By on June 12, 2013

Misha writes:

Hi Sajeev!

I’m a long time lurker, first time asker. I was curious about the effects of E85/E90 ethanol laced gasoline. I have read a bunch about how older cars are susceptible to corrosion damage to various parts of the fuel line.

I was curious to know if this, or any other ethanol related problem, is still applicable in modern cars? Thanks a lot!

Sajeev answers:

Let’s try to avoid the Ethanol Sucks/Support Our Farmers debate, hmm-kay? Long time TTAC readers already know where “we” stand on the issue.

Cars older than 2001 cannot run gasoline with more than 10% ethanol in the mix. Most newer cars cannot run E85/E90 because they aren’t tuned/programmed for it. Older cars (and small gas engines like lawn mowers) with rubber fuel lines are totally screwed, and perhaps also there’s a concern with corrosion of metal components.  But ethanol is only corrosive in some applications: per Wikipedia:

“High alcohol fuel blends are reputed to cause corrosion of aluminum fuel system components. However, studies indicate that the addition of water to the high alcohol fuel blends helps prevent corrosion. This is shown in SAE paper 2005-01-3708 Appendix 1.2 where gasoline/alcohol blends of E50, nP50,IP50 nB50, IB50 were tested on steel, copper, nickel, zinc, tin and three types of aluminum. The tests showed that when the water content was increased from 2000ppm to 1%, corrosion was no longer evident except some materials showed discolouration.”

I spoke (off the record? Ish?) with a Ford engineer friend of mine…just to make this posting a little more kosher.

“It’s only calibrated to do so if it’s advertised. I know at Ford we slap E85/E90 on the capless filler if it can take it. So like on newer cars like the 2.0L Focus, yes. But legacy powertrains like your Ranger, no. (except the 3.0L Vulcan, GOTCHA! – SM)  It’s all in the calibration and the capabilities of the ignition system.”

What’s the key takeaway here?  RTFM…son!

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice. 

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82 Comments on “Piston Slap: The Corrosive Effects of Ethanol Laced Gasoline?...”


  • avatar

    There are some tuners with E85 conversions, but as far as I know My SRT8 is safe from the 93 Octane pump gas around here as is my XJ-L. My Craftsman lawnmower hopefully is ok running on the 87 Octane I usually feed it.

  • avatar
    NMGOM

    As a chemist, I had addressed this issue before:

    “One of the functions of gasoline is to lubricate the upper piston ring and cool the valves in a port fuel-injected engine: ethanol has much poorer lubrication properties.  Don’t plan on getting the same engine longevity with ethanol included.  Both valves and rings will wear out sooner.  (And, of course, vehicle manufacturers would be happy to sell you another car.)  Also, ethanol acts as a “Lewis base” chemically in a hydrocarbon environment: that means it is corrosive with regard to seals, gaskets, and polymer tubing.  It is also actually hydroscopic, meaning it likes to bond with water and carry it along to cause rusting in fuel lines.  Most owners report poorer fuel mileage and less power with ethanol/gasoline blends: ethanol has only about 1/3 the energy content (per molecule) of pure hydrocarbon gasoline.  Ethanol  blends have also been reported to cause more cold-weather starting problems than pure hydrocarbon gasoline.  I think it’s revealing that, even now, some top quality foreign manufacturers (e.g., Mercedes, BMW, Porsche, and others) actually firmly discourage, if not outright prohibit, ethanol from being used routinely in their vehicles.”

    ——————

    • 0 avatar

      some top quality foreign manufacturers (e.g., Mercedes, BMW, Porsche, and others) actually firmly discourage, if not outright prohibit, ethanol from being used routinely in their vehicles.”

      OMG! I better go run and tell my friends who drive BMWs and Porsches that their machines are doomed! I can’t imagine how this things can be sold in Brazil!

      • 0 avatar
        NMGOM

        Marcelo de Vasconcellos – – –

        Perhaps “this things” get sold in Brazil with engines and fuel systems that have benn especially (and more expensively) prepared to use EtOH. Or, perhaps they really don’t care anymore….

        When BMW developed its “Hydrogen 7″ test cars (a project that actually started in the late 1970’s’), they discovered the need for special space-age materials (like MoS2) that could provide solid-state lubrication to compensate for running on H2, since that molecule has essentially zero natural lubrication abilities. So, yes, it can be done.

        On the other hand, we all know that diesel fuel, which we call “oil”, is a fuel that is also a wonderful natural lubricant , — which is why diesel engines last “forever” (all else equal).

