By on May 24, 2016

gas pump. shutterstock user Tonographer

David writes:

Hi Sajeev,

Is it worth the extra 40¢/gallon to go for 91 octane ethanol-free gasoline based on its durability merits?

Hy-Vee grocery stores in Kansas City have gas stations that sell fuel at a discount with a grocery store card. Besides shopping there for our family anyway, it’s the only station near me that sells ethanol-free 91 octane gasoline. Besides the political boondoggle I refuse to support, I have heard from lore that ethanol is bad for internal-combustion engines, specifically the rubber and plastic bits. This was confirmed by my lawn mower repair place that’s been in business 30+ years, scooter mechanic, and my motorcycle dealership service department.

The political boondoggle is enough of an answer for me, but what about the potential service issues? Are they real? My thought process is simple: by the time higher octane’s efficiency is tallied, added to the fact that ethanol-free does not attract water and degrade fuel lines, the real cost difference is minimal.

Your opinion matters to me more than most, son! What say you?

Thank you in advance. I enjoy reading your column.

Sajeev answers:

I’m no fan of the ethanol-blending boondoggle (that we’ve discussed in painful detail years ago), but my decade as a blacklisted auto journo (i.e. no press cars) proves that my own rides run fine sans ethanol-free gasoline.

Let’s discuss the known problems with ethanol blends discussed on this website on our own vehicles. I’ll go first (obviously): I own a 1988 Mercury Cougar with 200,000 miles (150,000 miles on a stock Mustang 5.0L engine) and a 1995 Lincoln Mark VIII (100% original) with 178,000 miles. Both sat in various states of disrepair for one to two years with E10 in their tanks, at least once in the past decade.

  • Wear and damage of internal engine parts: The Cougar is weak at high rpms, but valve float is a problem for worn Mustang E7 heads. Ethanol problems get a pass!
  • Damage to metal, rubber, and plastic parts of fuel system: As mentioned in a recent Piston Slap, the Cougar needed new injectors, maybe ethanol-blended fuel killed them.
  • Gumming-up of fuel injectors, carburetors, etc. due to release of accumulated deposits in engine from ethanol alcohol’s solvent properties: See above.
  • Corrosion of metal parts in fuel system and engine: The Cougar looked fine when I upgraded the fuel pump and when I removed the upper intake. 
  • Deterioration of elastomers and plastic parts: See above. 
  • Drying, softening, stretching and/or cracking of rubber hoses, seals and other rubber components: The rubber hose between the Cougar’s fuel pump and the fuel line split like an arterial dissection this year.
  • Oxygen sensor damage: Maybe, the Cougar gets mediocre mileage unless I drive 67 mph on the dot and the exhaust does smell funny.  
  • Damage or premature disintegration of fuel pump: Nope. 
  • Carburetor damage, including clogging: This is the only reason I hate my lawn mower. 
  • Dirty and clogged fuel filters: Nope. 
  • Clogging and plugging of fuel injectors: Maybe that’s why the Cougar needed fuel injectors! 
  • Piston/bore failure through knock/pre-ignition: No, but next week is a brand new week!
  • Unsuitable ignition timing resulting in ignition failure: Sounds like a personal problem to me. 
  • Piston ring sticking: HOW DARE YOU INSINUATE THAT … I’M ALL MAN!

So while I don’t care for the decreased fuel economy (10-percent loss on the Mark VIII) and loathe the boondoggle, I ain’t been burned by ethanol in the last 10-ish years.

Conclusion: I am less than motivated for you to spend that extra $0.40 … unless you drive a carbureted vehicle.

[Image: Shutterstock user Tonographer]

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133 Comments on “Piston Slap: Tolerate the Government’s Ethanol Boondoggle?...”


  • avatar
    HerrKaLeun

    Newer cars and equipment don’t care. My 2007 snowblower is E10 approved.

    If manufacturer approves you are fine.
    RTFM

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      I would say the one important thing with small equipment, new or old is to let all the fuel run out before putting it away in the off season. The main issue with ethanol fuel appears to be with its shorter life span.

      • 0 avatar
        Fred

        It also tends to absorb moisture more readily. There are chemicals to help prevent them, but they are expensive, so yes draining is a good idea.

      • 0 avatar
        C. Alan

        The shorter life span is why I put gas stabilizer in all the fuel I use in power equipment. I try my best to use it up by the end of the season, but you never can quite get it all out of the carburetor.

        • 0 avatar
          FormerFF

          Echo branded two stroke oil, for one, contains gasoline stabilizer. I suppose other brands for small engines do as well.

          • 0 avatar
            mazdaman007

            Had a 25 year old lawnmower where the deck finally cracked a couple of years ago so I junked it but the motor still ran fine. Ran it on ethanol blend (E10) most of it’s life, never drained in the off-season but I always pre-mixed in fuel stabilizer when filling the gas can at the gas station. Never spent a penny on engine repair (but I did change the oil every 2 years or so.)

            16 year old snowblower still going, same parameters as above. YMMV.

    • 0 avatar
      SSJeep

      At some point before they went belly-up, Saab had designed an engine that would automatically adjust operating parameters when E85 was sensed over standard gas, and it proved to be a rocket on an E85 tune. Its too bad their prototypes never made it to production…

      • 0 avatar
        heavy handle

        Saab offered their BioPower engines in Europe for many years, but GM did not to sell them in the US. We briefly got a 4 cylinder BioPower option from post-GM Saab in 2010/11.

  • avatar
    raph

    My anecdata hasn’t shown any real problems with ethanol added fuel either. I suppose it comes down to how old the car is and on what side of the government ethanol mandate time table it was manufactured in. Prior to adding ethanol (I’d guess well before since vehicle manufacturers need to be abreast of pending regulation) the fuel system and engine were not designed to cope with the peculiarities of alcohol blended fuel. Past that it should be fine as the blended fuel is taken into account in much the same fashion as when reformulated oils (mostly the result of dealing with emissions) have to be taken into account due to the change in wear properties (fun fact: all the good old fashion anti-wear additives effect the life of the emissions system and have been steadily reduced over the years)

    Also its not just the corn illuminati driving ethanol use in fuel. While down on energy content it is a cheaper more environmentally friendly alternative to other methods of enhancing the octane rating of fuel which I suppose is a plus for the fuel industry and part of the reason we enjoy a variety of high compression engines today.

  • avatar
    itsgotahemi

    I believe that the 10% is base on the EPA demanding so may gallons of corn be forced into the current gasoline sales. There is a 700 million gallon increase coming this year to meet the almost 19 million gallon goals and E 10 will become effectively E 11

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    I hate the idea of ethanol in our gas. I would support any measure to get back to 100% gasoline.

    That said…
    My 1967 Impala sits for eons of time between drives and I’ve never had a fueling problem that I have noticed. I’ve probably put 200 miles on it in the last 10 years. The only issue with fuel is when I discovered the gas gauge had stopped working last year when I ran it out just as I was wondering why I didn’t drive it much.

    My lawnmower has yet to show any real issues with running it – it was older when I got it 7 years ago and I have only ever performed routine maintenance on it.

    I filled my Tacoma up with 89 e0 and monitored the mileage and found that I actually had lower mpg while I had it in my tank. But that was only one tank as I don’t live near enough to e0 pumps to justify it.

