Ethanol-gas blend can harm outboard motors

Published online: Jan 25, 2010 News Bill Baab
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While waiting on Thurmond Lake waters to warm and the outflow into the Savannah River to slow down, I have been holding conversations with my friend, David Annis, of Augusta Marine, about miscellaneous subjects pertaining to boating.

Today's gasoline at many service stations contains a 10 percent blend of ethanol and 90 percent of gasoline. There are many negative aspects of using the ethanol-gasoline blend in your outboard motor. One is that fiberglass gas tanks built into many boats can deteriorate from E-10 fuel. Another is that E-10 fuel can break down over a period of months.

Annis said marine industry sources report that outboard fuel systems can be affected by water, dissolved gum, varnish, corrosion particles and dissolved resins that E-10 fuel has cleaned from the distribution system and a boat's fuel tanks.

Now there are rumors of a push to raise the ethanol percentage in gasoline to 15 percent.

"If that happens, it will put the marine business out of business," Annis said. "E-15 will eat up gaskets, pumps, fuel lines and even plastic carburetor floats. Nothing manufactured before 2000 can tolerate E-15. It won't hurt just the marine industry, but the automotive industry, too."

Given today's state of the nation's economy, I can't see E-15 happening anytime soon, but our representatives in state governments and Congress need to be made aware of its dangers.

"The best advice I can give is to stay away from service stations which offer fuel with E-10," Annis said. "Shop around. There are several stations in the Augusta-North Augusta area that don't use ethanol-blended gasoline."

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