Preventing Ethanol Headaches


Preventing Ethanol Headaches

By Capt. Gus Cane


Corn was a staple of early settlers, and it’s still a major part of our diet today. But a modern derivative of corn—ethanol—can create havoc in a boat’s fuel system. Fortunately, there are ways to combat the problems caused by ethanol to keep outboards running clean and strong.


Ethanol is a form of alcohol distilled from corn and other natural sources. Congress mandated it or E-10 as a fuel additive to reduce engine emissions and the dependency on foreign oil supplies. While those are admirable goals, certain characteristics of ethanol make it extremely problematic for outboard engines.


Ethanol attracts water molecules, and that causes a major problem with vented fuel tanks. With humidity and condensation, water molecules can collect in the fuel tank and when the concentration accumulates to as little as one-half of one percent, the water, and alcohol molecules combine. When they do, they sink to the bottom of the tank where the fuel pick-up is located. Too much of this mix and the outboard can run rough or stall. Internal damage to the engine components is also possible. Excessive water can lead to phase separation, which reduces the octane level to further impact performance.


But that’s not all. Ethanol is a solvent that scours tanks, fuel lines, and other system components. It will dissolve certain plastics and rubber. It loosens debris and deposits. Fuel-injected outboards are designed with precise tolerances, so any foreign objects introduced into the system will cause problems sooner or later.


lubeGuideEthanol fuel breaks down quicker than non-ethanol blends too. When it does, it loses octane and becomes stale. Stale fuel causes engine knocks and hard starts, which robs performance and could cause damage.


So what are the best ways to avoid all these ethanol-related headaches? The sure-fire way is to never introduce it into the boat’s fuel system. More and more marinas and gas stations are offering non-ethanol gasoline, and the few extra pennies per gallon it costs are well worth the potential problems—and associated repair bills—it will prevent. 


If you have no other option than using E-10 blends, buy it from a source with a high turnover, so it’s fresh with the highest octane levels. If your boat wasn’t rigged with a 10-micron fuel/water separating filter when you bought it, install one right away. That’s the best defense against excessive water levels. Make sure it is installed between the fuel tank and outboard so that it traps water molecules and any debris or impurities. Change the filter at least once a season or more often if the boat is used regularly. When you do replace one, first apply a thin layer of clean engine oil to the rubber seal. It’ll seat better and come off easier if you do. Next, carefully fill the filter three-quarters full of fresh, stabilized gasoline before you spin it on the canister. That step makes it easier to prime the fuel system.


The last line of defense against ethanol problems is to add a fuel stabilizer and conditioner to every tank. This will help improve performance even if you’re using non-ethanol gas. Make sure the caremaint-yamalube-lube-2stabilizer is a made for marine engines and has a non-alcohol formula. You can get products like Yamalube Fuel Stabilizer & Conditioner PLUS and Ring Free PLUS from your dealer or marine supplier. Add them to the tank before filling up so they mix well and protect your engine they way they were designed.


Finally, bear in mind that no additive will improve bad gas. They won’t make it fresh again, remove water or cure ethanol-related problems. At that point, you’re going to need professional help. So to keep your outboard running smooth and strong switch to a corn-free, or at least a corn-lite, diet. And make sure your boat gets plenty of exercises.


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Original Source:  Sportsmans

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