If you buy a new mower, trimmer, snowblower or other piece of equipment, you may find a warning in the owner’s manual to not use certain grades of ethanol-blended gasoline. But what is ethanol and what harm can it do?
Ethanol is an alcohol fuel distilled from plant materials, such as corn or sugar. It’s typically mixed with gasoline in a ratio of 10 percent ethanol to 90 percent gasoline (known as E10). Other common blends include E15 and E85.
The U.S. is currently the largest producer of ethanol fuel. According to the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), the U.S. is projected to produce a record-high 15.1 billion gallons in 2016. Ethanol offers the benefits of spurring the economies of corn-growing states like Iowa and Nebraska, reducing our dependence on foreign oil and burning more cleanly. However, it can negatively affect your outdoor power equipment.
Ethanol produces 33 percent less energy than non-ethanol gasoline, which leads to decreased fuel efficiency and reduced power. Ethanol can also separate from gasoline and bond with water, settling to the bottom of the tank. This can cause a host of issues, such as fuel-tank corrosion and formation of gums and varnish that can clog fuel lines and cause the carburetor to run “lean” with more oxygen. This results in hotter engines and potential damage.
As a general rule, E10 fuels are approved for use in small engines, but be sure to read your owner’s manual for the best information on recommended fuels.
Here are five fuel tips to help keep your equipment running strong:
- Use fresh fuel every time. All fuel degrades with time. When at the pump, stick to purchasing what you need for the job at hand.
- Use fuel stabilizer. If you have to store fuel for more than 30 days, be sure to stabilize it with a quality fuel additive. AMSOIL Quickshot® stabilizes fuel between uses and during short-term storage. If you need to store for a season, use AMSOIL Gasoline Stabilizer to fight fuel degradation.
- Consider ethanol-free gasoline, especially for trimmers, blowers and other handheld equipment. Using an ethanol-free gas provides increased power and easy starts so you can get the job done right. Depending on your location, you can perform a Google search for the nearest station that sells ethanol-free, or “non-oxygenated,” gas.
- Never use E15 or E85 fuels in your power equipment. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not recommend these fuels in small engines, and using them could affect your manufacturer warranty.
- Keep moisture out of your fuel containers. Keep your gasoline containers sealed and stored in a cool, dry place to prevent water intrusion. When it’s time to fuel up, shake the container to disperse any residual water molecules.