The Great Ethanol Debate!

Oh Yes, It’s Reached Lawn Mowers Too

Great Ethanol Debate
Gasoline is a way of life, one that seems hard to shrug off. But we all know what the future holds and it is bleak with regards to gasoline. Yes, this fuel is readily available today and it powers every form of engine. But, with the need for alternative sources on the rise, availability of ethanol mixed gasoline has become a reality.

What Is Ethanol Fuel

In the United States, Ethanol fuel is a term used to define any gasoline variant that is mixed with ethanol. Now, ethanol is what you drink in the form of whiskey, vodka and more plus it’s a renewable resource since it comes from crops. US regulations now actually mandate that normal gasoline contain at least 10% ethanol, naturally such gasoline is called E10.

In a few Midwestern states though, you can come across 15% ethanol or E15. The ethanol used in gasoline usually comes from corn and sugarcane. They require large biorefineries and advanced technology today is capable of producing usable ethanol from switch grass, wood chips and waste.

This idea of using ethanol isn’t new. It was actually Henry Ford whose Model T was designed to use ethanol to make it easier for farmers to run their own vehicles. To make ethanol for cars, one simply needs to blend 1 percent gasoline, it makes the fuel non-potable so that one can’t ingest it.

Today, in the US, E10 has over 70 percent of the market and this fuel mixture is a stable one, which helps in better combustion of gasoline and reduces smog. Problem is E10 and E15 both go well with new cars and trucks but they aren’t designed for smaller engines such as those found on power tools and lawn mowers.

This brings us to actual ethanol fuel like E85 with 85% ethanol content and only 15% gasoline. In road tests, this fuel mixture has shown to produce limited pollution but drastically reduces the mileage. Add to this the fact that ethanol additive fuel is difficult to come across and requires a FFV vehicle, you get the picture.

So Is Ethanol For Me?

While the government wants to bring in ethanol as a major fuel-power player, for us mower owners, this fuel mixture is not a good thing. E15 is only designed for trucks and cars. Lawn mowers operating on E15 have a lower life span. This is because of two properties of ethanol.

  • Ethanol absorbs moisture from the air and holds it causing erroneous damage to the carburetors.
  • High ethanol content fuel corrodes fuel lines faster.

Or in other words, don’t use ethanol fuel regardless of its concentration if you want your mower to witness the birth of your grandchildren.

What If You Have No Other Choice?

Those of you who live in areas where all available gas is ethanol mixed, you don’t have any choice. But this necessarily does not mean that you are destined to replace your mower on a regular basis. There are fuel stabilizers designed specifically for this purpose. When used in tandem with ethanol fuel, they help eliminate the problems inherent with ethanol.

Stabilizers prevent corrosion, eliminate water from the fuel and clean the carburetor, fuel lines and entire system of injectors and intake valves.

Personally, I prefer using normal gasoline (which by the way is E10) and occasionally use the stabilizers to clean out my engine from the soot created by ethanol.

If you have any questions, comments or concerns - let us know!

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