Ethanol can destroy boats, antiques, small-engines, says repair shop owner
Don "Squirrel" Carlan pumping gas at West End General Store, where owner Danny Hyde recently started selling ethanol-free gas. Hyde labels the ethanol-free gas with a bright red arrow reading "100% Gasoline."
Drive up to any gas pump in the state and you will see a sign that reads, “This product contains up to 10 percent ethanol.”
After being federally mandated to reduce emissions and lower the nation’s dependence on foreign oil, ethanol-blends, which exploded on the market in 2009, now make up over 90 percent of gasoline sold in the states. E-10, a 10-percent ethanol/gas blend, is now considered the standard fuel while ethanol-free gas is a specialty fuel.
But West End General Store owner Danny Hyde, who is now the only convenience store owner in the county to sell ethanol-free gasoline, says ethanol can ruin engines that sit for long periods of time, including boats, lawn mowers, weed eaters and antique cars.
An independent website, pure-gas.org, has complied a list of all the stations in the U.S. and Canada that sell ethanol-free gas. At press time there were 6,347 stations in the Canadian provinces and U.S. states, 248 of which are in Georgia.
“It’s really bad for the small engines that are not run everyday,” Hyde said, who started selling ethanol-free gasoline just before Christmas last year. “It clogs the fuel system and the fuel lines deteriorate, and it’s hard on the fuel pump. Ethanol holds water, which is really bad for an engine.”
Ethanol is a renewable corn-based alcohol that is added to gasoline to create E-10. After sitting for a few months, the alcohol begins to separate from the gasoline and attracts water. Overtime, rubber hoses in your engine rot, and small pieces of the rotted material can then make its way into cylinders and can form a sludge-like gunk that can eventually destroys the engine and carbueretor.
Like Hyde said, smaller engines have more problems because they are typically not run enough to use all the gasoline at one time, so the ethanol sits in the tank doing it’s dirty work.
Harold Hensley, owner of Hensley’s Service Center in Jasper, is thrilled that he can now find ethanol-free gas in town.
“I used to have to drive to Ellijay to get my gas,” Hensley said, noting that one of the two stations in Ellijay that sold ethanol-free gas recently closed down.
Hensley recalls rebuilding a 1934 Ford. He said after filling the tank with gas containing ethanol, the gas line blew out and he had to remove the gas tank to clean it out.
“I stuck in an air hose and white dust came out,” he said. “After I put a water hose in there, inside it looked like water-downed milk. It just coats everything. As long as you drive it it’s okay, but I’ve got another vehicle that I let sit 10 months and I’m going to have to pull the tank out on that one too.”
A Consumer Reports study of E85, which contains 15 percent ethanol, found that fuel efficiency dropped from 21 to 15 mpg on a 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe, and in city driving from 9 to 7 mpg.
The test also found no change in acceleration, when compared to “pure” fuel, and also found a significant decrease in smog-forming nitrogen.
The West End owner said that although ethanol-free gas is more expensive, he feels like replacing his 93-octane gasoline containing ethanol for a 90-octane ethanol-free gas was a good business move.
At press time, Hyde was selling ethanol-free for $3.89 a gallon, while his 87-octane gasoline that contained ethanol was $3.29 a gallon, but he says the “pure” gas as outsold the high-test ethanol gas he replaced three to one.
“It’s worth it for boaters and folks like that to come out and spend the extra money because they won’t ruin their engine,” Hyde said, who expects even more of an uptick in business after landscaping season picks up in the spring.