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Ethanol and Your Engine Kit

The ETHANOL 101 Home Study Course

What you need to know about Ethanol fuel when used in small engines;

Outdoor power equipment dealers and mechanics are finding themselves dealing with a flood of frustrated owners experiencing engines not running right or having gummed up carburetors only to bring them back a month or so later with the same complaint.   What the customer does not realize is that the problem is not the engine! It’s the fuel!!!!

The introduction of ethanol, otherwise known as alcohol, into the fuel has caused a wide range of problems.   While ethanol is regarded as a fuel, blending it with gasoline results in these 4 conditions.

  • Rough idle:
  • Hard starting after leaving the engine sit idle
  • Gummed–up carburetor jet:
  • Loss of power:

   Ethanol in gasoline breaks down and forms gums very quickly. Ethanol and Gasoline do not chemically bond with each other, instead they are held together in a loose colloidal suspension much like you would see in an oil and vinegar salad dressing mix.   The fact is ordinary fuel adjustment additives developed 50 years ago and still on the market today do not correct these 4 ethanol problems.  

Varnish Gums form in the fuel tank and in the carburetor bowl as E5, E10 & E15 ethanol fuel ages. These particles can clog Filters and Needle Jets.   Modern day fuel additives break down the enzymes into sub micron sized particles that can be easily burned during the combustion process.  

Ethanol attracts moisture from the atmosphere and forms a ethanol and water mix in the gasoline.   Ethanol blended fuel will naturally hold 0.5% water in separation, but when water levels exceed this threshold, or when fuel cools significantly, the water/ethanol mix drops out of suspension which is called phase separation.   Excessive water in the fuel causes engines to run rough, stall and can lead to internal engine damage.   A good fuel additive allows the water to mix with the fuel and get burned off to create a dried out tank result.

As ethanol evaporates the fuel looses octane and becomes what is known as “stale”.   This causes hard starts and engine rattle as well as loss of power and engine damage. A good fuel additive will enhance correction to fuel break down for up to 2 years.

Ethanol added to fuel does not allow as much energy as traditional gasoline. This results in poor engine performance.   A good adjustment additive will break apart large clusters of fuel molecules, creating more surface area. This in turn allows additional oxygen to react during combustion which results in complete fuel burning and reduces toxic exhaust emission.

   The laws of some states in the USA do not require the gas station to tell you how much ethanol is in the gas they sell.   E-10 or 10% is supposed to be the legal ethanol limit but up to 50% has been found in some off-brand gasoline.     Adding a dry gas additive is not the answer either as these products contain more alcohol which now you know is really Ethanol and will just accelerate the problem into the realm of the third kind.

   Having said all the bad news here’s some good news!   There are some additives on the market that will in fact correct the short comings of having Ethanol in gasoline and will allow easy starting even after extended long periods of not running the engine.   These additives must contain enzymes that allow more oxygen to bond with the fuel hydrocarbons thus allowing a more complete combustion burn of the fuel charge.   This translates into these advantages.

  • Easier Engine Starting:
  • Better throttle response:
  • Decreased exhaust emissions and decreased visible exhaust smoke:
  • Prevention of varnish gum deposits:
  • Increased fuel economy
  • Helps prevent Phase Separation that can occur in stored fuel when water and ethanol bond together and then falls out resulting in degraded fuel that prevents good engine performance.

The best policy is to avoid using any gasoline with Ethanol in it. This 101 article does not recommend any brand of additive for Ethanol correction, however here’s a list of brands making claims to have benefit;