    On one hand I wish I had evidence of it causing problems, but on the other I’m glad I haven’t had to deal with it… yet.

    • 0 avatar
      notapreppie

      While the method that led us to using EtOH in gasoline were obnoxious, it does have benefits.

      It increases knock-resistance (hooray for higher octane ratings!). More importantly, it oxygenates the fuel which reduces carbon monoxide and soot emissions.

      We can’t go back to MTBE nor should we want to so we’d have to find a suitable replacement. ETBE would work but that requires ethanol to produce so we might as well skip a production step and just use ethanol.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    Ethanol blends have been with us for a very long time now. They used to be called “gasohol” during the Carter administration.

    Honestly, if you’re running a pre-Bicentenial car and you need to replace a fuel hose, you shouldn’t blame ethanol. Rubber doesn’t last forever.

    Anything manufactured past 1980 should be ethanol-ready.

    If anything, ethanol correlates with more reliable cars.
    When I was a kid, there were shops that specialized in gas tank repairs. I haven’t seen one in decades.

    • 0 avatar
      Duaney

      As a full time mechanic, all I can say is that you are so wrong! I see countless rusty gas tanks, bad fuel lines, destroyed “O” rings, destroyed carburetors, vapor lock, etc. No vehicle 1980 up through the last few years is safe to use ethanol blends. Realistically, the only safe way to use ethanol blends is stainless steel or plastic fuel tanks, complete stainless steel lines, fuel pumps with no rubber type parts, no carburetor of any kind is safe, and clogged filters and injectors are part of the formulae too.

      • 0 avatar
        heavy handle

        You must work in a specialized shop if you still see carburetors. I know there are a few exceptions, but most makes switched to fuel injection 30 years ago.

        Are there still gas tank shops where you live? The one holdout in my area changed their name to “Gas Tank and Radiator” in the early 1990s, and then to just Radiator in the late 90s. They now go by “Automotive.”

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        Exactly Duaney. I can’t imagine how he could be more wrong on this subject.

        • 0 avatar
          Carlson Fan

          Actually both you and Duaney are completely clueless. The only one talking any sense is heavy handle. I live in MN, the first state to adopt ethanol blended fuels. I’ve never owned an engine that didn’t run on ethanol blended fuel. Many with carb’s and never an issue.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            I’m glad your world revolves around you and people who work on cars for a living have nothing to offer on this subject. Don’t learn anything. You’re perfect just the way you are.

          • 0 avatar
            Carlson Fan

            I can easily find a mechanic here in MN who will completely dispute all your ethanol nonsense.

      • 0 avatar
        PeriSoft

        “I see countless rusty gas tanks, bad fuel lines, destroyed “O” rings, destroyed carburetors, vapor lock, etc.”

        And on what basis do you conclude that those things never would have occurred without E10? Not to mention which, even if those things *were* caused by E10, how would you know they were caused in significant numbers *relative to the overall vehicle population*? Of course you see busted cars – you work in a place that fixes cars!

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          “Of course you see busted cars – you work in a place that fixes cars!”

          Yep. Some folks don’t understand the concept of selection bias.

        • 0 avatar
          ponchoman49

          I witnessed it first hand on both my lawn mower and my 1981 Trans AM which has the original 30

        • 0 avatar
          ponchoman49

          I witnessed it first hand on both my lawn mower and my 1981 Trans AM which has the original 301 turbo 4BBL engine. Before E-10 gas came to Upstate, NY my lawn mower and Trans AM were fine year after year after year with the normal gas and Stabil treatment when in storage for Winter. Enter 2009 and E-10 gas. My lawn mower refused to start the following season and was diagnosed with a bad diaphragm that the Ethanol turned from a piece of rubber to a hard piece of gooey mess. It was re-built and thankfully the gas stations started offering premium non ethanol in 2010 and surprise- no more issues.
          The lawn mower repair facility I brought it to said that business has tripled since Ethanol gas had been offered for small engine products with similar issues.

          The 1981 Trans Am saw very hard starting issues and logy performance. Pulling the air-horn off the carb revealed the float was disintegrating and getting into the idle circuits and all throughout. it was re-built and a brass float used instead so this wouldn’t happen. I have been using the same premium non ethanol gas and surprise- no more issues to this day!

          Conclusion- ethanol gas does harm carbureted engines and small engines and should not be used long term in them, especially if they sit for periods of time not being used.

        • 0 avatar
          Duaney

          Very good question. I know that the E10 does all of this damage because I have the pleasure of working on antique vehicles that have been here for over 35 years, and some of them have never had the E10, and a lot of them have flexible fuel lines, clean tanks, nice clean carburetors, etc. If you do this all the time you find out in a hurry what is causing all the damage. Try inserting a normal fuel line hose in E10 for a day, then you’ll notice when it drys off, the section in the fuel turns hard, pure gas doesn’t have the effect.

      • 0 avatar
        carguy67

        We have several older cars in our fleet: 1919 Seagrave pumper, 1946 Chevy half-ton, 1955 T-Bird, 1956 Austin-Healey 100, 1965 Mustang and a 1967 Austin-Healey 3000 (we also have a couple lawnmowers). We have run all on E10 as long as it’s been mandated here in California, with no problems we could attribute to the fuel.

        • 0 avatar
          Duaney

          You would have to constantly have fresh fuel in all of them to have no ill effects, never operate in hot weather to not experience vapor lock, or you’re using pure gas and you don’t realize it.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Correlation does not imply causation.

        Gasoline is a witch’s brew of chemicals with more than 200 local blends. I think ethanol gets a bad rap for damage that could just as easily be caused by other things in the “gasoline”, or just plain old age and wear and tear.

        I live in Maine, where it is illegal to sell anything less than e10 for using in a car. No issues ever with any of my cars, including my dual-SU ’74 Triumph Spitfire. Or any of the sundry lawn equipment. All of which get put away for 6 months a year, none of which get so much as a drop of fuel stabilizer. But, as with anything, YMMV. Maine is a cold climate, maybe doing this in Texas would not work as well when the hot shed/garage causes things to evaporate differently.

        One for sure benefit of ethanol up here in the frozen north is that nobody has to bother with DryGas anymore!

        • 0 avatar
          Duaney

          I quote Popular Mechanics, “Gummed up fuel systems, damaged tanks and phase separation caused by stray moisture infiltrating fuel systems have plagued many consumers since this mixture debuted, and the problems will only get worse if government policy to increase the proportions of ethanol to gasoline is implemented” I think Popular Mechanics is a sufficient authority to justly blame ethanol E10 for these problems. I might add that when phase separation occurs, it produces formic acid, which attacks fuel system components.

          • 0 avatar
            285exp

            Duaney,

            The Popular Mechanics article does say that, but most of the problems listed there mainly affect vintage cars, marine engines, and small engine power equipment, not any reasonably modern car engine. Any car or truck built in the last 25 years minimum were built with ethanol resistant fuel systems and computer controlled fuel injection, so E10 doesn’t degrade them significantly more than E0.

