Ethanol in an outboard motor? - SailNet Community

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Go Back   SailNet Community > On Board > Gear & Maintenance
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  #1  
Old 07-19-2007
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Ethanol in an outboard motor?

I was on a Naval base yesterday and after a little red tape I was allowed to fill my truck up with Ethanol at their gas station. You can't get ethanol at any normal gas stations around Seattle and I've always wanted to try it. I drove home the long way, instead of taking the ferry, and after 100 miles everything seems fine; maybe a little less power, but I really can't tell the difference, (it's usually pretty gutless anyway) So it got me thinking....would it work as well in an outboard? I've got a 9.9 four stoke that I really don't want to screw up with bad fuel, but I also have an 8hp two stroke that I'm willing to gamble with. I'm going back to the Base this weekend and I'm thinking about bringing a 5 gallon container. Any thoughts?
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Old 07-19-2007
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I'm no mechanic, but the 4 cycle 9.9 shouldn't be a problem - but how would ethanol react with the oil mixture in a 2 stroke?
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Old 07-19-2007
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Knot...I am seeing complaints arise of motor damage in motors from ethanol 10% mixtures so i would be really hesitant to try it pure without first asking the mfr. Here's a couple of notes from BoatUS on ethanol/boat issues:



What You Need To Know About E-10 Ethanol Fuel

And Winter Boat Layup

This spring and with little prior notice, recreational boaters in most parts of the country were introduced to gasoline containing higher concentrations of ethanol, a corn-based additive that replaced a known carcinogen, MTBE. The new fuel, dubbed “E-10” for its 10% ethanol content, unfortunately has the ability to attract greater amounts of water and “phase separate,” or form two separate solutions in the gas tank, usually over a long period of time. Once this happens, the engine won’t run and internal damage could occur.
With the lengthy winter lay up period upon us, many boaters are asking how they should store their boat over the winter to prevent fuel problems next year. The BoatUS damage prevention newsletter, Seaworthy, tackles the problem in its October issue and has these recommendations:
  • Once phase separation occurs in E-10 gasoline, additives and water separators can’t help. The only remedy is to have the gas and ethanol/water professionally removed from the tank.
  • With any fuel that sits in a tank for a long time, it’s important to add a stabilizer. But understand that stabilizers do not prevent phase separation.
  • E-10 has been a fact of life in certain areas of the Midwest for over a decade and there have been relatively few problems. The best practical recommendation learned from marina operators in the region is to top off a boat’s fuel tanks to about 95% full, leaving room for expansion. A tank that is almost full limits the flow of air into and out of the vent, which reduces the chance of condensation adding water to the fuel. Draining fuel tanks of E-10 gas, while completely eliminating any chances of phase separation, is potentially dangerous and an impractical solution.
  • Whether you believe your boat’s fuel tanks are half full or half empty, leaving a tank partially filled is a bad move. A Midwest marina owner confirmed that phase separation problems typically occurred when boats were stored over the winter with tanks only one quarter to one-half full. In the summer, infrequently used boats with partially filled tanks are also prone to phase separation.
  • Never try to plug up a fuel tank vent to prevent moist air from entering a tank. Without room to expand, the additional pressure could rupture fuel system components.

*************
Wipe your hoses with a dry rag and see if you smell gasoline. This is a sign that your hose has disintegrated and needs replacement. Hoses deteriorate more quickly if your engine uses gasoline blended with alcohol. Fuel blended with methanol makes fuel lines brittle, while an ethanol mixture makes them soft. This means that the best way to avoid alcohol damage is to use alcohol-free fuel. All flexible fuel lines must be USCG approved SAEJ1527 hose, which is resistant to alcohol.


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Old 07-19-2007
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Unless a combustion engine is designed to run on pure Ethanol (100%) it should not be used as a gas substitute fuel. Brazil I believe, is the only country that legally dispenses 100% Ethanol - because it's vehicles have been designed to accept it.

In the US, a blend of 10% is standard with up to 20% Ethanol being the maximum legally allowed by the government. I would suspect military bases do not have the pure stuff, therefore using it in an outboard should not pose any problems.

The big problem with older boats with fiberglass fuel tanks however, is the break down of resins upon exposure to Ethanol. This gummy substance enters the internal cavities of an engine, and creates all sorts of problems with valves, injectors and cylinders.

