January 15, 2008

Owner claims ethanol messed up vehicle. Really?

I remember when ethanol first came into Tennessee back in the late 80s, there were all kinds of stories going around about how ethanol had destroyed someone's engine. Of course it was always the cousin of a friend of a guy that worked down at the local supermarket. Never anybody that you actually knew. Well, I noticed a news item where someone had written in to a newspaper claiming ethanol had done damage his car.

A few days ago, my wife’s Mercedes was empty of gasoline so she stopped at a Kum & Go station to fill it with their premium gasoline. When she left, the car wold not idle. The motor would die at the stop signs, and it sputtered and jerked at slow city speeds.

When she arrived home, I checked the car as it only had 28,500 miles on it, and I thought that Kum & Go’s gasoline storage tank might have water in it and they should know. When I spoke to the lady in charge, she informed me that they had recently received a shipment of new gasoline that had ethanol in all grades of gasoline.

I called the service adviser at the Mercedes dealership, and he told me not to drive it to Tulsa but to use a piggyback wrecker and get the car in the shop ASAP to prevent rusting of the fuel system.

They stated on the three-page repair invoice that our Mercedes was not set up to run on an ethanol mixture and to never use it again.

Full Letter

Notice all the things that are implied here. First off in the beginning he suspected it was water in the tank. That implies that he isn't against ethanol since he thought it was something else first.

The second thing that is implied is that it caused great expense. The car had to towed to another town. That must have been expensive.

It is also implied that the car is fairly new since it only has 28,500 miles on it.

And last but not least it is implied that the repairs were quite extensive. So extensive in fact that it took three pages to list all the repairs on the invoice.

All this is implied without much real information in the letter. The year of the car and the model isn't given, the name of the dealership is missing and there is no real information as to what this cost and who had to pay the costs.

Now let me tell you why this is more than likely totally false.

First off let's look at the common sense argument to this letter. At the moment greater than 40% of the nations gasoline contains some level of ethanol. That would mean that if ethanol were such a problem for Mercedes vehicles then 40% of them would be having these problems. Something tells me that we would be hearing more about it than just one letter. It also tells me that any car manufacturer would be crazy to try and sell a car in this country that wasn't able to handle ethanol.

Now let's see if we can find some hard facts on this. First off there is a dealer in Tulsa OK.

Dealer Website

Didn't see anything on there about ethanol at all, certainly no warnings, but the website seems to be directed more at sales than information.

Actual proof is a little harder to find since Mercedes doesn't allow internet users to look at owners manuals online without first signing up for an account. But from looking over there website and even using their search feature the only reference to ethanol was the use of E85. And it should be noted that Mercedes has produced E85 compatible vehicles since the 2003 model year.

Hawaii is one of the few states that has an E10 requirement and their website states that up to E10 is compatible with Mercedes vehicles.

Unleaded gasoline containing oxygenates such as Ethanol, IPA IVA, and TBA can be used provided the ratio of any one of these oxygenates to gasoline does not exceed 10%, MBTE not to exceed 15%.

Hawaii Website

It seems to me that the real intent of this letter is to say that Kum & Go gas stations have ethanol and ethanol could damage your vehicle. My guess is that the letter was written by someone who has an ax to grind with Kum & Go or possibly a competing gas station that has 100% gasoline and can't compete in price. Note the last line of the letter.

I feel that car owners should be advised of their policy of mixing ethanol with their gasoline.

As you will see from this article from the Tulsa World it isn't any secret that Kum & Go was planning to introduce ethanol blended gas at their area stations and they are not the only ones in the area to have it either.

Tulsa World

And as you will see in this next article there is soon to be much more ethanol blended gasoline in the Tulsa area.

Magellan blending in ethanol units

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