        But if we want a gasoline-like biofuel, then butanol from fermentation from algae is a much better substitute: it shows NONE of the same adverse properties and behaviors of ethanol, and does not interfere with a current food crop (corn), whose lowered availability is now responsible for increased food prices.  It is also true that the combustion products from EtOH are more of a health risk* than from gasoline:
        * http://www.ewg.org/biofuels/report/Ethanol-Health-Risks-and-Engine-Damage

        So, to summarize: with respect to gasoline, ethanol —
        1) Is a poorer lubricant;
        2) Is corrosive to seals and gaskets;
        3) Is hydroscopic and carries water into fuel-system components;
        4) Shows only 1/3 the energy content per molecule as gasoline;
        5) Has caused cold-weather starting problems;
        6) Shows increased pollution health-risks;
        7) Employs a food-crop source for its production.

        ————-

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          NMGOM:

          You left out the biggest problem of all: With all the steps factored in, ethanol is a net energy loser. Its creation, from start to finish, does not make up for the gasoline that is offset by its use.

          • 0 avatar
            NMGOM

            golden2husky – – –

            Wow. I did not realize the whole process is energy-negative. No wonder we have to subsidize this stuff.

            —————–

        • 0 avatar

          NMGOM

          All your points are good and very valid, specially as pertains to food. What I was pointing out, however clumsily, was that ethanol will not kill a modern car. Just as imported cars come to Brazil with some adaptations, so will the cars that go to the US. If BMW et al don’t make the necessary changes US-bound cars then shame on them. Ethanol in gasoline, for whatever reason, is a fact of life that can easily be countered with available technology that doesn’t cost practically anything (an engineer working in the auto industry told me the difference doesn’t come to 5 dollars an engine).

          BTW, I read that in the US sugar cane ethanol is growing. US producers have been able to adapt and grow the plant in places like Lousiana, Texas and Florida. US ethanol is less and less corn based. That removes pressure from food pricing at least.

          • 0 avatar
            NMGOM

            Marcelo de Vasconcellos – – –

            “….was that ethanol will not kill a modern car”

            You certainly are right. It is possible for ETOH to be used as a motor fuel, but the question is one of long-term viability of those vehicles, overcoming the problems of ETOH (above); and showing a positive energy balance for its manufacture. After all, many things could be burned in cars as well, including acetic acid, but why do it? Again, if a biofuel must be generated, consider bio-diesel and bio-butanol first, and there will be fewer long-term issues. (All this will not be cheap, of course, any more than H2 will be.)

            —————–

      • 0 avatar
        MBella

        Mercedes sells flex fuel cars that can run E85. I’m sure the Brazilian cars are designed for it too.

    • 0 avatar
      icemilkcoffee

      “One of the functions of gasoline is to lubricate the upper piston ring and cool the valves in a port fuel-injected engine”

      Well- direct injection has pretty much taken over. So you can expect your valves to be wearing out sooner in any event.

  • avatar
    igve2shtz

    The small engine repair guys LOVE ethanol blends … it is a booming business for them now.

    My father (who never believed in fuel additives) had to buy three carburetors (generator, lawnmower and rota-tiller) in one year due to the ethanol destroying the carburetor jets. He is now a firm believer in Stabil.

    • 0 avatar
      cwallace

      Roger that- I can now break down Keihin and Dellorto carbs, clean corn glue out of the jets, and reinstall them pretty much with my eyes closed. Haven’t had to replace any jets yet, maybe because they clog so fast there isn’t time for them to corrode.

      Houston humidity and Washington back-scratching do not mix!

      • 0 avatar
        Detroit-Iron

        “corn glue”

        lulz

        • 0 avatar
          NMGOM

          Detroit-Iron – – –

          As mentioned above, EtOH is not “inert”. It can be quite reactive. Most of the “corn glue” or “corn goo” you find in fuel-system components comes from the reaction of EtOH with ever-present carboxylic acid contaminants in gasoline, which, with high temperatures and metal surfaces that act as catalysts, produces sticky, complex esters.** These things don’t dissolve easily for cleaning with conventional solvents, but acetone is possible, IF it doesn’t hurt other things like attached plastics and polymers.

          So, in the presence of acid catalysts, ethanol reacts with carboxylic acids to produce ethyl esters and water:
          RCOOH + HOCH2CH3 → RCOOCH2CH3 + H2O

          ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethanol

          ** This does NOT happen readily with butanol:
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butanol_fuel

          ——————-

      • 0 avatar
        mkirk

        This…Removing, cleaning the pilot jet, and reinstalling were getting to be part of the pre ride ritual on my CVK-40 equipped KLR 650.

