We are all familiar with E-10 (gasoline that contains 10% ethanol and 90% gasoline) but now the EPA has mandated E-15 – gas that contains 15% ethanol – and it is now being marketed and sold at local gas stations. The reason that this is important is because ethanol is corrosive to certain metals and rubber components in engines. Ethanol bonds with water and can separate in your fuel tank through the process of phase separation. Smaller engines and boats especially are vulnerable because they sit for long periods of time and moisture can settle at the bottom of the tank, clogging pumps and filters. Damage can also be caused to fuel lines, seals, injectors, valves, gaskets, and especially carburetors on older engines.
BUT here’s the big news. According to AAA, everyone with a car that is older than 2012 should avoid purchasing E-15. Many older model cars are not equipped to handle high levels of ethanol. Car manufacturers Honda, Kia, Mercedes Benz, and Ford are no longer covering fuel related claims for E-15. In fact, they are saying that E-15 now voids warranties, which hits the consumer right in the pocket.
So what is the EPA saying? They are saying that there are environmental advantages with E-15 because ethanol burns cleaner than gasoline. They have said that they have done all of the testing necessary and E-15 and non-ethanol gas have no difference, but there “isn’t any testing available” for long term effects of E-15. They are also saying that E-15 is the same cost as gasoline. This is misleading because you don’t get the same power or mileage out of E-15; realistically you will be spending more time at the pump so it’s actually more expensive. In fact, the octane levels are lower with E-15. 87 octane becomes 84 octane and can cause damage because of premature detonation.
So what can we do to avoid these issues?
1. Don’t buy E-15 fuels
Stick to E-10 as much as possible. If you have to use E-15 for a fillup or two just make sure you get rid of it quick and it is not sitting in your fuel tank longer than it has to be.
2. Make sure your next purchase is a newer car
Preferably, you should buy a car that is 2012 or newer. The newer the car, the more likely it is compatible with E-15 as automakers have changed the formulation of the affected components. The EPA has approved vehicles made in 2012 or newer, and all Flex Fuel–capable vehicles (vehicles that can burn up to 85% ethanol) as E-15 compatible.
3. Use a fuel additive
If you are unsure of the fuel quality you are purchasing, you should use a fuel additive. The Fuel Ox products and most gasoline additive lines include products that contain detergents, lubricity agents, and anti-corrosives. Many of these fuel additives contain water dispersants, stabilizers, etc. to help prevent against ethanol and phase separation issues. We at Fuel Ox attend many car, truck, and boat shows and find people that say “I have never had a fuel-related issue in my life.” Well the truth is that the fuel quality is worse than it has ever been. And most importantly you never have an issue… until you do. Better safe than sorry!