The use of ethanol in our gasoline supply is a hot topic in the news and has been something boaters have watched closely. The damage of the biofuel additive to fuel lines and other engine parts has been a cause for concern since they began adding it to fuel as a result of the Biofuels Act of 2006 that was enacted in 2010.
So what is ethanol?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, ethanol is “a colorless volatile flammable liquid C2H5OH that is the intoxicating agent in liquors and is also used as a solvent and in fuel — called also ethyl alcohol, grain alcohol.”
It has been used in gasoline over the past several years and appears to be here to stay. The amount of ethanol in gasoline can be E10 (10%), E15 (15%), OR E85 “Flex Fuel” as it is known. According to many sources, running anything over 10% ethanol can be dangerous for outboard engines as they were not designed to run fuel with the additive.
Problems with Ethanol
The problem, according to FLW Tour pro Bill McDonald is that it is nearly impossible to know exactly how much ethanol is in gas you purchase.
“They don’t tell you exactly how much is in there. If you look at the pumps, the E10 will say ‘at least 10 percent ethanol’, and that can be very harmful to outboards the more ethanol is in it,” he says.
McDonald has become a crusader for awareness about ethanol thanks to his partnership with Lucas Oil and is more than happy to share what he has learned if it can help even one person save their engines from damage.
“Ethanol causes problems for all types of engines from cars to lawnmowers to outboards. It starts with the moisture that builds up and creates water in your gas, but that is just one of the problems it creates,” he says.
Most newer cars and trucks are being built specifically to run on gas with ethanol, so the effect is not near as bad as it is with older vehicles or outboards, but it still can hurt.
“Outboards do not like ethanol and it can cause serious problems,” warns McDonald. “It can be disastrous for engines.”
Robbing Your MPG
One thing that isn’t often mentioned often is how ethanol can harm engine performance and specifically how it can rob you by reducing your miles per gallon. McDonald had a FlexFuel vehicle and noticed how poorly it performed without any additive.
“I started adding the Lucas Ethanol Fuel Conditioner and the increase in my miles per gallon was drastic. The flex fuel is much cheaper than other gas, but you definitely do not get the same efficiency when driving,” he says.
Lucas Oil Products
Lucas offers two products that help to combat ethanol. Here is a quick rundown of what each does.
This treatment does plenty to help your engine and specifically for ethanol, it counteracts the corrosive effect. It also helps the entire fuel system by cleaning and lubricating multiple systems for your vehicle. It can also be added to oil to protect against heat and friction. It works for ethanol or diesel vehicles and can be used in any engine: automotive, marine, motorcycles, lawnmowers and anything else that uses gas.
This product was designed to negate the effects of E-10, E-15, E-85, pure ethanol and any combination of fuels with ethanol. It has many other benefits including preventing rust and corrosion and also cleans the whole fuel system. It also stabilizes the fuel and is ideal way to prevent gum from forming in the fuel.
When to Add it to Your Gas
“The Ethanol Fuel Conditioner works great when added before running a vehicle,” says McDonald. “A lot of people say they will add it after they get home from a fishing trip or tournament and the boat is going to be sitting for awhile, but it works best to add it before, right when you fill up. This allows it to run through the whole fuel system.
“Your hoses, lines and everything in your outboard can be damaged by ethanol. Ethanol is bad, bad news for outboards.”
McDonald recommends adding at each fill-up. One ounce treats up to five ounces and it is available in several size bottles. It is cheap insurance for your engine and can greatly help the performance of your vehicle and outboard.
As ethanol continues to be added to gasoline, some extra steps are needed to make sure that you are doing everything you can to prevent damage. Ethanol-free gasoline is one way to do it, but it can be impossible to find and much more expensive. Thankfully there are Lucas Oil products designed to help.