    • 0 avatar
      Roader

      The plastic float needle seat in my lawnmower turns into what looks like oatmeal after a season or two of 10% ethanol. The rubber lines & primer bulb don’t seem to be harmed.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    Most GM cars can run e85. Forget Toyota’s “ledgenary fuel economy” and “most efficient full line manufacturer” taglines as they don’t run e85 being a foreign company. GM 2.0 turbos love the stuff to the tune of 400+ horsepower.

    http://www.cadillacforums.com/forums/cadillac-ats-technical-discussion-forum/273091-bad-news-racing-trifecta-performance-begin.html

    • 0 avatar
      thornmark

      GM merely exploits the E85 loophole better than Toyota. Seems Toyota should be lauded for that or at least GM should be shamed.

      “American automakers have been producing E85 flex models motivated by a loophole in the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) requirements, that allows for a fuel economy credit for every flex-fuel vehicle sold, whether or not in practice these vehicles are fueled with E85.[29][40] This loophole might allow the car industry to meet the CAFE targets in fuel economy just by spending between US$100 to US$200 that it cost to turn a conventional vehicle into a flex-fuel, without investing in new technology to improve fuel economy, and saving them the potential fines for not achieving that standard in a given model year.[40][41] In an example presented by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the agency responsible for establishing the CAFE standards, the special treatment provided for alternative fuel vehicles, “turns a dual fuel vehicle that averages 25 mpg on gasoline or diesel… to attain the 40 mpg value for CAFE purposes.”[42]”
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flexible-fuel_vehicles_in_the_United_States

      Very few use E85, because it’s crap.

  • avatar

    Yes, do not use ethanol in Lawn Mowers etc, ConsumerReports recently had a whole article on this subject.

    I only use Entanol free Gasoline in my Lawn and Snow machines, even though it costs a lot more than Regular gasoline, so do your self a favour and not use Entanol laced Gasoline.

    Who ever sold this “idea” to our Governments should be hung out to dry!

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      “Who ever sold this “idea” to our Governments should be hung out to dry!”

      The corn lobby is where you seek your villains along with a congress hungry for money.

      • 0 avatar
        racebeer

        Slowly repeat after me….

        Archer

        Daniels

        Midland

        • 0 avatar
          Summicron

          Can’t… still looping that kindergarten video:

          “MMM MMM mmm…..BaRACK HusSEIN OBAma…..”

        • 0 avatar
          DC Bruce

          Actually it’s one word “Iowa.” Since the Iowa caucuses (at one time ignored by the media 30 years ago) are at the front of the presidential nomination/primary season, every potential presidential candidate — of either party — has to pander.

          And they do.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Yeah there’s definitely something wrong with your election process when you give Iowa of all places the chance to weed out your candidates.

          • 0 avatar
            notapreppie

            As an Illinoisan, I always thought ADM was more of a legislative parasite than an executive one.

            I mean, Presidents make promises they rarely intend to or are capable of keeping (owing in large part to the largely individualized nature of their publicity).

            Congress, on the other hand, can hide behind their numbers so lobbyists can get a lot more done there.

          • 0 avatar
            thornmark

            Both major parties should boycott the IA caucuses as against public policy.

            If I recall correctly, failed peanut farmer Jimmy Carter first made it important.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        Let’s be ecumenical. It’s not *just* ADM and Big Corn (or “buying Iowa votes”).

        The Green Lobby was trying to tell us than corn as fuel was Going To Save Baby Carbon Jesus or whatever their story was, too.

        And the Nativist Lobby was all about “not using foreign oil”, too.

        There were lots of stupid players in the stupid decision.

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          Very few environmental groups support ethanol because it uses more fuel than it saves. The only green in ethanol is the dollars that big business makes off of it.

    • 0 avatar

      It is an hour drive (& across state lines) for me to find ANY ethanol free gasoline.

      This isn’t a practical suggestion for many people…

      • 0 avatar
        CoastieLenn

        Hardware stores like Lowes and Home Depot sell ethanol free fuel for small engines by the quart. Check you local hardware store in the lawn and garden dept.

        • 0 avatar

          I’ll check. I wonder if I could use this for my motorcycle as well?

          • 0 avatar

            Hey Robstar, here in Brazil people have been running bikes, lawn mowers and boats on gasoline with a 18-31% of alcohol content forever. No problems really. I don’t think you’ll really have much problems if you have good quality equipment (like I know your motorcycle is). See a comment below by optixtruf

          • 0 avatar

            I’m not sure….Identically named items in Brazil/US aren’t always created the same, such as my Fit.

