Ethanol killing small engines
Dad had an Amoco station back in the 70's-80's, we had guys drive from a way over yonder to get Amoco white in their pickup trucks. I knew a small engine retailer who warned me way back when about the dangers of ethanol, especially in 2 cycles.
So my brother says he saw a report, about this specific subject, on CNN.
I searched, but couldn't find the video....maybe THIS is the report he was talking about.
Ethanol hurting mowers, helping local repair shops | TuscaloosaNews.com | The Tuscaloosa News | Tuscaloosa, AL
TUSCALOOSA | If you've been yanking on the starter cord of your lawn mower only to hear it sputter, the problem may start with the fuel you are putting into it.
Mechanics at local small- engine repair shops say ethanol is to blame.
Benjamin Mallisham, owner of Mallisham's Lawn Mower Repair on 13th Avenue East, said he's seen a steady increase in the number of engines damaged by the effects of ethanol.
'About one out of every five or six motors that come in here, that's the problem,' said Mallisham, who has been repairing lawn mowers and other small engines since 1974. 'It's getting worse now, but it got real bad about two years ago.'
Mallisham and Charlie Singley, owner of Singley Small Engine & Equipment on Greensboro Avenue, both said they have seen poorer grades of gasoline since the hurricanes of 2005 devastated the oil refineries along the Gulf Coast.
Couple that with the infusion of ethanol, part of the federal government's mandate to steadily use more biofuels over the next 14 years, and small engines — often called utility engines — are suffering.
'If it's a two-cycle engine with a diaphragm in the carburetor, the parts get stiff,' Singley said.
Gasoline blended with ethanol has become more common because a 2005 federal law requires an increase in the use of renewable biofuels from the 2004 level of about 4 billion gallons a year to 36 billion gallons by 2022.
Proponents of the alternative fuel claim it will help the U.S. become less reliant on foreign oil, provide additional security to the American farmer and be less polluting than fossil fuels.
The problem is that ethanol — a type of alcohol — is corrosive to plastic parts, especially those found in lawn mowers, chain saws, gas-powered weed trimmers and leaf blowers. At his shop, Mallisham displayed a carburetor with a quarter-sized hole that resembled the damage acid can do to certain materials. He said the hole was created by ethanol.
About the only recourse is to buy only as much gasoline as you can use quickly and mix in gasoline stabilizer, which is sold at almost every small engine repair shop.
During the off-season, Singley recommends keeping engines full of stabilizer-treated gasoline and running them occasionally throughout the winter.
But both Mallisham and Singley said that, at some point, the small rubber and plastic pieces within small engines will begin to falter because of the ethanol.
'It just eats them up,' Mallisham said.
Kenneth Midkiff, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Alabama, said the introduction of ethanol has been a mixed blessing for utility engines.
'Ethanol is good in a lot of ways,' Midkiff said.
It is better for the environment because engine exhaust contains fewer unburned hydrocarbons — a factor in ground-level ozone. That's particularly important for lawn mower engines because they don't have the pollution controls found on automobiles.
However, 'ethanol has a somewhat corrosive effect on some plastics. It is possible that some parts of a lawn mower could be damaged,' Midkiff said.
Properly mixed, a 10 percent ethanol blend in gasoline should not hurt utility engines or their performance. The problem comes when a gas container sits in a garage for several months or a gas station does not properly maintain its tanks. This can result in ethanol separating from the gasoline, and the problem is worse if water gets mixed in.
Midkiff said he expects that the design of utility engines will improve to overcome the shortcomings of ethanol and reduce pollution.
Tuscaloosa resident Jesse Woods said he's cut grass for a living since the late 1970s. He noticed a decrease in fuel quality with the elimination of lead as an additive, which the U.S. began to phase out in the early 1970s.
Today's gasoline is just weak, Woods said.
'They ain't processing it like they used to,' he said.
Woods installed cut-off switches on the fuel lines of his mowers. He said the switch allows a carburetor to burn up all the gasoline in it once the gas tank runs empty, thereby slowing the corrosive effects of the ethanol.
This is but one unforeseen side effect of the mandated implementation of ethanol, said Jonathan Lewis, a staff attorney and climate specialist for the Clean Air Task Force, an environmental advocacy group based in Massachusetts.
'We need to learn a lot more about biofuels before we start mandating their use in the marketplace. Everything we learn and everything we hear continues to reinforce that point,' Lewis said, noting that he had not heard of the lawn mower effect until contacted by The Tuscaloosa News.
'We're pushing into this blind alley,' Lewis said, 'without any idea about what the long-term consequences may be.'
I only use name brands, Standard 87 or 89 octane in the three stations in neighboring towns and major intersections.