Owner Neglect the Real Enemy of Engines

Posted on: May 02, 2014 in E15, Engines, Ethanol, Water

The following is a response to an anti-E15 article recently featured by The Morning Call.

My goodness, what misconceptions, half-truths and pure, unfounded myths have made their way onto the information highway.  I’m glad to share my experience in the automotive industry as a technician, shop owner, engine builder and national car-talk host. I have had zero engines fail due to ethanol in 43 years.  Zero.  I also challenge a boat owner or mechanic to show me evidence that a boat motor has failed because it was fueled by 10% ethanol-enhanced fuel.  And I challenge a lawn mower mechanic to show me evidence that a lawn mower engine has failed because it was fueled by 10% ethanol-enhanced fuel.  That’s because E10 has been in the American fuel supply since the early ‘80s.  Yes, if a lawn mower, or generator, or whatever gasoline-powered equipment, sits without use, the old gasoline – not the ethanol in the gasoline – will cause problems.

Good ol’ gasoline – made in large part from good ol’ foreign oil – burns to make carbon debris…unlike oxygen-bearing (35% oxygen, to be exact), American-produced, ethanol-blended fuels which burn cleaner without debris.  And ethanol’s high-octane rating (113 rating) enables oil companies to reach 87 RON pump standards while using less expensive base fuel stocks.  In other words, the very oil companies that are denigrating ethanol use it to improve lower grades of gasoline.

E15 is the most tested fuel in the history of fuel.  And expanding on my personal 43-year experience, not one engine has been damaged by E15, which is approved for 2001 and newer models.  Wherever E15 is sold, there have been no engines damaged.  To illustrate how powerful ethanol myths are, I attended an automotive conference where a shop owner was blaming E15 for a vehicle’s engine damage.  A vehicle that had never been driven out of that shop owner’s area.  Upon five minutes of research and much to the shop owner’s embarrassment, we “discovered” that E15 was not even sold in his area.  Mythological-problems-due-to-ethanol do not fact make.  Conversely, every carmaker is designing their new engines with direct injection (GDI) engines that are optimized to take advantage of E15’s higher octane.

Higher octane blends, like E85, are the apple of car makers’ eyes because of its high-performance assets. My conversations with Flex-Fuel vehicle owners tells me they want cleaner air and to help reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign oil.  They also like the lower E85 price at the pump…all of which ethanol delivers.

Reflecting back to the boating community, fact is, Vernon Barfield, National Boat Racing Association Tech Chairman and Vice President, says, “We’ve been operating with E10 for twenty years and had zero issues.  If the proper maintenance is performed on that engine, you’ll have no issues with 10% ethanol.”  And, yes, it’s also true that major marine companies warranty their engines using E10.  Talk about putting your money where the facts are.

When I read articles about boat engines being damaged I have to wonder, “If boat owners perceive that ethanol is bad for their engines, it seems odd to me they would use it.”  All marinas sell straight gasoline (E0), yet articles like Mr. Kiser’s imply boat owners must buy ethanol-blended gasoline, which is absolutely not factual.

Regarding the statement re ethanol grabbing water, not true.  In fact,  Mercury Marine’s “The Myths of Ethanol and Fuel Care” states, “There is no active transfer mechanism for ethanol molecules to reach out and ‘grab’ water molecules out of the air. Under normal storage conditions, even in a vented fuel tank, it just does not happen at a level or rate that is relevant.”  And regarding gum deposits and gel-like substances in fuel systems, the Mercury Marine paper states, “All gasoline types need the same type of simple prevention if not immediately consuming fuel.”

In the automotive service business, we had fuel related problems long before ethanol was added, in pre-’80s days.  Stale gas builds gunk, turns brown and causes rust and corrosion in any fuel system if not treated with a fuel stabilizer and stored for very long periods of time.  It’s easy to blame ethanol…but in reality, ethanol is not the enemy.  Neglect (belonging to owners) causes more problems than any single mechanical component.

And the often-used term “phase separation” simply doesn’t happen in modern vehicles.  Dr. Andrew Randolph, Technical Director, ECR engines states, “There were zero engine hardware changes when NASCAR upgraded from E0 to E15…none.”  Carmakers learn from racing every day…everything from safety-related designs to longer engine life with the stress of ultra high performance.  Ford’s EcoBoost is one major example of high compression high performance and lower emission.  Much like racing engines, Ford boosts cylinder pressure, which is enabled by ethanol’s high 113-octane rating.

Regarding the environmental spitballing, consider what President Bush reflected when he signed the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) in 2007:

“Ethanol and biofuels are fuels of the future. These fuels are gentle on the environment. They are fuels that can be renewed year after year and fuels that can expand our farm economy. These fuels are made right here in America so they can’t be threatened by any foreign power.”
-- President George W. Bush, Farm Journal Forum

Americans aren’t dumb.  They’ve been pumping multiple fuels for longer than I can remember.  I’m reminded of a motorcyclist who said, “Riders may do some crazy things, but they know what fuel to pump in their bikes…they’re not stupid.”

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