            I hope you are right, however.

          • 0 avatar

            “Identically named items in Brazil/US aren’t always created the same”

            That’s true and almost 100% of the time the what’s on offer in the US will be the latest and technically superior (though some robustness is always added to the Brazilian offerings). Again, I wouldn’t worry too much.

            I don’t know the specifics but things like Stabil you guys are talking of, don’t eliminate ethanol (and if they market the product like that or any other brand does it, I’d be very wary), what they do is, maybe, keep the properties longer. Even gasoline gets old. I don’t know if ethanol gets old faster. It’s a fact of life, makers are aware. Reputable makers have found solutions. This, is the context presente, with newer and reputable equipment, is just not a problem.

            If your bike or car or boat or lawn mower is 20 yrs old, well that is a problem.

            In all honesty, relax.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Ethanol-free gas cannot be sold by law in the State of Maine. I’ve never seen higher than E10 here though.

        I used to be able to get uncorrupted gas in CT, in my Saab it would give nearly 10% better fuel economy.

    • 0 avatar
      chuckrs

      Off topic, an interesting read is Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma in which he chronicles how corn’s role in food products has grown immensely over the past 40 years. The producers have a whole lot of stroke and have had it for a long time. The nearest station where I can get 100% hydrocarbon gasoline is a 45 mile round trip – not too practical.

    • 0 avatar
      mic

      then you are effectively negating a new lawnmower every so often! I have been using ethanol gas in my lawnmower for five years with no impact on the Honda engine. I recently started using mmo in the gas. does anyone know if it will eliminate the effects?

    • 0 avatar
      tresmonos

      You can keep reading your Consumer Reports. I will still know that it doesn’t matter and your ROI on expensive gas is total crap.

      I ran my own lawn mowing business for almost a decade. Used the same equipment I started with and kept a regular maintenance schedule that involved air filter / spark plug replacement, fuel line cleansing and oil changes.

      Anyone else who reads this, please take Gentle Ted’s comments with a giant grain of salt.

      • 0 avatar

        +1

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Agreed, as I mentioned, you can’t buy ethanol free gas in my state for any price. I have never had the slightest issue with anything gas-powered, from the string trimmer to lawn mowers and tractors to my ’74 Triumph Spitfire. No additives either, I usually even forget to dump Stabil in for the winter. Never a problem. I’m also quite neglectful of the lawn equipment when it comes to maintenance in general, too many cars to keep up to snuff!

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          Buy 110/115 AVGAS at your nearest airport that handles small aircraft, then mix the AVGAS down with 86 RegUnl to get the desired octane rating you want.

          A five gallon container of AVGAS plus five gallons of 86 E10 will make 10 gals of 98 octane and has enough lead in it to lubricate whatever valve-seats need lubricating.

          But don’t use it in vehicles or equipment with oxygen sensors and catalytic converters — this is just for the old stuff like old cars, bikes, generators, lawnmowers, tillers, edgers, 4-cycle weed-eaters that don’t use catalytic converters or oxygen sensors.

          If you need 92 octane use 10 gallons of E10 to five gallons of AVGAS to make 15 gallons.

          That’s what we used for our V8 mudders. It was cheaper than nitro-methane and a lot easier and safer to use.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            Utterly illegal for on-road use, and completely unnecessary. Maine has a serious hard-on about using untaxed fuel, fines START at $10K. They do regular diesel checks due to all the fishermen who like to fill their trucks up on cheap boat diesel, and people using “home heating oil” in cars. I doubt an airport would sell fuel to you in a car or a can here.

            All these years with no issues other than reduced fuel economy, why would I bother? My Spitfire would like more than the 91 octane gas commonly available here, but a touch of timing retard and octane boost additive have worked well for years. And we do now have one station in the area that carries 93 octane, which the Triumph is happy on even without the booster.

    • 0 avatar
      Crabspirits

      Part of my job is small engine repair and I have a ton of equipment in my fleet that uses the E10 squirrel piss forced upon us in Illinois.

      For the most part, I don’t have any issues. I haven’t seen any fuel line that looks like the one in the picture. The problem comes from when you leave it sit for an extended length of time. A length of time that I would consider “abuse”. You might have gotten away with it before ethanol, but you sure can’t now. There are a number of fuel stabilizers on the market that can help.