            Unless the person asking this advice is driving a vintage car, they are highly unlikely to have any of the problems mentioned. Modern cars have sealed fuel systems, so phase separation isn’t a problem. Assuming that his vehicle has been built in the last 25 years or so, if E0 costs more than 3-4% more than E10, he’ll just be wasting money burning E0. If he has a moral or philosophical objection to ethanol “enhanced” fuel, and he wants to avoid the stuff for that reason, fine, but it isn’t going to save him any money in the short or long term.

  • avatar
    olddavid

    The four vehicles in my fleet manufactured before 1980 get the real thing. My Mustang(87), MarkVIII(98) and Infiniti get whatever is cheapest premium. This has been hashed out on four different blogs in the last week. Is it ratings week? How does a blog set ad rates? How about your quest for the driving Sierra? Why is the sky blue?

    • 0 avatar

      Is it ratings week? – This question was from January, I finally got to it in my queue.

      How does a blog set ad rates? – I promise you that mentioning Lincoln-Mercury products lowers the rate tremendously.

      How about your quest for the driving Sierra? – Still doing the 2.3 turbo swap.

      Why is the sky blue? – Panther Love.

  • avatar
    Duaney

    So much of the ethanol discussion depends on the vehicle and type of use, local climate, and maybe luck. I’ve seen serious problems in modern fuel injected engines as well as older carbureted engines. If the fuel is used up and replaced often, not so much trouble. But when the blend has time to sit, separation occurs and formic acid is produced, which attacks fuel system components. Also consider that the small amount of ethanol attracts water which then causes rust and serious fuel system deterioration. Even fuel injected engines can vapor lock with the blend, and most older vehicles can have serious vapor lock with ethanol blends. I recommend never using ethanol blends if possible, but many if not most of the USA gas stations only offer the blends.

  • avatar
    Frylock350

    My Silverado loves it some E85; its like caffeine for the engine.

  • avatar
    SaulTigh

    My experience with ethanol blended fuels:

    1995 Mercury Sable 3.0 Vulcan V6 – This car belonged to my grandmother and frequently sat for long periods of time without the benefit of Stabil before I got it. I used Stabil when I first got it because it continued to sit for long periods, but now I drive it enough that I don’t bother and it runs fine on 87 octane E10. Fuel system is completely original other than the filter. No problems observed at all.

    2014 F150 5.0 Coyote FFV – A true flex fuel vehicle designed to run on any blend up to E85. Kum & Go (a convenience store chain out of Iowa) sells E85 around here, but not cheaply enough to make up for the loss in fuel economy, so I’ve never put E85 in the tank. Nice to know I could if I had to though. I’ve heard it can be economical if you get up into the corn belt where it sells more cheaply. I run 87 octane E10 (and managed to buy 30 gallons @ $1.80 just before the price recently jumped, whoop whoop!).

    2015 BMW 3-series 2.0 N20 – As someone on here recently put it, the Ultimate Leasing Machine, and since I leased it I don’t really care if it blows up in 10 years because of ethanol. We do have a station around here that sells no ethanol premium at 91 octane, though at a considerable price premium (generally 50 cents a gallon). I buy a couple gallons at the beginning of the season for my lawn mower and put some Stabil in it and use it all year. This year I filled the BMW with it at the same time and other than a slight increase in the already excellent fuel economy, I noticed no other differences. I continue to use 91 octane E10 from the local Walmart and have no problems whatsoever.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      For your FFV Coyote try putting in some E85 when you have about 1/2 tank of regular in it. I found on my FFV Taurus that having somewhere around 40-45% ethanol gave the best mix of performance and fuel economy that beat the E10 we get around here.

      One trick with a modern FFV is to be careful when you fuel it particularly when changing from one blend to the other. The car learns what fuel is in the tank by sensing a refueling event. So you want to put at least 5 gallons in any time you get gas. The computer senses that it has more fuel in it than when it was last shut off and goes into fuel learning mode. Once it figures out the E% from the changes to the fuel trim. It then selects the timing table based on the inferred E%. It then uses its adaptive timing function to further fine tune the timing. That 40~45% range seems to be where the additional octane more than compensates for the loss of BTUs, at least vs E10.

      I’ve seen studies that have shown similar results from that 40-45% range.

  • avatar
    Chocolatedeath

    Man. I havent lived in a place that gave me that much choice in years.

  • avatar
    Hamilton Guy

    For my 01 Miata, I do not worry about whether the gas is ethanol free or not until the end of the driving season. Then, prior to putting it away for the year, I run a couple of tanks of ethanol free through and fill it full of the same with some stabilizer when it goes to bed for the winter.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Top Tier gas is recommended by Honda, GM, FCA, Mercedes, Toyota and VW/Audi because it is a better detergent. And Top Tier gas requires ethanol for that very reason.

    If your car was made to run on ethanol, then use it. If it wasn’t, then don’t. The “pure gas” talk is pure nonsense.

    • 0 avatar
      Carlson Fan

      “If your car was made to run on ethanol, then use it. If it wasn’t, then don’t. The “pure gas” talk is pure nonsense.”

      Agreed. For a list of typical myths(all complete nonsense) of the bad things that can happen with ethanol blended fuels, please see Duaney’s post above.

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        Do you live in a desert? Here in the dismal swamp that is central Virginia, ethanol blended fuels turn into poisonous water when stored over the winter. They pull moisture out of the air and make life miserable for small engine users or people who store cars when there is salt on the road and months of regular precipitation.

        Only E85 cars are really meant to run on ethanol blended fuels. Every other car tested by the EPA uses 100% unleaded gasoline to establish its minimum emissions and minimum fuel consumption. We have ethanol in our fuel because of the corn lobby. We have Top Tier gas to protect us from the harm that ethanol does to our fuel systems. Top Tier is the certification of the additive package that keeps fuel systems free of deposits resulting from ethanol use. The listed automakers know that ethanol can’t be avoided in our corrupt nation, so they specify that we should always use fuel with cleaning additives to minimize the harm.

        • 0 avatar
          Carlson Fan

          I’m in Minnesota. I’ve been storing boats over the winter for close to 30 years, never an issue. I have lots of friends/family with boats. Same story there. I store snowmobiles during our humid summers for close to 9 months. Never any issues. Been doing that for close to 30 years as well.

          I suspect if I go over to iBoats and ask one of my fellow boaters from Virginia if they have issues with fuel turning sour due to moisture absorption over winter I’ll get a resounding “no”.

          • 0 avatar
            Oberkanone

            Ethanol is a destroyer of carburetors.

          • 0 avatar
            Carlson Fan

            “Ethanol is a destroyer of carburetors.”

            Never once had an issue with ethanol destroying a carburetor. Craziest thing I’ve ever heard. Maybe you had an old dirty fuel system that the ethanol blended fuel cleaned and the crap that washed into the carb destroyed it, but not the ethanol.

          • 0 avatar
            Toad

            The alcohol in E10 CAN damage or destroy some parts of SOME older carburetors; that is hardly news and the rebuild kits for those old carbs have been around for years. My dad has a 40 year old snowblower that needed a carb rebuild after a few seasons of E10; a couple of gaskets and (I think) a float had to be replaced. No big deal.

            This is a problem for some older power equipment and boats and every shop that deals with this stuff has the parts on the shelf or can easily get them. The repair/rebuild kits are cheap, although if you pay somebody to do the work the repair cost may be higher that the old machine is worth.

