ethanol concerns

Discussion in 'Mechanic and Repair' started by DGDR, Jan 1, 2007.

  1. DGDR

    DGDR LawnSite Member
    Messages: 5

    They've started to add ethanol to our gas here in New Jersey. I'm aware of the storage and moisture absorbing problems with this blend but worry most about possible fuel system damage. I own a broad spectrum of equipment with both two and four cycle engines, some high end (Hustler Z) down to a 35 year old tiller. Also vehicles including a classic British sports car. The folks at Briggs & Stratton didn't allay my fears much saying that officially they approve of 10% ethanol (they have to sell product), but that I should get conventional fuel if I can because the formulations are changing so fast that they can't keep up. They just don't know. My research indicates that ethanol causes deterioration of rubber and some plastics and corrodes nickel, zinc and aluminum. What are fuel systems made of anyhow? I know that in many other parts of the country they've used gasahol for years. Has anyone had any problems and in what age and type engines? I can still obtain conventional fuel from upstate NY and PA but must make a suicide run with a car full of gas cans. Even my oldest equipment has always been well maintained and dependable. These days when you gas up it's like poisining an old friend.
  2. lucforce

    lucforce LawnSite Member
    Messages: 223

    Your concerns are indeed valid.

    Until recently, virtually no fuel system was ready for the alcohol in the fuel. Yes the metallic parts can be damaged, but the immediate danger is the deterioration of hoses, seals, gaskets, and even plastic gas cans. MOST of the parts and machines that have come out recently are set to handle the alcohol-but all are not.

    If it were me, I would simply begin the rebuilding and updating process to all of the stuff. However, if you do not have the time or ability, I would do the gas can thing for a SHORT TERM solution and get things updated as needed.

    BTW, what kind of Brit car with what carb?
  3. ed2hess

    ed2hess LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 14,361

    I am not sure if there is any solution short term for 2 stroke equipment the manuf says to not run it period. I think it burns hotter than with the alcohol but I may be wrong.
  4. DGDR

    DGDR LawnSite Member
    Messages: 5

    Well thanks, I guess, for the bad news. The hobby car is a '70 TR-6, 60K mi., Stromberg carbs. It's totally original and has always been garaged. I know as I bought it new over 35 years ago. It's almost like a family member & runs fine. Probably due for a restoration anyway as hydraulics and hoses,etc. tend to deteriorate with age, more so in storage. For now I'll import fuel.
  5. Dirty Water

    Dirty Water LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,794

    I would not be concerned at all with a 10% ethanol blend.

    The majority of the concern is when people run E85, which is 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline.
  6. lucforce

    lucforce LawnSite Member
    Messages: 223

    Until recently all production fuel hoses, gaskets, and seals were designed for petroleum based fuels-Not alcohol. Only brake systems had such parts designed to be in contact with alcohol (brake fluid is in part an alcohol based fluid). This is why old tricks came along such as soaking old seals in brake fluid and adding a cap full of brake fluid to a cantankerous automatic transmission.

    Materials that are not designed to be in contact with the alcohol will either swell and not be usable or quickly deteriorate. This will lead to leaks, clogged filters, carburetion problems, bad fuel pumps, rotten fuel lines, and the like.

    It is not a question of IF, but WHEN damage will become apparent.
  7. DGDR

    DGDR LawnSite Member
    Messages: 5

    Thanks for your comments. They're typical of what I've been elsewhere - everything from 10% ethanol is fine if it's built after 1970 to replace your equipment. I'd like to hear from someone from one of those western states where gasahol has been used for more than a decade. Have you had any fuel system related problems? That's where we'll find the answer.
  8. K&M Lawn Care

    K&M Lawn Care LawnSite Member
    Messages: 45

    Here is a link that might help.

    Federal law states that all on road fuel has to contain a certain percentage of oxygenates to reduce emissions. MTBE used to be the additive of choice for the oil companies until it was found out that MTBE contaminates ground water. Now the oil companies are switching to ethanol as an oxygenate. So the chances are we all have probably already used some gas containing ethanol without even knowing it.
  9. lucforce

    lucforce LawnSite Member
    Messages: 223

    In '95 I was traveling around in my low-mileage MGB that I had just tuned and installed a new side-draft Mikuni carb on. I made it 1200 miles and reached a major city hat had been using one of the new formulations of fuel that contained ethanol. I filled up there and all was well till the next day when that car did not want to go. Well soon after I ended up moving to this burg and EVERYTHING that I owned ended up getting a carb overhaul. Not because it was due for such a thing- but because the fuel in the system had destroyed the seals and rendered them useless.

    MOST manufacturers have come up with properly constructed materials to fight the deterioration- But not all. Even considering this, the new materials that do survive do not survive as long as they would have just a few years ago.

    As stated before- the formulations for fuel are too many and change too often-The manufacturers can not keep up with this for every application of every fuel system. It is simply not practical.

    I have personally had to deal with this issue in Louisville, Nashville, Dallas, Houston, Mississippi, Florida, and a few other areas here and there. Many of the areas I worked, I was there before the change in fuel blends and I dished out fair warning to a few non-believers. Later they each had mysterious vehicle and equipment problems.

    Thought for consideration:

    If NO harm can come from the alcohol, why was there such a push to keep MTBE's? Why have manufacturers gone through the R&D and expense to change the sealing materials that work in fuel systems? Why is 10% acceptable, but 85% must only be run in a specially outfitted vehicle? What makes this specially outfitted vehicle different?
  10. K&M Lawn Care

    K&M Lawn Care LawnSite Member
    Messages: 45

    The only ones that I know of that were pushing to keep MTBE in gas were the oil companies. If you were in charge of an oil company would you want to take an additive that you made out of gas and put in an additive that you don't make.

    All cars sold in the US since at least the mid 80's have been able to run on E10. I had a 1985 Mustang GT that accoring to the owners manual could use it. I did use the stuff on many occasions in the early 90s when you could get E10 89 octane for the same price as 87. The car loved it.

    The last part about why is 10% acceptable but not 85%, E85 vehicles have a sensor in the fuel line that tells the amount of alcohol present and the computer adjusts the fuel metering and timing accordingly. That part doesn't have anything to do with alcohols corrosive properties.

    Will E10 harm an older vehicle? Yes it will, as was mentioned earlier it is hard on rubber fuel lines and such. Will it harm newer stuff? No, right now 40% of all gas sold in America contains some level of ethanol. When in doubt read the manual.

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