      The exception is the little two-stroke trimmers and such. The rubber parts the form the fuel pump section of the carburetors are especially vulnerable.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    Gas by me has been 10% E since I can remember it seems. My classic and lawn mower both have to run on the stuff and as yet I haven’t seen any ill effects – though my car always seems to run rough. But I am at the point where I want to stop waiting for it to show up.
    What can I do to prevent it? With all the snake oil out there, I don’t really trust any product to actualy do what it’s supposed to. I know Stabil makes an additive that is supposed to basically eliminate the ethanol, but what exactly does it do and are there any side effects from that?

  • avatar
    Fordson

    Really, any small engine fuel supply (your gas can) should be treated with the ethanol-formula Stabil or equivalent at all times, because you never know how long you’re going to end up having it.

    I have a 1/3 acre area to mow with a 22″ self-propelled walk-behind (I like the exercise…), and even with that, my 5-gallon can takes over 3 months to run out, so it should be treated.

    My 2-cycle gas is of course treated with stabilizer when purchased and mixed with oil.

    Because I do this, I am not seeing the effects of ethanol on rubber, etc. with my small engines. Part of this was dumb luck, as my old, not-ethanol-formula Stabil ran out right when E10 started becoming ubiquitous, and I bought the new formula stuff because that’s what I found on the shelf at the store, before all the publicity about the harm to small engines.

  • avatar
    Pastor Glenn

    Sta-Bil and other fuel stabilizers DON’T “take away” the ethanol, nor do they eliminate the corrosion issues, clogging issues, etc. What Sta-Bil (among others) does is to slow the process of the FUEL (it’s not gasoline, when it is 10% ethanol, is it?) from breaking down chemically. Left long enough, and it’ll become “something else” which is no longer fuel, nor usable in an engine. Just ask some classic car drivers who leave cars for several months before running them.

    I have a pal who is a small engine mechanic. Since E10 fuels (10% ethanol, 90% gasoline) have become so common, his business has tripled.

    I have used 100% gasoline for my small engines (lucky for me I have one station near me which sells it – at 70 cents a gallon higher than E10). I’ve not had any issues.

    If you want ethanol free fuel for small engines, outboards, classic cars or even your own car, it is possible still. Check this out:

    http://pure-gas.org/

  • avatar
    optixtruf

    I’m trained as an automotive engineer, and being from the midwest, a lot of research programs our school did were sponsored by the farmers for ethanol research. I did a years worth of calibration on it for fsae, and oour school was given a few cars, a malibu w/ 3100, and Silverado for sae ethanol competitions and research. we also ran fuel pump testing, letting various brands of fuel pumps sit in a narrel of ethanol to see the effects ober the course of a year (we didn’t really see any effects, and tier 1 suppliers will sell oems an ethonal certified pump. The lines were only an issue on lower quality stuff, non sae rated fuel lines on lower cost engines, for example) we also did a bunch of testing with ehtanol in small engines, which I cantell you that ethanol content in a .25l lwaf blow seems to make no difference in the fuel economy, and that the cheap engines from are almost guaranteed not to last to their advertised life cycle. As far as calibrating for ethanol goes, the first issue you’ll have is getting it to cold start; it’s very finicky and takes a while to find a good equivalence ratio to start combustion. The good capabilities of ethanol come from its high octane ratio, like 105 octane (resistance to knock); this allows the calibrator to run more spark advance, increasing fuel economy and power, to a point. with ethanol, spark can be tricky to detect without knock sensors or in cylinder pressure sensors. if the engine is dedicated to running on e85/ethanol, I’ve seen a test ecotec engine run at a higher efficiency than the comparable gas engine, with a kuch high compression ratio, eliminating a lot of emissions devices, and a rather hot calibration. I’ve ranyed long enough, here’s some of my college work in action:http://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=plcp&v=GvxITiJc3lU

    • 0 avatar

      All true. We can be against ethanol for a myriad of reasons, but not for what it does for a car’s engine, which is close to anything. If anything, if you use just ethanol you get a cleaner engine over the long run as it burns cleaner and is not likely to develop so much sludge as gasoline engines.

  • avatar
    Pan

    Now, I’m worried. If ethanol causes problems in older cars, and is hard to avoid here in Canada, is there an additive that I can add to the fuel to offset any damage to my 1974 TR6 ?

    • 0 avatar
      WaftableTorque

      Relax. I believe Shell and Esso’s 91 octane premium has zero percent ethanol in Canada. It’ll say on the pump.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I was just at an Exxon last night here in the US and it did not display the “Up to 10% Ethanol” sign (which is required by state and possibly federal law if present). I asked the clerk and he honestly didn’t know if they used ethanol but became intrigued because he too would like pure gas for his quad.