            If you have an old engine and the problem has not cropped up by now it probably never will.

            BTW putting a can of Seafoam gas treatment in a full gas tank and running some through the fuel system before putting an engine up for the season does wonders.

        • 0 avatar
          SSJeep

          Disagreed here Todd. Ethanol does not turn poisonous over winter. In fact, the affinity Ethanol has for moisture could be a positive for winter storage, especially in boats with proper fuel tanks. Moisture builds up in a gas tank no matter what fuel you are using due to warming and cooling condensation. The moisture will end up somewhere – either pooled in the bottom of the tank (with “pure gas”) or mixed in with the Ethanol blend.

          Anyone who has experienced it can tell you that standing water in a gas tank or fuel line could spell disaster, especially if it ices up. Ethanol inherently prevents this.

          • 0 avatar
            Sigivald

            Yeah, from my diesel days, I recall adding water absorber to PREVENT water from condensing into the bottom of the tank and being sucked into the engine in blobs.

            Ethanol in gasoline is, well, *doing the same job*, as you say.

          • 0 avatar
            Carlson Fan

            “Anyone who has experienced it can tell you that standing water in a gas tank or fuel line could spell disaster, especially if it ices up. Ethanol inherently prevents this.”

            Exactly, which is why I don’t have to add “Heet”(IPA) to the fuel tank in my snowmobile to prevent gas line freeze. Which was very common way back. Even the manufacturer, Polaris states this in the operator manual.

          • 0 avatar
            notapreppie

            This is the point of HEET.

      • 0 avatar
        Duaney

        I’d give anything to be able to post pictures on this forum!

    • 0 avatar

      Yes but is 10% ethanol blend really needed for a detergent, or could you get away with (something like) 1%? I haven’t been able to google that answer up.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Top Tier gas has to include E10 or an alternative detergent that can serve as a substitute for ethanol. The reason that Top Tier gas exists is because some OEMs do not believe that the federal standards for detergents are adequate for modern engines.

        Alcohol is a solvent. It cleans stuff. Petroleum products gum things up, and that is a bad thing.

        • 0 avatar
          ToddAtlasF1

          If you want to learn about Top Tier gas, there is a website dedicated to it. The additive package is not a substitute for alcohol. It is to protect engines from the alcohol required by law in most gas sold. That you don’t know gasoline is a solvent suggests that you’ve never left your mom’s basement. You make being wrong an art form. For the love of God, look up whether or not gasoline is a solvent before continuing this discussion. Your ignorance is painful to contemplate.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            As I suspected, this Todd dude is CJ.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            Todd isn’t CJ. CJ at least had a nominal interest in cars. Todd only wants to see the US gov’t do only what is mandated in the original Constitution.

            Unfortunately, the US gov’t created the internet, which was not mandated in the constitution. So Todd really shouldn’t be using it, and feels guilty about it. Hence the endless rants.

          • 0 avatar
            golden2husky

            what happened to CJ? Banhammer for obnoxious behavior?

          • 0 avatar
            bumpy ii

            CJ was invited to pursue other opportunities.

        • 0 avatar
          Morea

          Gasoline is not a solvent?

          Back to Chemistry 101 for Pch101!

          • 0 avatar
            Sigivald

            Well, it is in normal use.

            But let it sit for months and you can get some long polymer formation, I believe.

            (ref Todd, above, note – http://www.toptiergas.com/deposit-control/ – the deposit control system specifies E10.

            While the FAQ supports MBella’s “it’s only required for testing” claims, they’re really bad at explaining that – and certainly TT gas *can* be E10, where that’s the local requirement.

            In any case, they do not at any point suggest the point of TT is to “protect against alcohol”.)

          • 0 avatar
            notapreppie

            Well, most liquids are solvents for at least one thing or another. Back in my undergrad research days, we loved and hated DMSO because it dissolved so many different things but it was a pain to extract your products from it when you were done.

            The issue is that anything that precipitates out of gasoline is less likely to be dissolved by more gasoline (which is presumably already saturated with the species that precipitated out).

            Adding a more polar solvent (that is still miscible with gasoline) to the mix can help to dissolve the material that wasn’t very soluble in the gasoline to begin with.

            The issue here is that ethanol isn’t added for it’s detergent properties. It’s added for many reasons (not limited to):
            * reducing gasoline consumption (by up to 10%! Okay, not really. More like 7% given EtOH’s lower energy content)
            * an octane booster (anti-knock agent)
            * as a replacement for methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) as an oxygenate (reduce CO and soot formation during combustion).

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            If ethanol had no relevance to the fuel meeting the Top Tier standard, then there would be no need to include ethanol in the testing standard at all.

            And the primary purpose of the fuel is to exceed the US federal standards for detergents. Ethanol reduces intake deposits, which is the point of using Top Tier fuel in the first place. One should not be shocked that an ingredient that does just that would be regarded as a positive.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        Ethanol is an oxygenate, not a detergent. It provides more readily available oxygen to complete the burning process thereby reducing pollution, particularly unburned hydrocarbons.

        Ethanol is not a detergent, which is the primary focus of top tier gas. Detergents clean/remove/prevent deposits including sulfur and carbon. Oxygenates certainly can help prevent the formation of carbon deposits in the first place by encouraging proper combustion, but ethanol certainly doesn’t dissolve or remove them.

        Because ethanol does tend to ‘gum up’ gasoline systems, it’s reasonable that more detergents may be required to maintain the same longevity of the engine. Properly designed, there shouldn’t be an issue beyond the cost of those detergents.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          Ethanol is often included in laundry detergent, in part because it is a solvent.

          • 0 avatar
            notapreppie

            Yah, but that’s not why it’s in gasoline.

            It’s mostly there as an oxygenate to reduce CO and soot emissions (and boost octane).

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            “Going from E10 to E100 it was shown that higher ethanol contents tended to decrease intake valve and combustion chamber deposits, both with and without additives.”

            http://papers.sae.org/2010-01-1464/

          • 0 avatar
            notapreppie

            I have no doubt about it’s effectiveness as a solvent (I’m a chemist, I dissolve things for a living). But it’s ability to dissolve species that normally precipitate out of gasoline wasn’t the reason why we started using it.

            Additionally, it makes sense that if you switch from a blend of many different combustible molecules to a pure (or mostly pure) feed stock of just ethanol, it will burn cleaner. I work at a company that makes catalysts for petrochemical refining. Our tests produce mixtures containing huge varieties of hydrocarbons, all of which behave slightly differently.

            None of that changes the fact that ethanol is first and foremost a replacement for MTBE. It also displaces some gasoline, reducing our dependence on foreign oil. It also increases octane ratings.

            But nobody is selling its cleaning properties except for you. Well, and me. It’s great for cleaning sharpie off of glass and plastic.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            notapreppie,
            I thought ethanol was in gasoline because it is more or less carbon neutral.

            That is what is burnt and sent into the atmosphere is then made into ethanol again when the corn, as in the US is grown again to produce more ethanol.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Ethanol is in Top Tier gasoline because of its properties as a solvent. And when ethanol isn’t in the fuel, as is often the case in Canada, then Top Tier fuel mandates the use of some sort of substitute.

