August 04, 2008

Ethanol And Small Engines

There has been a rash of articles in the news the last few days about the effects of ethanol blended fuels on small engines, such as lawn mowers, string trimmers, chainsaws, and such. Most every article quotes some local service technician saying that repairs of these types of equipment have gone up and it is all because of ethanol.

As I have pointed out in earlier posts, I own a lawn care company and can assure that what the news articles are claiming goes against my own experience. For the last two years I have used nothing but E10 in all of my gasoline powered equipment and haven't had the first problem related to fuel. Even the fuel stored over the winter ran ok at the start of the year.

Further the only study that I could find that dealt with this issue concluded that ethanol blends are safe in small engines.

This test represents over 1300 hours of operation accumulated on test units representing 7 manufacturers and 6 use applications. Though the scope of the test did not allow the scientific precision that would be incorporated in more comprehensive testing, it does indicate that the average consumer would not experience equipment failures which result in loss of use or unusual repairs.

Of course, everyone should read the owners manual for their equipment and follow the manufacturers recommendations. But knowing that well over half the gasoline sold in this country contains some level of ethanol, it would be crazy for equipment manufacturers to sell equipment here that couldn't use ethanol blended fuels.


Anonymous said...

'Problem is that you dont take into account the fact that most users dont constantly run their equipment as a lawn service might. They tend to let it sit around for a week or two between uses. This is when the damage happens. The seals and diaphragms get stiff and the water trapped in the fuel by the ethanol goes to work corroding internal parts.

Michael A. Gregory said...

The one thing that you can depend on when you mow lawns for a living is that things break. In fact I have a saying that if I'm not breaking something then I'm not working. As a result of the rough nature of my business, I have to carry backups for most everything. So that means that my backup mower and string trimmer along with occasional use equipment such as chainsaw and walk behind bushhog only get used occasionally.

And as I pointed out in the post, all my equipment sits from about the middle of October to the middle of March with only being started every couple of weeks. Still no problems that can be attributed to ethanol blended fuel.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with anonymous 9/15/2008 the ethanol blends do cause problems if some sort of fuel stabilizer is not used. Usually in the carburetor, the ethanol fuel will absorb moisture right out of the air. This occurs because most lawn equipment does not have a sealed fuel system. Problems associated with ethanol blends: Hard start or no start, poor performance, missing and, possible carburetor damage depending on the amount of water absorbed by the ethanol and storage time. I recommend using a fuel stabilizer and a better than stock spark plug. ASE and Ford Master Mechanic

Michael A. Gregory said...

Using a fuel stabilizer is something can never hurt. Some two cycle oils come with fuel stabilizer in them. Stihl two cycle oil is one that does. Other than the times that I have been out of my regular two cycle oil I have never used fuel stabilizer in anything. The two cycle oil I use doesn't have fuel stabilizer in it.

Unless it is just pouring rain or lots of lightning, when it rains I generally do the jobs that are strictly weedeater jobs. I have refueled in the rain and actually seen rain drops fall into the gas tank and still never had any problems.

Anonymous said...

I have been in business for 38yrs. Have 8 small engines from chain saws to 28hp. fuel injected.Some of my engines may not get used for up to four-five months. Never have had starting or over heating problems like this before. Put ethanol fuel in a glass jar & let it set for a while, (it separates)seems to be plugging filters, injectors,needle valves

Michael A. Gregory said...

According to the EPA you would have had to have let it sit for in excess of two years for it to phase separate.

Water Phase Separation in Oxygenated Gasoline

Anonymous said...

Old Timer down here in Jacksonville, FL. Gasohol now named Ethanol came through here in late 70's. Corn whisky mixes with gasoline and with water... well DUH! Older autos with vented gascaps and small engines... this happens and havoc results. Also disolves some gasket shellacs in antique cars and older outboards. (Recomended per factory manuel as a solvent for gasket residue in my old Johnson) outboard!) Boat owners in the know avoid it, also homebuilt aircraft authorized to run on auto gas. Not only can gum up engine, disolve older fiberglas gas tanks, but causes vapor lock at altitude in airplanes (NOT GOOD!). Newer autos seem to run OK on it at less than 10% but have no indication of what happens if greater than 10%. Currently "splash blended" by tank truck drivers. Hear up in New Jersey some stations tested about 30%. (Government subsidies and cheaper than gas, so wonder if accidential or $ involved.)I remember Gasohol, but us Americans have a short attention span and will have to experience again. Girl friend's son-in-law had his new Yamaha 2-Cycle outboard gum up with it about a month ago. Dealer installed a filter system at his expense! Good luck kiddies.


Anonymous said...

I'm amazed that anyone with any mechanical knowlege would defend the use of gasohol! I've been an ASE master tech for 20 years and have to mention that ethanol is alcohol, and alcohol deteriates rubber. Rubber is what the pintle tips and seals are made of. When I was a kid they tried gasahol, and saw all of the fuel injected (Bosch cis) vehicles burning on the side of the free ways. That is why it was outlawed. The newest vehicles may be able to handle it, but I know for a fact that most fuel return lines are rubber lined. The mandated mix of 10% will take longer to cause damage than the old mixture, but rest assured its not good for the equipment or vehicles you own.
Robert J Gagnon WPB FL

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