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post #1 of 100 Old 11-02-2013 Thread Starter
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Ethanol in gasoline questions

The instructions for my outboard specifically recommend using only ethanol-free gasoline. Around here I know where I can get it, but I imagine that when cruising it will not always be readily available.

What do you guys recommend doing? Are there particular additives I can use that reduce or mitigate the risks to my outboard posed by ethanol.

I tend to believe the manufacturer's warnings.... but is this an exageration? Is ethanol really a big deal? I have read anecdotal reports on sailnet of significant problems with ethanol.

Interested to learn more. Thanks!
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post #2 of 100 Old 11-02-2013
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Re: Ethanol in gasoline questions

Well in most areas in the US it is hard to get, even at marine suppliers. The only place I know of that you can really constantly get it, is airports. Some places may not say it contains alcohol, but I would only really trust the aviation fuel as really being free of it. Yes, I have only heard bad things about the ethanol in the fuel. Perhaps one day we will get rid of it, but I doubt it.
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post #3 of 100 Old 11-02-2013
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Re: Ethanol in gasoline questions

* No additive is going to prevent separation of gasoline and ethanol (phase separation) if there is enough water. And if they could (OK, there is one product containing massive amounts of soap...) would you want to risk burning salt that might have sneaked in.

* Most tank water comes from leaking caps. Check the o-ring frequently.

* If you don't boat much, humidity can cause problems. Consider H2Out. It really works. Also reduces fuel oxidation (less oxygen transfer) and conserves fuel (a few pints per year).

* There are additives that can really help with ethanol corrosion. Bibor EB and Mercury Store-n-Start are 2 good ones (side-by-side testing).

---

In fact, the EPA is requiring carbon canisters on new gasoline boats, which actually help with e10. That wasn't their reason, just something they got half right by accident.

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Re: Ethanol in gasoline questions

We just finished our first season as sailboat owners. We had some issues with the outboard even though we had used additives in the fuel, but after we cleaned the carb and changed the fuel lines everything worked perfectly.

After we solved the problem we took the advice of some posters and continued to use additives (GumOut and Star Tron), plus at the end of each month we put all fresh fuel in the external tank (we simply put the old fuel in our car's gas tank).

I don't know if all of that was necessary, but the outboard continued to purr like a kitten for the rest of the season so I wasn't going to stop.
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post #5 of 100 Old 11-02-2013
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Re: Ethanol in gasoline questions

The problem is ethanol absorbs much more water than regular gasoline so goes bad much more quickly.
Gas tanks made for the older style fuel often vent to the atmosphere which allows that ethanol crap to absorb water. The life of ethanol gas is something like 30-45 days for a vented tank, 90 days for a closed tank before it turns into a filter clogging, carburetor ruining mess.
Once it gets old enough (we could be talking just a few weeks) or absorbs enough water, you get that gum varnish crap.

You can add a fuel stabilizer to lengthen the life of the ethanol gas. It's not going to prevent the phase shift from happening. It only extends the life of the gas.

Having a lot of air in the tank allows more condensation to form and remember, water is the enemy. So keep your tank full especially if you're going to leave it and especially if you're going to get some big temperature changes.
If you're going to leave it and can't completely drain the tank, then add stabilizer then fill it.

Ethanol is **** but it's what we have to deal with.

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Re: Ethanol in gasoline questions

"The problem is ethanol absorbs much more water than regular gasoline... "

A vent filter (such as H2OUT) will stop that, as will closing t he vent on portable tanks.

"... so goes bad much more quickly."

Not really

"... it turns into a filter clogging, carburetor ruining mess.
Once it gets old enough (we could be talking just a few weeks) or absorbs enough water, you get that gum varnish crap."

Actually, most of the clogging comes from corrosion products. Aluminum oxide makes a nice gel. This is why you need a good corrosion inhibitor (Seafoam, Biobor EB, Merc, Valv Tech Ethanol).

"You can add a fuel stabilizer to lengthen the life of the ethanol gas. It's not going to prevent the phase shift from happening. It only extends the life of the gas."

Most additives are snake oil. Unless you have 3rd party testing for the particular property, they can say what they like in an add. There are NO legal standards for fuel additive effectiveness, unlike, say motor oils. Some have been shown to make it worse!

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Re: Ethanol in gasoline questions

The best advice on this thread was given by Cthoops. Dump your fuel into a car once a month and replace it.

I have a lot of petroleum engineer friends (I live 20 miles from the largest refinery city in the US), and all of them say that the problem with boating is that fuel has a shelf life just like milk. Since it is designed for cars and trucks that typically go thru their fuel pretty quickly. After about three months the catalysts they add to keep the fuel blended start to evaporate, which causes the fuel to break down.