            Which is to say that many cars built today are designed to run on ethanol.

            In any case, the fact that ethanol began as a substitute for MTBE does not change the fact that it provides some benefit for engines that are equipped to operate with it. This idea that ethanol has only detriments and no benefits is nonsense.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            Pch101,
            Again as a lawyer or what ever your role is within the union movement you are supporting another taxpayer funded program.

            You are correct that ethanol is a solvent, but so are many other aromatics. But when you are incorrect, how hard is it to say, “gees thanks for educating me on something I have little or misguided knowledge of”. Not hard is it?

            The fact is ethanol is highly corrosive compared to gasoline. Do you know what corrosion is? Does corrosion activity increase with temperature? The longevity of an engine designed to run on ethanol will be shorter than if the same engine ran purely on crude based gasoline.

            Ethanol is primarily used to reduce CO2, it is considered a renewable.

            Other than additional wear to any engine using ethanol, ethanol is bad for the environment, other than reducing CO2.

            Farming corn and the waste from ethanol, like any alcohol is not environmentally friendly.

            This doesn’t take into consideration the ecological issues arising form the use of phosphates/fertilisers poisoning our waterways and oceans.

            I do believe ethanol is worse for the environment than using refined crude. What looks warm and fuzzy on the surface is riddled with underlying negatives.

            The net negatives of ethanol are;
            1. shorter engine life,
            2. Substantial tax dollars supporting an industry that is not viable without the tax payer funds.
            3. Negative future and current ecological ramifications from distilling and farming the corn.
            4. Corn is using arable land that is fit for better purposes.
            5. Reduction in free markets through import tariffs.

            The net positives;
            1. Reduces CO2 (that we know of)

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      As we have disproved many times, top tier fuel does not need to be E10. The additive package for top tier has to be tested on E10, since E10 is pretty much the standard. The top tier page you cited previously even explained this.

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        This is correct. I’d even suggest that the tests are required to be run with E10 because that’s the worst case scenario.

        Shell sells Top Tier ethanol-free premium fuel here in Western Canada.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          It’s not a “worst case scenario.” The fuel has to be lab-tested in order to be approved.
          ___________

          The base fuel shall conform to ASTM D 4814 and shall contain commercial fuel grade ethanol conforming to ASTM D 4806. All gasoline blend stocks used to formulate the base fuel shall be representative of normal U.S. refinery operations and shall be derived from conversion units downstream of distillation. Butanes and pentanes are allowed for vapor pressure adjustment. The use of chemical streams is prohibited. The base fuel shall have the following specific properties after the addition of ethanol:

          Contain nominally 10.0% ± 1% by volume ethanol as measured by ASTM D 4815 or D 5845.
          ___________

          Now that Top Tier certification is available in Canada, changes were made to allow for exceptions:

          “In areas where ethanol is not always used for blending, a TOP TIER gasoline that has passed all performance testing still qualifies as TOP TIER gasoline as long as the additive supplier has tested their product on the appropriate fuel.”

          As I’ve already noted above, ethanol reduces deposits. Engineers have figured this out; internet car guys aren’t exactly good at keeping up with research.

          • 0 avatar
            rpn453

            “It’s not a “worst case scenario.””

            You don’t know that. You’re making an assumption, just as I did. But you’re the one stating it as fact. Up until a few hours ago, you apparently didn’t even know that Top Tier could be sold with less than 10% ethanol.

            “Now that Top Tier certification is available in Canada, changes were made to allow for exceptions:”

            Now? As in ten years ago?

            “As I’ve already noted above, ethanol reduces deposits. Engineers have figured this out; internet car guys aren’t exactly good at keeping up with research.”

            You noted that going from E10 to E100 reduces deposits, not that going from E0 to E10 reduces deposits. The fact that they exclude blends below E10 in their statement about deposit reduction relative to ethanol content suggests the opposite to me. Maybe E10 is the blend that causes the greatest deposits?

            “A test procedure was developed to assess the deposit-forming tendencies of gasoline/ethanol fuel blends, ranging from 0 % to 100 % ethanol (E0 to E100) . . . Going from E10 to E100 it was shown that higher ethanol contents tended to decrease intake valve and combustion chamber deposits, both with and without additives.”

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Er, I’m not assuming anything. I’m citing their requirements. I quoted them directly.

          • 0 avatar
            rpn453

            It’s looking to me like E10 is a worst-case scenario.

            From SAE paper 2010-01-1464 that you linked:

            “Negative impacts of deposits formed in the intake system of spark-ignited engines have been widely investigated in the past [4,5,6]. There is some evidence that low levels of ethanol (like E10) can cause increased deposits. In [7] significantly increased intake valve deposits (IVD) were reported in a BMW 318i (following the ASTM D5500 driving cycle) after 8,000 km when it was operated with E10 instead of E0 fuel. The increased deposits were found with unadditized as well as additized fuels.

            In [8] the effects of E10 were evaluated in the M111E engine (following the CEC F-020-98 test procedure). In this study, unadditized E10 was found to increase IVD compared to unadditized E0. When the fuels (E0 and E10) were additized the difference vanished.

            In [9] E0, E10, E25, and E85 fuels were used in a 2006 FFV pickup truck with a 5.3L V8 engine. E10 resulted in an increase of IVD compared to E0. Higher levels of ethanol reduced the level of deposits slightly below E0 level (unadditized fuel). IVD of unadditized E85 could be controlled by adequate doses of deposit control additive (DCA).”

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            If ethanol didn’t provide any benefit for the fuel, then there would be no need to include an additional additive when it is absent.

          • 0 avatar
            rpn453

            You disagree with this research?

            Do you have a source for your claim that ethanol-free gasoline requires additional detergency additives?

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    The ethanol topic is always an interesting one to read and I’m looking forward to the comments on this one.

    But my question is tangential: Sajeev, what did you do to get blacklisted from the press fleet?

    • 0 avatar

      Read all the reviews from the Farago days of TTAC. You’ll never see a Camry review as critical as mine. (probably)

      https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2006/07/toyota-camry-le/

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        Hmm, banned for life for that? No wonder freelance autojourno writers seem so friendly and complimentary. That review seems pretty spot-on, that car was a big disappointment and I remember some even harsher reviews from other outlets whose writers are probably shielded a bit from blowback.

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        Anyone that has a problem with Bigtruck or Deadweight or whoever else’s comments here should go read the comments on that article from manny, that is entirely too much stupid to handle.

        • 0 avatar
          Drzhivago138

          You know what’s even worse than reading all those early comments? Seeing that there was no reply-to-comment feature, or if there was, no one ever used it.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            Yea that was rather annoying, does anyone from that time know if the old comment section did that originally, or did a system reboot or code changes get rid of the reply to sub comment layering?

            I’m reading from a phone, which I’m sure was no where near as prolific then as is now, maybe it’s formatted correctly on a traditional computer?

          • 0 avatar
            bumpy ii

            Nope, no comment nesting in those days.

