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Caution about E-10 in recreational vehicle gas tank

by jmaloni
Fri, Oct 7th 2011 10:00 pm

by Mark Daul

Outdoors in Niagara 

Use caution. Seems the Environmental Protection Agency wasn't happy with imposing 10 percent ethanol (E-10) in our fuel for the sake of eliminating greenhouse gases. Now they are ready to impose a 15 percent (E-15) ethanol/alcohol requirement in our fuel. Even your lawnmower, motorcycle, car, and whatever other toy you have uses gasoline with E-10, and now coming soon the new E-15 is being pushed on us. And you can thank the American Coalition for Ethanol and other allied groups for pushing for it.

A new phrase to a lot of us is "phase separation" Phase separation? What's that? Well, gasoline without ethanol doesn't absorb water like a mixture of gasoline with a 10 percent mixture of ethanol. According to BoatUS, "you get a water/ethanol mixture on the bottom of the fuel tank, and a reduced-octane gasoline at the top of the tank. Either of those will damage your engine." They also said, "E-10 gasoline can hold up to one half of 1 percent of water by volume."

That's with E-10 testing. I wonder about E-15.

Upon investigating this and asking questions, here are some things Mercury Marine relayed to me: "You are correct to worry about ethanol content in fuel. Phase separation can occur when gasoline is saturated with water to the point it no longer maintains its solution form, causing water to settle at the bottom of the tank. The solution created is highly corrosive and can damage fuel system components both metal and plastic.

"Without treatment gasoline and ethanol blends can go bad in a few short weeks. Once phase separated, the fuel is bad and should not be used at all. There is no known process to salvage phase separated fuel."

How about your warranty? Mercury says in the same correspondence, "Ethanol-related failures are not covered by the Mercury Marine factory warranty or Mercury product protection. Mercury Marine has designed new, more ethanol-resistant fuel lines, tanks, and even primer balls. We've calibrated engines to run with 10 percent ethanol. There is nothing Mercury can do to make sure the fuel you use is properly cared for."

What about your older engine like mine? What happens now? It seems to run OK with E-10, but what about when E-15 is introduced? Ouch!

On the FAQ forum on the Yamaha website, a question was asked: "Can I use fuel with a higher percentage of ethanol, such as E15 or E85?" Here's what Yamaha answered: "No, all of the negative issues discussed in this FAQ section will be increased and may cause major damage to the engine."

According to Kwik Fill/Red Apple, "Due to an EPA mandate stating that by Jan. 1, 2011, all fuels sold by United Refining Company must contain ethanol, the conversion to selling E-10 blended gasoline at all of our locations is complete. All of our Kwik Fill locations have ethanol in our fuels. Small placards should be posted on the fuel pumps." Kwik Fill is 100 percent North American crude oil.

Surprisingly, upon contacting NOCO in Tonawanda to see if they have ethanol-free gas in any of their locations, they replied "We currently have two locations: Grand Island is one and 2530 Hamburg Turnpike, Lackawanna, N.Y., is the other." Hmmm, if the EPA mandated January 2011 for all fuels to have E-10, can this plain gasoline be phased out shortly?

However, Mercury Marine in their response had this to say: "Some areas of the country still sell ethanol-free recreational gasoline, premium and plus at the pumps. Fleet Farm in the Midwest is one example of a business that still sells ethanol free fuel in at least one form."

If you are wondering what fuel additive you should use to eliminate this problem you are going to have trouble finding a product. Mercury Marine says, "Mercury makes several fuel care products available through any authorized Mercury dealer that has been heavily tested with our motors.

"Competitors do make similar products, but our testing shows some of the stabilizers on the market like Stabil may contain kerosene and other products that do not stabilize the fuel in an attempt to salvage fuel that should not be used in your motor by altering the octane rating."

Alcohol-based additives should not be used, because that is basically what ethanol is, so you could compound your problem. You had better check with your boat motor manufacturer or dealer for their advice because boat motors were never cheap, plus now there are more and more oil-injected marine engines, and ethanol is bound to make these finicky, as well as four-cycle powered craft.

Gasoline currently contains more than 180 chemicals and compounds added to make it of the best quality today, and if there was something they could add to E-10 or E-15 fuel, they would already have it in there. Probably the best advice I've seen is to keep your gas tank topped off during storage because ethanol/alcohol absorbs water from the air. Excess water will cause rusting and sludge will form in your tank.

If you have a fiberglass tank, get rid of it. The ethanol will eat right into it, causing those resins to circulate to your engine. The storage time for E-10 varies, anywhere between two weeks to 90 days, before trouble develops, but is still unpredictable. There are no figures yet pertaining to E-15, but watch out. One thing you should take heed in, is don't mix ethanol gas with non-ethanol; the reaction will cause a gummy substance and then you will be big trouble! Maybe the corn industry should stick to making moonshine.

• • •

Salmon fishing remains good in the gorge area for shore fishermen and boaters using egg skeins off a three-way swivel rig. The leaves are changing now, and this is when the lake perch are on the move, resulting in these scrappy critters to be caught on minnows easily.

To keep up with the local fishing action and "how to" and "where to," go to the www.OutdoorsNiagara.com website. Post your comments on the forum. It's free, easy, and you do not have to sign in.

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