  • avatar
    olddavid

    Hemmings has a map of gas stations that sell ethanol free fuel. I’m lucky enough to be one mile from the Salmon River Market (I’m plugging you, Dan) that does a thriving business selling to locals and tourists alike. There are more sellers out there than I would have guessed. My cars absolutely run better on no alcohol, but my newest model DD is 2004, so that would be expected. The octane of the local non alcohol premium is also 94, so that helps.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    I need to get back to using ethanol free, I used to pass a station a couple times a week, but now it’s out of the way…

    I can definitely notice a difference in mileage in ethanol free, not to mention how much better the engines run without it.

    • 0 avatar
      285exp

      I’ve been tracking the mileage in my 3 cars and truck for years, and there was no measurable change in fuel economy in any of them when non-ethanol gas was phased out. There are plenty of reasons to dislike E10, but significantly reduced mileage isn’t one of them. E10 has about 3% less energy content than non-ethanol gas, and there’s no reason any reasonably modern vehicle should lose any more mileage than that. You’ll never save enough money to offset the higher fuel cost in any case. I only buy non-ethanol for my boat, portable generator, and lawn equipment, but I’m not wasting my money using it in my cars.

      • 0 avatar

        Exactly 285exp. I think people have that mentality, similar, but in reverse to Japanese-American cars. In other words, if anything goes wrong with a Toyota, people discard and think it’s their imagination, if something goes wrong with a Dodge, well isn’t it a piece of crap! In the same vein, if something goes wrong and the guy is using the blend, he’ll blame the ethanol.

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        Where I am ethanol free is the same price as mid grade, about 8 cents difference, I consistently get 1-2 extra miles out with normal driving, to me it’s a no brainier, the added damage it does just puts the icing on the cake.

        What really sucks is having to change the seals in my mid-late 80s throttle bodied truck every 1-2 years coming out looking ragged almost melted looking.
        Don’t look forward to the day the lines start spraying fuel everywhere. Either way I’ve switched this truck strictly to ethanol free for the last 3+ years with no seal faults. If I don’t have time to go out of my way to fill it I won’t drive it.

        • 0 avatar
          285exp

          Hummer,

          If you’re only getting 1-2 extra miles per tank then you’re right, it’s a no brainer, you’re wasting your money. If you think you’re getting 1-2 extra mpg, you’re probably just mistaken unless your vehicle was getting 50 mpg on E10. Again, any vehicle built in the last 20 years or so is going to have computer controlled fuel injection, and it will adjust the air/fuel mixture to compensate for the lower energy content of the E10. Because there is around 3% less energy content in E10, you’re going to lose around 3%. There is no physical reason for 10% or more loss of economy. They’ve done actual tests using actual vehicles, and found that fuel economy decreases in proportion to the amount of ethanol in the blend, as would be expected.

          If you’re having to change the seals in your late 80’s truck every 1-2 years, then the mechanic fixing it isn’t using the correct seals.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            Have they done any tests on carburetor-equipped stuff though?

            Those can’t adjust on their own to the E10 and that could cause economy issues beyond energy content reasons.

          • 0 avatar
            285exp

            ajla,

            The vast majority of cars on the road today are FI, and most of the people who claim these 10% or more economy decreases aren’t driving carbureted cars.

            The biggest problem for those cars is that the fuel system and carb seals are not alcohol resistant, and the alcohol can destroy the hoses, dissolve varnish in the fuel tank, and all that crud ends up clogging up the jets in the carb and generally wreaking havoc on the fuel system. If you’ve got a vehicle old enough to have a carb, by all means use E0, but anything built in the last 15-20 years will burn E10 just fine.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            1-2 mpg is pretty good for 6 cents, if that’s not a no brainier to you, then I have a feeling you have an agenda.

            I do all of my engine work, and I know very well that the way to change seals hasn’t changed must in the last couple of decades.

            The water in ethanol causes more fuel to be burnt to make up for the loss.