      • 0 avatar
        olddavid

        You fit right in with the whole Farago ethos, however, so there’s that, anyway. That era was scream at and be screamed at, with no quarter given or expected. I would go to email when getting up and have four increasingly angry messages from the august founder. I loved it, as he was doing the same thing to Maximum Bob.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    Where’s the popcorn emoji when I want it. Should be some good responses to this article. I bet we hit 250 comments.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    The only problem I can possibly blame on E10 are three fuel pumps in various Ford cars. In two of the three cases, the fuel pumps failed intermittently and prematurely. The third failed intermittently, but the car had over 200 K miles on it so the pump met its’ expected lifespan.
    I’ve also used E10 for well over a decade in my riding lawnmower, snowblower, leaf blower and assorted chain saws. Never had a problem with any of them, and they sit for long periods between seasons.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    Since the ubiquitous Honda carb gum-up event I keep ethanol-free around for the mower, blower and generator. But I’ve had no problems whatever in the family’s vehicles from gasohol since the Good Farmers of Iowa first give it to us.

    Like HerrKaLeun implies right up top there, buy a new car every once in a while. Then replace it with another new one.

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    Here is the REAL question…

    Why Are We Burning Food In Our Cars?????!!!

    What kind of world have we made when we now take farmland and corn that can be used to feed people and stock and use it in our cars? OK. There was once a rumor started by idiots that there was not enough oil.
    Suddenly, in an emotional/economic fit, the Saudis started really showing how much oil there is and pumped.
    Then the folks started finding ways to get oil in more economic ways.
    And b golly…we are flush with ol.

    And then my boat starts getting rebuilt carbs every year because of the non-use damage caused by the crap fuel. So we started getting pure gas and everybody uses it.
    AND we put it in out cars.

    My ecoboost engines went from (escape) averaging 24.6 to today showing a steady 27 MPG, the MKS from 20/21(ish) now showing and average of 22.3. The MKS, loaded down to it max, even to the point the car cannot hold another ounce and every in of trunk packed/stuffed solid back to front, averages nearly 26MPG driving from FL to MO. Fully loaded with 3 people and animals.
    These are all with and spread of 40city/60hwy drive.

    Reading up on the rules…the pure is only supposed to be used in marine and farm vehicles. Not cars.
    But we all use it. I understand that some states require a die used in case of getting caught and prosecuted and the use of the illegal fuel can be traced or spotted.

    So…for better MPG AND a strike against the lobbyist and big farm subsidies…I use the pure. At least here in MO. Florida has none available.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      The way I understand it (discussed with farmers on two occasions), we’re not exactly burning food. Harvested feed-grade corn is shipped to the distiller and then the solids that remain after distillation are shipped back as cattle feed, retaining most of the nutrients and calorie forms that cows actually digest and use.

      The entire process would probably make more sense, in an energy ‘source-to-wheels’ analysis if corn processing and distilling used solar power for the process heat. Mostly, for drying and distilling, they use propane and natural gas.

    • 0 avatar
      SSJeep

      Simple, we have too much corn and a vast over-reach of government.

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      Ethanol subsidies are driven by the need to appease Iowa farmers, not to improve the environment or trade deficit. You remember Iowa, right — the first state to vote/caucus in the Presidential primaries?

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    For cars that sit a while in cool areas the ethanol and moisture in the tank can mix and gel which can clog the filter on the pump. This I know from personal experience. Fortunately this was covered under warranty as they said it shouldn’t happen but does now and then. This was on a car I bought new in 1988 and was about a year old at the time.

    • 0 avatar
      Carlson Fan

      So obviously a third or fourth variable in there as the majority of people(99.999%) never experience that same issue. Fuel going bad when it sits isn’t a phenomenon akin only to blended fuels.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    E10 may be okay for newer cars, but you’ll still get worse gas mileage.

    Ethanol for drinking, not for burning!

    Screw Big Corn!

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      It appears that cars are becoming designed more for E10. I always noticed a difference between E10 and 100% gasoline until my 2013 Miata. There was no perceivable difference. It appears that the newer the car, the less of an effect it has.

  • avatar
    CobraJet

    I was running E-0 in my 69 Mustang all the time, and even would route my out-of-town travel to coincide with E-0 gas stations along the way. However locally I now have lost a couple of stations that I relied on for E-0. One closed down and one changed to 87 Octane which is too low for me.

    So I went back to E-10 fuel from both name brand and discount stations. I use 93 Octane. Sometimes I get a good tankful that runs great. Other times I get a batch that makes the car run rough at idle. The only damage I have seen was a leaking accelerator pump diaphragm on the Holley carb. I don’t have trouble with moisture because I drive the car about 100 miles per week and keep fresh gas in it.

    As for the rough idle at times, I often wonder about the quality control of the fuel. Perhaps there is more than 10% ethanol in some batches?

    • 0 avatar
      notapreppie

      Generally speaking, most fuel in a given area comes from the same terminal. It gets pumped into trucks and mixed with whatever company’s additive package for delivery to the gas station. In these situations, the base gasoline stock is the same for all stations fed by that terminal and the only differences are the additive packages and quality of the tanker trailers and in-ground tanks.

      In some cases, the terminal may not even offer a mid-grade option and they just blend 87 and 91/93 to make 89.

  • avatar
    bikegoesbaa

    Ethanol in gas is dumb, but I’ve not seen any convincing evidence that it causes functional issues in properly designed modern vehicles.

    Some OEMs (such as Ducati) are incompetent enough to sell vehicles with parts (such as gas tanks) that are fundamentally materially incompatible with ethanol in areas where ethanol fuel is common, but this is the OEM’s fault. The good ones don’t do this.

    I get that the whole idea of ethanol is a just sop to the cornies, but if we’re going to pay off farmers for some reason can’t we just give them money straight-up and dispense with the fiction that ethanol in gasoline is inherently desirable.

    • 0 avatar
      Carlson Fan

      +1 – I don’t agree with adding it our fuel but I’ll also refute any of the “chicken little” arguments that it causes all kinds of problems in our cars and other ICE powered products.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      bikegoesbaa,
      Like many subsidised industries the corn industry is now heavily reliant on handouts to survive. I the taxpayer stops handing outs billions of dollars to the industry now it will take time for the industry to re-form.

      The US use corn in everything from cattle feed to candy and gasoline.

      I visit the US several times a year and you can taste the corn in your foods. I have read article that list corn and it’s byproducts as part of the reason the US has an obesity problem.

      The US being a mixed economy and not a free market imposes taxes on ethanol imports from Brazil of around 100%, because sugar is far better to produce ethanol than corn.

      I don’t agree with the methods employed into forcing the consumer to use ethanol (handouts, etc), but the use of ethanol I don’t disagree with.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Worth 40 cents? Yes. Try the $1.00 premium for real gas I see here and then drive 40 miles out of your way to get it.

  • avatar
    laserwizard

    My 1997 Ford Escort runs perfectly well on an ethanol blend and delivers over 45 mpgs average mileage tank in and tank out. Now that it has warmed up tanks are averaging 47 mpgs.

    I don’t see a problem here other than government price supports and turning a food source into a fuel.

    I have larger issues of unconstitutional behavior by the Federal government than ethanol. As a libertarian, I have to pick my fights.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    My equipment dealer told me to run premium and an ethanol shield additive in my small engines. I’ve had a Shindaiwa trimmer for 12 years and have never had an issue with starting or the carb. I’ve talked with other people who’ve done nothing and gotten plenty of life out of small engines. Who knows? But the extra few bucks for prevention each year seems worth it to me. As for big engines, is this sort of the same argument we had when lead was phased out?

