Protect Your Outboard Engine from Damage Due to Ethanol Blend Fuels!
The Outboard Wizard
In the spring of 2006, most gasoline refiners switched to ethanol-blended fuels. The reason they switched was to reduce ground water pollution (and cancer causing risk) associated with MTBE (Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether), the chemical that had been used in the past to oxygenate fuel/gasoline.
Gasoline mixed with 10% ethanol is now in widespread use most U.S. States that have recently banned MTBE, the chemical that adds oxygen to gas and reduces air pollution.
While ethanol (alcohol) is safer to the environment than MTBE, recent concerns (=PANIC) have been raised by the outboard, boating and marine industry, since high levels of ethanol has been well known in the past, to cause serious damage/problems in many types of engines and motors, (E.G. airplanes, lawn mowers, farming equipment, etc.), and is expected to have the same result to outboard marine motors, as increased ethanol-blended gas use is mandated.
Briefly, ethanol's adverse effects to motors include stalling, all types of performance issues, deterioration of engine parts, rusting, clogging of fuel filters and carburetor jets, contamination of the fuel system, release of gunk and sludge throughout the engine and eventually engine death.
Boat owners, especially in New York, Connecticut and California, who unknowingly used gas with high levels of ethanol (sold since Spring 2006), have been reporting major engine problems associated with the use of these new ethanol-gas mixtures.
Ethanol has been banned many years for use in airplane engines, due to the well-documented problems it will cause. The FAA issued another warning this month against using ethanol-blend gasoline in airplane engines. (November 2006 - See information source # 4 at end of article).
The very dangerous effects ethanol fuels have on marine engines is similar (and for the same reasons), known for a long time in the aeronautic and farming industry. The FAA and other agencies bans/exempts use of alcohol-blended fuels on aircraft and farming equipment.
Recent fuel testing revealed that the % of alcohol (ethanol) present at the pump, varies widely.
Below 10% ethanol is considered acceptable by most marine engine manufacturers.
Every state differs on their regulation and laws pertaining to ethanol and fuel. All agree, that ethanol above 10% will cause damage and/or performance/running issues with outboard engines.
The airplane industry has always banned alcohol in fuel...
So why do our leaders believe we should be forced to use it in our marine engines?
While I totally support protecting our environment, I feel the government has neglected to keep consumers informed on the precautions they must now take when using the new ethanol-blend fuels sold at our gas pumps.
Often the first symptoms of using higher than acceptable ethanol gas blends in your outboard engine is evidenced by performance issues, such as engine stalling when you demand acceleration (WOT). You'll notice other performance issues such as increased stalling, misfire, hesitation and difficulty maintaining boat speed during trolling.
The long term dangers of ethanol (and other alcohol-blended fuels) are many, including deterioration of parts (rubber, aluminum, fiberglass etc.), rusting, fuel contamination, clogging of fuel system and eventually such severe damage to the engine parts and components, your marine engine would permanently stop working and be junked (unusable).
Boaters, please continue to respect and preserve the environment; But stay informed and take immediate steps to protect your outboard engine from the dangers of the new ethanol based.
Pay close attention to any new performance issues in your engine and rule-out your fuel/gas (ethanol) as the culprit, before serious (and costly) damage occurs.
Contact the Outboard Wizard to obtain a simple and low cost "fuel testing kit" to use at the gas pump.
We ship within the U.S. Florida: (321) 406-1970 New York (631) 991-4491.
Dangers of Ethanol Fuel in Outboard Engines:
Short term high levels of ethanol can cause a motor to run lean on fuel, due to water will not burn, which will take the place of fuel.
Long term it will cause phase separation where the weight of the ethanol and water will sink to the bottom of the fuel tank and get picked up by the motors fuel system. (Even small amounts of water can harm the fuel system). Damage includes rusting the electric fuel pumps, clogging injectors etc.
And since ethanol is a good cleaning solution, it will clean the oil right off the internal components of a 2 stroke. Long term, high levels of ethanol will also deteriorate many of the engine components made of rubber, plastic and fiberglass. Several studies reveal that ethanol (alcohols) can also eventually deteriorate aluminum.
The most reported issue (damage from ethanol) by outboard engine manufacturers has been regarding the decomposition of fiberglass gas tanks. Honestly, this is only the icing on the cake...
The damaging effects of ethanol are much greater and widespread!
Most outboard engine breakdowns in recent months are directly a result of using the new ethanol-blend fuels.
Your outboard mechanic may not even suspect or test your fuel as a culprit. Many outboard mechanics and dealers are thrilled that there repair business has flourished as a result of engine damage (and death) due solely to the new ethanol-blend fuels.
Fortunately newer outboard engines (past 5 years) have been designed to be compatible with ethanol-blended fuels.
But if you have an engine (most) without these safeguards in place, you must immediately take steps to prevent and avoid future problems.
In the meantime, the best and simplest precaution you should take is: Test ALL Gas You Buy For Your Outboard Engine. Make sure it has low, safe amounts of ethanol - alcohol .
Ethanol vs. MTBE:
Keep in mind, that ethanol is a simple grain alcohol, commonly found in alcoholic beverages made for human consumption, (beer, wine, whiskey, vodka, etc.). Gasoline is a known carcinogen, with or without either MTBE or ethanol. In recent years, oxygen containing chemicals (additives), such as MTBE and ethanol were added to gasoline for cleaner combustion and to decrease air emissions. MTBE had become under scrutiny due to studies revealing ill effects on human health. California banned the use of MTBE in 2003, and many states have followed their lead to protect human health and the environment, often replacing MTBE with ethanol.
But have they replaced one poison (MTBE) with another type of dangerous chemical (ethanol)?
