The addition of ethanol in fuel has become commonplace throughout the United States. It is blended into gas anywhere between 10% and 83%, keeping the cost of fuel and emissions down. Traces of ethanol have even been found in diesel. Although supplementing fuel with ethanol has its environmental and economical benefits, it comes at a price for the vehicles that run the ethyl alcohol through the fuel system.
Gasoline that contains ethanol absorbs the moisture from the air and dissolves into the fuel. In fact, gasoline that adds the alcohol can absorb 50 times more water than ethanol-free gasoline. The weight of the water allows for it to settle to the bottom of the fuel tank. The water that is absorbed by the ethanol is the catalyst for the majority of problems that arises with ethanol added gasoline.
Ethanol by itself is not corrosive. However, its attraction to water creates a bacteria, acetobacter, which produces acetic acid. This product of the acetobacter will corrode the plastic, rubber, or metal found in fuel systems. Replacing these parts can become expensive, running as high as $1,800.
The worst of all the effects of the addition of ethanol in fuel is the process of phase separation. Phase separation describes the separation of fuel, water, and ethanol into two or three distinct layers. This process causes the fuel to lose its octane and there is no way to rejuvenate bad fuel. However, the biggest consequence of phase separation is the result of the water-ethanol layer settling to the bottom of the fuel tank. This water-ethanol layer can be pulled through the engine, potentially causing the engine to fail to start or it can operate in an extremely lean condition which can result in catastrophic damage. These results can add up, costing as high as a few thousand dollars to repair the damages.
The Bottom Line
Due to ethanol’s strong attraction to water, the likelihood of a costly repair increases. However, by incorporating an additive that is a corrosion inhibitor and a fuel stabilizer can prevent damage to your fuel system. What you should look for is an additive that coats your fuel system with a film to prevent the acetic acid from corroding the plastic or rubber in your fuel system. Simultaneously, finding an additive that keeps fuel stable protects yourself from the process of phase separation. Whether or not you use Fuel Ox, you should be using an additive to protect yourself and your vehicle from the detrimental effects of ethanol.
“Three Myths About Ethanol.” BoatU.S., Boat Owners Association of The United States, 10 Apr. 2010, www.boatus.com/seaworthy/SeaApr10Ethanol.pdf.
“Gas Expiration – Ethanol Blend Fuels Have a Short Shelf Life.” Fuel-Testers, Fuel-Testers, a division of MLR Solutions, 23 May 2008, Gas Expiration – Ethanol Blend Fuels Have a Short Shelf Life.
Jackson, Tom. “E-10 Alive: The corrosive damage ethanol gasoline does to your fuel pump.” Equipment World, Randall Reilly, 23 July 2013, www.equipmentworld.com/e-10-alive-the-corrosive-damage-ethanol-gasoline-does-to-your-fuel-pump/.
Why Phase Separation Occurs and What You Can Do About It. Franklin Fueling Systems, Dec. 7ADAD, www.franklinfueling.com/media/397357/ffs-0238-phase-separation-whitepaper-07-12-web.pdf.