely empty a fuel system of ALL fuel. J&L Industries recommends filling the fuel tank with stabilized fuel, operating the engine for 3 to 5 minutes to distribute the stabilized fuel throughout the entire system, then storing the equipment in a dry location.

What other problems are caused by Ethanol?

  1. The presence of Ethanol can cause deterioration of several fuel system components including hoses, squeeze bulbs, plastic fuel tanks, fuel pump and head gaskets. Such deterioration in turn can result in plugged fuel filters and pumps. Additives will not prevent this problem. Failed components will have to be replaced with Ethanol compatible components if they are available.
  2. Fuel filters can get plugged by debris caused by Ethanol cleaning dirty fuel systems. A fuel treatment containing cleaning agents will allow the dirt particles to pass through the system.
  3. A major problem is Phase Separation created when water gets into the fuel causing the water/ethanol mixture to sink to the bottom of the tank where the fuel pick-up is. Engines cannot run on an alcohol/water blend and will seize. Two cycle engines particularly have this problem since the proper lubricant will not be present in the gasoline. While a properly formulated additive may prevent the separation by removing excess water, it will not cure the problem once it exists. The best defense is to keep the tank as full as possible. Moisture can condense in the empty space in a fuel tank, carburetor or other parts of a fuel system. Reducing the amount of air in the system reduces the amount of moisture that can enter.
  4. Ethanol can etch aluminum, magnesium and die-case zinc causing fuel injectors to plug and/or damage pistons and fuel pumps. A properly formulated fuel stabilizer will prevent corrosion.

How do we protect our equipment from the damaging effects of Ethanol?

The most important thing you can do is use stabilized fuel in your outdoor power equipment all the time. This means obtaining a separate fuel container and keeping stabilized fuel in it specifically for this type of equipment for use during the season.

Fuel stabilizer contains corrosion inhibitors and other stabilization elements which is important in storage of “open” fuel systems, such as those found in boats, lawnmowers, outdoor power equipment and snowmobiles. Open fuel systems vent to the air and continually attract moisture from the air. This became especially true since the introduction of ethanol blended gasoline that attracts moisture. When moisture is introduced into your fuel system it can cause corrosion damage to fuel tanks, fuel lines, carburetors and other fuel system parts.

That is why J&L Industries recommends Fuel Stabilizer for all of your fuel stabilization needs. We stock fuel stabilizer in various size bottles for your needs in the shop.

J&L Industries LLC uses Briggs and Stratton products for the protection of all outdoor power equipment fuel systems. If you need your equipment protected from the effects of ethanol, call us at 406-281-7911 for pickup/delivery or drop your equipment off at our shop located at 2948 South 51st Street West, just north of Danford Road in Southwest Billings, Montana.