The good additives are really nothing more than additional catalysts, the bad ones are junk. Heck some of the fuel additives are litterly 97octane gas.

My advice is to buy the amount of fuel you need, and replace it as often as you can. If you don't own it, it can't go bad. As for mislabeled fuel... If you think a gas station is going to bother to mislabeling fuel you a re crazy. In most states it is a major felony to sell normal fuel as non-ethanol fuel. This isn't about an honest gass station, it's called consumer fraud, and after a few people got sent to jail for 20+ years for it I doubt the rest of them are continuing to do it.

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post #8 of 100 Old 11-02-2013
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Re: Ethanol in gasoline questions

What?

"The best advice on this thread was given by Cthoops. Dump your fuel into a car once a month and replace it."

A few months should be no problem. If it is wrong in your boat it is OK in the $30,000 car? Plain nonsense. However, I think many sailors would be well advised to motor a bit more. If you only motor to the end of the pier, bad fuel is self induced pain. You aren't going to wear out the motor with hours.

"I have a lot of petroleum engineer friends (I live 20 miles from the largest refinery city in the US), and all of them say that the problem with boating is that fuel has a shelf life just like milk. Since it is designed for cars and trucks that typically go thru their fuel pretty quickly. After about three months the catalysts they add to keep the fuel blended start to evaporate, which causes the fuel to break down."

I'm a chemical engineer in the industry and the above is plain clearly mistranslated. Well-sealed, the shelf life is ~ 6 months. They do not add "catalysts" in the conventional sense, and the important parts don't evaporate IF the tank is sealed or the vent controlled.

"The good additives are really nothing more than additional catalysts, the bad ones are junk. Heck some of the fuel additives are litterly 97octane gas."

The first sentence is not accurate, since marine additives are different. Many are focused on corrosion inhibitors, which auto gas is not. The second sentence is dead on... except for the ones that are worse.

----


No sense in scare mongering. We just need to learn better fuel management.
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post #9 of 100 Old 11-02-2013
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Re: Ethanol in gasoline questions

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Originally Posted by pdqaltair View Post
What?

"The best advice on this thread was given by Cthoops. Dump your fuel into a car once a month and replace it."

A few months should be no problem. If it is wrong in your boat it is OK in the $30,000 car? Plain nonsense.
I think you're being a little tough on the guy. He's saying that if the gas is approaching its shelf life, burn it off in a vehicle that will consume it faster (and diluting it with the fresh fuel in the car's tank also helps). One month may be sooner than needed, but there's little question that one month old gasoline will be perfectly fine in a $30,000 car, as long as it doesn't have 2 stroke oil in it.

My understanding is that there are pretty much three stages:
  1. Gas absorbs moisture
  2. Gas/water mixture oxidizes and creates acid
  3. If gas absorbs so much moisture that it phase separates, the bottom water-rich phase is very concentrated in acid, and when sucked into your engine can cause great harm.

To address #1 and #3, seal the vent on your tank, if you can, and keep it full to minimize head space. And if you have a plastic portable tank and see the sides bulging in warm weather or sucked in during cool weather, do not open the vent to release the pressure or vacuum, because this will allow more moisture into the head space of the tank.

To address #2, use an anti-oxidant additive. Search around for reviews on which ones actually work.

One other thing that I do is to burn the gas out of the carb after every use. Some say that they'd rather leave gas in there to prevent condensation, but for me I've always burned it off and never had a problem with my auxiliary motor on my sailboat or my 50 hp outboard on the Trophy motorboat. I think this may be especially beneficial on older outboards (like my 22 year old 50 hp), since they were not designed for E10, and hoses and seals may deteriorate faster if exposed to the ethanol 24/7 than if they're just exposed while in use.

Ethanol gas is mandated in virtually all urban and suburban areas (which are subject to EPA emissions regulations), and some states have banned it in rural areas too. E10 is here to stay, so we might as well learn to deal with it.

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post #10 of 100 Old 11-03-2013
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Re: Ethanol in gasoline questions

As I understand the molecular what's going on, the hydrocarbon chains that make up the fuel have live ends.(destructive distillation) Time and temperature affect the rejoining of atoms onto the molecule. This eventually forms jelly, sludge ,funny smelling arosols etc. Methanol and the moisture it adsorbs makes it happen quicker and can involve the' rubber' of gaskets and hoses .Regular dumping into the car sounds like a good idea as does fixing the last of the fuel with a good preservative and running the carb dry. Up in colder cruising grounds it's not so much a problem but keeping the tank out of direct sunlight can't hurt. Just my tupence.

Last edited by Capt Len; 11-03-2013 at 12:48 AM.
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