EDIT: Cam posted his reply before I could see it.
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Last edited by TrueBlue; 07-19-2007 at 12:50 PM.
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I just got back from a sail with my nephew, and my A-4 quit on me once I was out in the middle of Port Royal Sound. It would start up again and run for only a few seconds, before quitting again, and I'm pretty sure it's from water in the fuel (E-10). Anyway, the tides were with us, but not the wind, so were were tack up this very narrow channel to get back. I put in a mythyl fuel additive just before leaving (along with 5 gallons of fuel), but it obviously didn't solve the problem. I sail a lot, and I'm running 5 gallons of gasoline through that engine per week, so I don't think it has a chance to separate. Any other solutions to this water-in-the-fuel problem out there? One last item: I failed to top off the tank last weekend, so there was approx. a 5-gallon void. I'm guessing that this is what allowed for added condensation to develop...
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TrueBlue View Post
Unless a combustion engine is designed to run on pure Ethanol (100%) it should not be used as a gas substitute fuel. Brazil I believe, is the only country that legally dispenses 100% Ethanol - because it's vehicles have been designed to accept it.

In the US, a blend of 10% is standard with up to 20% Ethanol being the maximum legally allowed by the government. I would suspect military bases do not have the pure stuff, therefore using it in an outboard should not pose any problems.

The big problem with older boats with fiberglass fuel tanks however, is the break down of resins upon exposure to Ethanol. This gummy substance enters the internal cavities of an engine, and creates all sorts of problems with valves, injectors and cylinders.

EDIT: Cam posted his reply before I could see it.
The fuel I got was called E-85. It's 85% ethanol and just 15 percent gasoline. My truck, came from the factory, with a Flex-Fuel option, (Ford 3.0 V6) allowing it to run on either Gas or E-85. The Navy base also has a ton of vehicles that run on the same stuff. This isn't just E-10, this is the real deal.
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I would be reluctant to use it in any engine, including your 8 or 9.9 outboards, that wasn't engineered to receive it. What possible benefit would this provide to you . . . a couple pennies saved per hour? Not worth the gamble to me.
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Old 07-19-2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sailhog View Post
I just got back from a sail with my nephew, and my A-4 quit on me once I was out in the middle of Port Royal Sound. It would start up again and run for only a few seconds, before quitting again, and I'm pretty sure it's from water in the fuel (E-10). Anyway, the tides were with us, but not the wind, so were were tack up this very narrow channel to get back. I put in a mythyl fuel additive just before leaving (along with 5 gallons of fuel), but it obviously didn't solve the problem. I sail a lot, and I'm running 5 gallons of gasoline through that engine per week, so I don't think it has a chance to separate. Any other solutions to this water-in-the-fuel problem out there? One last item: I failed to top off the tank last weekend, so there was approx. a 5-gallon void. I'm guessing that this is what allowed for added condensation to develop...
I have used both an Aquapower, Sierra and now a Mercury spin-on fuel/water separator with some success here. Making sure your vent line is spider-activity-free is also helpful, as is ensuring your fuel fill O-ring has not failed and is allowing water to seep in from the deck every time it rains.
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Do you mean E100 (100%) E85 (85%) or E10 (10%) ethanol??

E10 has slighly less caloric value than straight gasoline and will work OK (so-so) in an engine set up for 100 gasoline .... youll just get less power, less fuel economy and pay a lot more for the calories you get out of it (slowly say: Rip-OFF).

E100 will have significantly less caloric value (12800 BTU/lb.) vs. ~22000 BTU/lb. for straight gasoline ..... ~HALF the BTUs, half the economy, TWICE the price .... and with an outboard it will be a 'royal bitch' to start and you'll need to change (enlargen) the carburator main jets, etc. ... plus, the engine will 'wear out' faster.


Ethanol Fuel is a 'rip-off'
E10 should be MUCH lower in price due to the dilution of caloric content !!!!!!!!!
If straight gasoline is $3.00 / gallon
E10 'should be':
12800 X.1) + (22000 X.9) = 21360
21360/22000) X 3.00 = $2.87
and that .13 reduction NEVER HAPPENED.
I live in Middle Atlantic area where near the cities they sell only E10 ... in rural areas 100% gasoline ---- and the straight gasoline is being sold 10-15¢ / gal. CHEAPER.
DOUBLE RIP-OFF !!!!!
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Old 07-19-2007
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Thanks, Valiente. I just installed a simple, clear plastic fuel filter just downstream of the fuel pump. Where do you have your fuel/water installed? I might be asking another question or two on this topic somewhere down the line...
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