          • 0 avatar
            285exp

            Hummer,

            I have no agenda, I think that “enriching” gasoline with ethanol is a lousy idea on many fronts. That doesn’t stop me from recognizing that there is no significant decrease in mileage from using E10. I don’t have to depend on anecdotal evidence because I know exactly what kind of mileage I was getting before and after my switch to E10, and it supports what you would expect to get when using a fuel with 3% less energy content than before. Not much difference. To get 10% or more less mileage, you have to believe that the 10% ethanol they’re adding contributes no energy at all or that it actually is a net loss in energy. That is clearly not true, nor is there any reason to believe that alcohol has some magical negative effect on engine management systems. I think that people who say they’re seeing these decreases in excess of the expected 3% don’t really know what they were getting before, no matter what they say. Where I live, E0 costs around 10% more than E10. Unless I can get at least 10% better mileage, it makes no sense to use it unless there is some other benefit. For my boat, with its unsealed fuel system, there is a benefit in not having to deal with phase separation caused the the alcohol absorbing water from the air. Stabil does not prevent that. Same with my lawn equipment. The realtively small amount of fuel I have to buy for these makes the increased cost irrelevant compared to the costs associated with having to repair the damage caused by old, phase separated fuel. In my cars, the fuel systems are sealed, and the fuel never gets old enough to degrade. Seasonally or infrequently used engines are much more susceptible to being damaged by E10.

            What vehicle are you saying you’re losing 1-2 mpg by using E10?

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            Yes they have done actual tests and found that for some cars the loss of MPG can be more than 10% when using E10 while for others it can be near 0%. The amount of energy contained in the fuel is only part of the equation, the other part is the calibration of the engine, it’s compression ratio and other factors.

      • 0 avatar
        cirats

        Well I tracked mileage in my E36 BMW M3 rather fastidiously for the last few years I owned the car and noticed a mileage drop-off in the range of 5% to 10% when using E10. This was going back and forth between E10 and ethanol-free fairly frequently. I might use the cheaper and more convenient E10 for a few weeks and then switch over to the ethanol free for a couple of tanks, so my measurements between E10 and ethanol free would cover roughly the same seasons/temps, same driving habits, etc. In fact, I usually drove harder on the ethanol free because the “seat of the pants” test confirmed that, not only did I get better mileage, I also had better power, making the driving more fun. The mileage/power relationship actually makes perfect sense if the same amount of fuel is going through the engine at the same throttle input: get up to speed faster, use less fuel doing so, and use less fuel to maintain speed, etc.

        What was so frustrating about the difference is, if I’m buying fuel that is only 90% gas and getting only 90% of the gas mileage, WTF is the ethanol even doing besides slowing me down, and why can’t I just buy 90% of a gallan of gas at my local station instead, which is of course not an option?

        I don’t see/feel as much of a difference with my current car (Infiniti G35S) and thus don’t go out of my way as often to get ethanol free gas, but when I do, I do think there’s a material difference. In fact, I think I’ll make my next couple of tanks ethanol free.

      • 0 avatar
        mkirk

        E10 drops me below the magic 10MPG mark.

  • avatar
    red60r

    Feeding my ’97 Volvo 850-T5 wagon our local mandatory E-10 gas caused it to develop a multitude of fuel seeps and smell like a distillery. Several non-metal parts of the fuel supply lines had to be replaced. Fortunately, my current Volvo (’04 S60R) has never suffered similar problems.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    One issue being tracked in the motorcycling world is the issue of blender pumps that dispense both E10 and E15. There are proposed minimum purchase requirements to ensure that leftover E15 in the pump itself doesn’t turn E10 into E12 or E13. Some bikes, such as the Harley Sportster would be illegal as the tank is so small. The American Motorcycle Association is fighting this one.

    In the general aviation world, most piston aircraft run 100LL (low-lead) which has no ethanol. Some engines have STCs (basically, special dispensation from the FAA) to run no-lead 91 octane auto fuel. Only one common engine I know of can run E10 which is the Rotax 912ULS which requires 91 Octane. Considering that 100LL costs between $5.50 and $9.00 per gallon, this is a big consideration when your Piper Warrior can take over 40 gallons. Some FBOs (the aviation version of a service station) provide 91 Octane mogas, but not all. Converting aviation engines to do anything they don’t normally do is an incredibly expensive process. I would guess that it might cost over $10K per engine to allow ethanol fuels and that doesn’t include the paperwork and the cost of the certification process to issue STCs.

    I’m certain that ethanol can be a viable fuel and additive (especially in engines designed solely for ethanol), but it seems to me that it’s getting shoved down our throats without considering the tremendous upset it’s going to cause.