  • avatar
    Drzhivago138

    Anyone who brings up the food vs. fuel debate is conveniently ignoring DDG and WDG, as well as the work being done to find other, inedible sources for ethanol.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      Drzhivago138,
      Ethanol is a negative for the US economy. As for the food debate, I do believe that the byproducts that can value add to corn production is suitable for feed lot animals and even the poultry industry.

      The saddest part in relation to the US corn industry is the amount of taxpayer money being given to farmers who could grow food instead of corn.

      What a waste.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I put the high octane stuff in my 1967 Mustang hoping that the high octane stuff doesn’t get blended (pure gas app doesn’t have any stations within 100 miles of me) and then I put Stabil in the tank each winter. But I have noticed that the car rebuilt summer of 2013 has a slow external leak.

    I’ve got a one year old push mower (cheap little Poulan Pro with a California complaint B&S engine on it) and I stored it with a full tank of gas. I’ve used it once this year and I’ve never been happy with the power it makes but it starts readily.

    As a follow up to an earlier Piston Slap I’ve tried premium for several tank-fulls in my 2010 Highlander with the 3.5 V6 and AWD. The mileage per tank has gone from the 19 to 20 mpg range when driven like I stole it (cruising at 65 to 75 mph) to the 21 to 22 mpg range on premium. Perhaps that is just because the premium has less to no ethanol?

    School me guys, I know you will.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      I think that the engine detects higher octane gas and adjusts the ignition timing to take advantage of it. We had an ’01 Sienna that would accept 87 octane without complaint but would produce more power (210 vs 190 or so) when fed premium and it seemed to get slightly better fuel economy on premium.

      But maybe the difference was observational error / random chance. It didn’t need the extra 20 hp to be sufficiently lively to suit me and I couldn’t see spending the extra money.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    A cheaper solution is to include an additive like “Ethanol Medic” (fuelmedics.com) that neutralizes the effects of ethanol. I use it in my ’68 Impala (carbureated) which sits for long periods of time and it seems to do the trick. You use 1.5 oz. per 20 gallons of gas, it’s cheap overall.

    Besides the cost of ethanol free fuel, the highest octane that I see sold (I live near a lot of marinas & boats) is 89 octane which is no where near stout enough for the Impala anyway.

  • avatar
    redav

    I don’t like too much ethanol in gas, but I also won’t outright reject ethanol as a fuel.

    If I ruled the world, I would not necessarily kill fuel ethanol, but I would reduce subsidies, encourage ethanol-specific engines with higher compression ratios to take advantage of its higher octane rating, and have ethanol use concentrated in the locales where it’s produced.

    If ethanol is made in the midwest, then sell it in the midwest. Roll out ethanol-specific generators, farm machinery, etc., in that area. If the market for the fuel doesn’t grow, or if the cottage ethanol economy tends towards collapse, then ethanol mandates shouldn’t be increased, EPA be damned.

    I also dislike ethanol from corn. It’s too inefficient. Ethanol from waste products is great, like scrap grains at beer factories. They can’t put it into food products, but it’s already there so make fuel out of it. I also like the concept of algae.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      The left overs from brewing are good for putting into food products, just like the left overs from making fuel ethanol. It is called Dried Distiller Grains and is sold as livestock feed. The grains left over from brewing beer or any alcohol are virtually useless for making fuel alcohol as it was already used for making alcohol.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      redav,
      If the US opened it’s “closed door” policy on ethanol and stopped taxing imported ethanol you’ll find that gradually farmers and the government will realise that corn is not the best plant to produce ethanol.

      The subsidised farmers are now that reliant on taxpayer money it will take years to remove the corn handouts.

      I do remember back in the 60s my grandfather retired and bought a farm in Upstate New York. It was a corn farm. The government paid him to not grow corn due to market conditions.

      So, this socialist ideal of paying farmers in the US has been around for decades.

  • avatar

    I have reasonable experience driving a variety of older models. Jag, Land Rover, Explorer, Alfa Spider. No problems with ethanol on 2000 jag, but it runs substantially better without it. Same for Rover and Explorer. Alfa, on the other hand, hates it (1987)

    But true story on lawn mower. Cub Cadet rider with 18 hours on engine was stored last year with stabil. would not start this season, and needed carb and hose replacement. And I caution anyone on buying CubCadet product. Worst service and parts availability possible

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      Cub Cadet was the Peterbilt of garden tractors in the 60s and 70s.

      Long since spun off (1981) from what was then International Harvester to MTD, a low end producer still trading off the brand name.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      All of those big name stores that sell lawnmowers are selling bottom barrel crap, name means nothing except the variation in which it falls apart. If you want something that will outlive you, something that can live up to an actual Cub Cadet from the IH era, then get a BX series Kubota.

      It feels solid and Kubota sells parts from mowers it sold at least as far back as the 1980s, probably further back. Plus with a diesel motor you won’t have to worry about the perils of ethanol.

      I make it sound like I’m trying to sell them, trust me these mowers just work no questions asked.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    As expected given the energy density, I’ve experienced a slight decrease in mileage (on the order of 5%) with E10.

    In any of my modern vehicles, ranging from a 1995 Acura Legend to a finicky turbo Forester XT to a high-compression V8 LS460 to an Atkinson-cycle C-Max (which still has half its original tank of E10 after 700 miles), I’ve never noticed any performance or drivability difference. The last vehicle I had which seemed sensitive to fuel quality was my Vulcan-powered 1987 Taurus.

    The Legend has 187,000 miles on the original engine, fuel pump, injectors, and (I think) fuel lines, and has never had any issue with them. It ran in the winters and has never had special gas, so it’s seen its share of E10.

  • avatar
    MWolf

    I’m a shadetree mechanic, I’ve owned several cars of varying age dating back to the 80’s. All have at one time run ethanol blended fuel of various brands, sometimes due to lack of choice, sometimes price.

    My findings are that no mechanical issues came from it. No leaky fuel lines. No running issues (except from old gas in one that sat). A couple of them did slightly worse with the ethanol, but the difference was small enough that it could have been driving conditions or any other variable.

    I’m not going to say your experiences in your personal vehicle will be the same, I’m not saying I know better, but that’s just the experience I’ve had.

  • avatar
    stuart

    Ethanol in gasoline “seemed like a good idea” at one time, but that time is past.

    Other posts mentioning oxygenate are correct. EPA mandated oxygenate in gasoline based on research conducted with 70s-era vehicles (carburetors), showing that the oxygenate leaned the mixture a bit and helped emissions.

    Fast forward to today, where every vehicle has fuel injection, a catalyst, and an oxygen sensor. The FI system detects the oxygenate-induced lean condition, and corrects it. Automatically. Net result: ***no change*** in emissions, and a slight decline in fuel economy. (I’ve seen online estimates of 3%.)

    Octane benefits of oxygenate are beside the point. I’m no chemist, but I gather there are other ways of raising the octane without adding Ethanol (or lead).