Ethanol dangers- Is it worth it?
The disastrous effects of ethanol on all engines (and industry) may just not justify the positive effects on the environment. I believe the ethanol levels, percentage, in fuel must be more carefully monitored; And, the negative effects studied and documented - If necessary, "marine fuel" should also be allowed to be exempt, if the negative effects on outboards engines is proven to be widespread and serious, (which I suspect will happen in the near future).
In Summary - The Potential Dangers To Outboard Engines Include:
1. Ethanol can increase fuel contamination due to water absorbed by outboard fuel tanks. (Ethanol attracts and absorbs moisture from the air).
2. Ethanol can dissolve solid material, such as aluminum and steel and breakdown corrosive matter (gunk), which will contaminate the fuel present in your outboard fuel tank.
3. Ethanol tends to dissolve certain resins, which can travel through the engine intake and coat intake valves, causing sticking and bent pushrods or worse. This is seen mostly in boats equipped with fiberglass gas tanks, made before the mid-80's.
4. Ethanol can also affect many plastics and rubber parts of your engine.
Alcohol present in automobile gasoline is not compatible with the rubber seals and materials used in boats.
5. Ethanol blends can cause additional contamination by reacting chemically with MTBE fuel blends.
6. Engines with fiberglass gas tanks have the greatest risk when using fuel with ethanol.
Fiberglass gas tanks can "deteriorate" from ethanol, causing this degraded resin stuff, (you'll see "black sludge") to circulate through your engine, coating intake manifolds and building up on intake valves - which basically destroys your engine.
Why Does Ethanol Cause Damage to an Outboard Engine?
1. Water in your tank is soluble in ethanol - Water is bad for engine and parts - Water is practically insoluble in gasoline.
The gasoline you pump in your tank may be dry, but due to condensation (from humidity, temperature, etc.) water does exist in your tank. Since water is insoluble in gasoline, it sinks to the bottom of your tank -
As long as it remains below the level of your fuel pickup tube it will not affect your engine. The problem is water is soluble in ethanol and will travel thru your engine fuel system.
A water/ethanol mixture, being heavier than gas, will sink to the bottom of the gas tank, leaving a lower octane gas on top. This low octane gas can cause performance issues with 4-stroke engines, and can cause damage 2-stroke engines.
2. Ethanol breaks down gunk that can clogs fuel filters, carburetor jets and injectors.
Ethanol is a great solvent. It dissolves the varnish and other gunk that has collected in your outboard engine over the years. The newly dissolved gunk travels with the ethanol into the engine where it clogs fuel filters, carburetor jets and injectors. This can lead to engine failure and expensive (avoidable) repairs.
3. It can be dangerous to use greater than 10 % Ethanol in outboards. Some supplies are much higher.
All marine engines sold in the United States are designed to operate on fuel containing no more than 10 percent ethanol.
A recent post on a Long Island, NY message board states,
"Believe it or not, some of the fuel samples tested 48 % ethanol and most were above the 10 % 'maximum allowable by law'.".
Most of the ethanol-based gasoline on the market today is called E-10 fuel - A blend of up to 10 percent ethanol. But the ethanol percent is blended and labeled at the pump (delivery truck), the measuring system can be far from accurate.
Many outboard owners have expressed concerns that using fuel that is higher than 10 % (unknowingly) may invalidate their outboard warranty. Said another way, will the outboard manufacturers blame you if the damage to your engine was caused by using fuel that has greater than 10 % ethanol?
4. Mixing MTBE fuel with ethanol blend fuel can create a gel-like substance that clogs passages in carburetors.
Stalled engines and engine damage are the result. Fuel injected engines have shown less damage, than carbureted engines, from this gel-like substance.
How to Prevent Damage From Ethanol in Your Outboard Motor:
! 1. The most important preventive measure you can take is to avoid using ethanol fuel blends in your outboard engine. If you are unable to obtain fuel in your area without ethanol, you SHOULD TEST THE FUEL you buy to assure the ethanol content is below 10%.
! 2. The second most important precaution to prevent engine damage from high levels of ethanol is to use a non-alcohol fuel conditioner, such as Evinrude - Johnson 2+4 fuel conditioner.
2+4 fuel conditioner will stabilize fuel, inhibit corrosion and absorb moisture (water) without adding alcohol to the fuel.
3. Never use a fuel blend that contains more than 10 percent ethanol.
4. If your engine has a fiberglass gas tank, replace it.
5. Do not mix MTBE and ethanol-blended fuels. Use the same gasoline supplier while fuel distributors are making changes.
Run out or remove your old (MTBE) fuel before putting the new ethanol fuel in your tank.
6. Make sure your motor is equipped with a water separating fuel filter. (E-Tec's have them, other engines may or may not). The installation of a water separator in the fuel line can help with small amounts of water.
7. Check (for contaminants and clogging) and replace your fuel filter often.
Fuel filters should be replaced at least every 50 -100 hours.
8. To minimize phase separation, add non-alcohol fuel stabilizer (2+4) to every tank of gas.
(Outboard manufacturers also recommend adding an injector cleaner to the fuel).
9. Remember that gas with ethanol has a shorter shelf life - use it up and replace it quickly.
Avoid running on bottom of tank (where most water will sink).
10. Note: Evinrude (OMC BRP) recommends carbon guard be added to the fuel tank each time you add gasoline, (Reduces possibility of piston ring sticking and carbon build-up, better overall engine performance, increases engine life), but it will not remove water.
2+4 Fuel Conditioner and Carbon Guard can be found at all Evinrude-Johnson Bombardier dealers.
To order online visit: http://www.theoutboardwizard.com/page3.html