    • 0 avatar
      Brian P

      Per American Motorcyclist magazine a few months ago, the minimum-purchase requirement for blender pumps that dispense E15 has been scrapped. The new requirement is that any filing station that sells E15 also has to sell fuel containing not more than E10 at a separate nozzle, so that the dilution effects of the higher-than-E10 fuel remaining in the hose are not a concern.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I asked a very similar question back in 2009 when I bought my Diplomat:

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/10/piston-slap-diplomatic-immunity/

    Most people back then commented that I shouldn’t be concerned. I filled the car exclusively with E10 while I owned it and I never had any fuel system trouble with it. That’s not to say the previous owners never had issues. I did drive the car regularly and I live in a climate that rarely drops below 50 degrees. Fuel economy was terrible but the car ran fine. I didn’t have the owner’s manual so I’m not sure if the 318 was built for E10 or not.

    FWIW, all three of my current cars older than 20 years old state in their owner’s manuals that they can accept up to 10% ethanol just fine.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    This is a real emotional subject for a lot of folks. Here in Indiana, we’ve had 10% ethanol gasoline widely used since the late 1980s. A lot of my outdoor power equipment is 20 yrs old or more and I’ve had nearly zero problems with fuel systems.

    The only issue I can confirm was fuel lines rotting on a newer leaf blower but I think it was likely due to crappy Chinese sourced polymers in the fuel lines.

  • avatar

    I’m not a chemist but I was asked to write a paper on Ethanols effects on small engines by an old employer (a large dealer of marine engines) I talked with engineers from several engine manufactures as well as reading SAE white papers and all sorts of boring stuff. Basically automakers started preparing cars for E10 in the early eighties. Some did it better than others and my guess is that most cars built after 1983 or so will do fine on E 10 and likely even higher amounts would be OK. The small equipment manf and other engine builders did not follow suit until a few years later and some apparently did not test it as much as others. Also to hold costs down on these engines they often used rubber parts that were the bare minimum for E10 and as they were viewed as disposable engines the shortened life span was ignored.
    Also Brazil is different they have been running high amounts of ethanol since the early 70’s (maybe earlier) and I’m sure they adapted to better rubber parts earlier. And Imported cars less than 25 years old will likely be fine as well.
    As stated earlier unless an engine is designed to only run on Ethanol blended fuels they are going to lose efficiency vs pure gas.
    In the marine world there were two big problems that also effect the small equipment world. One Ethanol attracts water. In an open fuel system (emission controls killed this concept in cars long ago) moisture will blend with the fuel and make a sludge mess. This is where most of the complaints of cleaning carbs comes from with both marine and small equipment engines.
    Two In a car the manf tests the whole fuel system to make sure that all parts will withstand ethanol. In the small equipment and marine world it’s some what rare to have the carrying case (boat hull or tractor frame) made by the same guy who made the engine. This often results in a certain component that will not meet the Ethanol spec. The best example of this is fiberglass fuel tanks in boats which literally self destruct when filled with E10

  • avatar
    jhefner

    “(except the 3.0L Vulcan, GOTCHA! – SM)”

    Only a few of the Vulcan equipped Taurus and Rangers were FFV vehicles, and were marked as such; the remainder could not use E85.

    Cannot imagine that “mad Vulcan phowah” running on E-85….

    I am assuming it was the fuel breaking down, plus condensation that rusted out the gas tank, pump, float, and three injectors after sitting up for four years?

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Actually in certain years all the Ranger Mad Vulcan Phowah was FFV in a couple of years it was all the standard cab models and then it switched to all the extended cab models. The green leaf road badge on the tail gate is the indicator.

  • avatar
    285exp

    Scoutdude,

    You have a link to those studies showing those 10% reductions?

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    My lawn equipment dealer said to run premium (91 or 93) in power equipment. They said that it generally has less ethanol in it and they don’t see the breakdown in fuel system components as often when people use premium.

    I run premium and an ethanol “protector” sold by Lucas in my power equipment. My mower is only two years old, but the weed-eater is about 6, no problems with starting, running and no brittle fuel line. It is a Shindaiwa, which is not your typical $70 big box special.

    As far as aviation goes, I’m a big proponent of diesel being the fuel of choice in the future for light aircraft. Diesel and jet fuel are fairly close and are interchangable. Diesel is not without its faults, but it has to be better than pumping unrestricted 100LL byproducts into the air.

    Problem is, diesel engines are available to general aviation. The cost can be around $50,000 though, which on older single engine airplanes like a 172 and Piper Cherokee, can be what the entire airframe is worth. Of course, a new 100LL engine is around 25k for these airplanes too, which depending on use, could be every 3-10 years.

    I know Cessna has a turbodiesel 182 available. At $515,000 new…


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