    EPA has been pushing hard to increase E10 to E15 nationally due to a congressional mandate to increase ethanol usage. Car manufacturers (and other engine manufacturers) have been pushing back, warning that >10% alcohol in the gas will invalidate a bunch of warranties.

    Most (all?) car owner manuals from the 1980s-2000s will explicitly warn the customer that alcohol above 10% in the gas will invalidate the warranty. (E85 vehicles excepted.)

    In a perfect world, EPA would rescind the oxygenate mandate, as it no longer makes any difference in emissions. In our politicized world, that’s not happening.

  • avatar
    stuart

    BTW, does anybody remember MTBE? Remember, EPA originally mandated oxygenate, not Ethanol. MTBE is another oxygenate, and it’s cheaper than Ethanol (at least, here in California). But MTBE had other problems:

    http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/losangeles/water_issues/programs/ust/charnock_mtbe.shtml

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      “BTW, does anybody remember MTBE?”

      A couple other guys already mentioned it (look up at the other replies) but yeah, the recurring theme of every octane-boosting additive is problems like that- usually some combination of water table contamination, carcinogenic, gets in the brain and makes you crazy, and so on.

      MTBE, MMT, benzene, TEL, probably a few more that I missed. Unless we figure out a practical way to make consumer gasoline about 95% isooctane, we’ll just have to keep repeating this cycle.

  • avatar
    DavidB

    Wow. Original poster here. If it affects any of your answers:
    ’02 Lexus ES300
    ’04 Subaru Forester X
    ’05 Ford Expedition 5.4L 4×4
    Each has approx. 105,000 miles on them, very well maintained.
    Several responding didn’t see that I live in KC: extreme heat in summer (with humidity) and extreme cold in the winters.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

    Where is DeadWeight calling BS on Ford products with 100k+ that are still alive?
    Call Consumer Reports! Sumptinwonghea!

    In my Taurus, non-Ethonol results in slightly better MPG and a very marginal increase in power. Honestly, it isn’t worth the effort/price difference. The car still gets 25-30 mpg in mixed driving. I honestly think a good induction service would be more beneficial.

  • avatar
    rocketrodeo

    So many people being wrong in this thread. It’s hard to know where to start.

    I would prefer there was no ethanol in my gasoline. But there is. I deal with it.

    Ethanol was mandated in gasoline as an oxygenate, not a solvent. Top tier fuel does not require ethanol.

    My truck doesn’t mind ethanol. It’s a flex fuel vehicle. It was made to run on ethanol. In fact it makes more power on ethanol. Most of the time, however, it runs on top tier gasoline that has ethanol in it. Most fuel injected vehicles don’t care about ethanol.

    My motorcycles may mind, because they are all carbureted and mostly old. Fortunately I live in an area where I can find ethanol free fuel easily. Some of the time, however, they run on top tier gasoline that has ethanol in it, but not when they are going to sit for a while. I dislike rebuilding carburetors. The thing I have noticed the most when doing that recently, versus ten years ago, are the hard greenish deposits that have precipitated onto the orifices of the various jets. It is bloody difficult to clean off. This is a new thing, relatively, that I have no doubts about attributing to reformulated modern gasolines that have a lot more ethanol than they used to.

    For similar reasons, my power equipment gets ethanol free fuel mixed with two stroke oil and fuel stabilizer.

    If you have a green attitude you should like the fact that ethanol replaces a little less than 1 out of every 10 barrels of oil in the US — a lot of that imported. You shouldn’t worry about making fuel out of “food.” Ethanol is made from a plentiful renewable commodity. The vast majority of corn grown in the US goes to fattening cattle and I don’t worry about depriving them of a little extra dinner. And distiller’s grain, the residue of the ethanol process, makes very nutritious cattle feed so it’s not like its feed value is lost. If you are concerned about inefficiency in the ethanol manufacturing process, please investigate how efficient the process of making hamburger is and become a vegetarian.

    And if you think that sugar cane ethanol from Brazil is a better idea, you should investigate Brazil’s particular brand of slash and burn agriculture and its effect on the rain forest, and then shut up.

    Bottom line: corn is a commodity. The market fixes its value. The cost of a can of corn in the supermarket hasn’t changed much in the past ten years that I can tell. We all (except for farmers, presumably) look forward to the day that cellulosic ethanol made from corn stover will be breathtakingly efficient to make, but that day does not seem to be drawing much closer than it was five years ago. I’d be happy to be wrong on that count.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      Actually, we farmers look forward to the day we can make cellulosic ethanol even from non-corn sources. The smarter ones, at least, know that a monoculture of corn is a recipe for disaster. We’ve never had less than 4 crops in rotation at any given time (corn, soybeans, hay, oats), and now have up to 6 (ryegrass/clover cover crop, rye as grain), which is still rare in SW MN, but becoming more common. Even the guys who made their money on corn-on-corn or a solid corn/bean rotation for decades are looking at introducing something else, even if just as a winter cover crop.

  • avatar

    Been using ethanol blended fuel since it came out and have never had any issue related to the fuel itself. Most issues have been due to age of the vehicle and normal aging/use of components. Did have an issue with my snow blower though. While it was designed to burn ethanol blended fuel, it was not designed to have the fuel left in it during the off season. While I always use a stabilizer and run the fuel out in Spring, I forgot to do a complete run out one year. Next year, loss of power and it never ran as well as it had in the past. Totally my responsibility for being lazy.

    One thing I’ve noticed in my area – central Iowa – is that the ethanol blend no longer has a higher octane rating. Used to be 89, now it’s the same as regular unleaded – 87.

  • avatar

    My only issues are with my ’82 GTV6, and relate to phase separation. My mechanic drained about a pint and a half oh H2O out of my tank, and my filter was literally clogged with water, after I got some water contaminated E10. No engines like water of course, but my lil’hemi just wasn’t having it. Many, many problems as a result of that, some of which I’m still repairing.
    I always use Sta-Bil 360 now.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    My thoughts: I live in Minnesota, my car has two quoted power ratings (253 on premium/242 on regular), I get better mileage with premium. The station I use offers E0 premium fuel so I use it. I also have a 2003 Century that gets the cheapest fuel I can find, secondary car which my mom uses and all that. So far no issues.

    My mom has never gone out of her way to find E0 and her cars have always been the definition of deferred maintenance. No ill effects directly attributable to fuel.

    I don’t really think about it much.

  • avatar
    Duaney

    Reply to 285exp, I’ve seen vapor lock with E10 in 1990’s cars, (Colorado altitude), fuel system rubber parts degraded and made inoperable 1990’s and 2000’s, rusty gas tanks, 1990’s, fuel injectors gummed up, 1990’s 2000’s. Some of the damage is due to vehicles sitting for too long, and not having fresh fuel, but these problems didn’t exist on the same scale prior to the ethanol blends. It’s my belief that none of the manufacturer’s fully “ethanol proofed” their fuel systems, even until today, unless the vehicle is a flex fuel design, where E85 can be used. I dare anyone to show me any new gasoline car with a stainless steel fuel tank, there aren’t any, but that’s just one component that’s needed for even E10, to be safe and trouble free. Buy a new gas cap, with a nice new rubber seal, for any car or truck, within a few years, like two or three, the rubber seal is split all over, from the E10. So much for the “modern” sealed fuel system.

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