E-15 ethanol in small engines
When mowing season rolls around I lug the gas can to the pump and fill it up for our lawn mowers. I've always used an E-10 ethanol blend, and haven't had any problems.
E-15, a gasoline with a higher percent of ethanol, is showing up in some Midwestern locations. The Environmental Protection Agency says it's okay for vehicles manufactured after 2001, but auto makers don't support that. Small engine use is actually illegal, because E-15 can ruin these engines.
Kris Kiser is the president of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute. He says as fuel technology changes, so do the parameters for its use. "The Department of Energy tested it and the equipment they tested failed, and specifically prohibit it from any non-road use," Kiser says. "No outdoor power equipment, no snowmobiles, no boats, ATVs/UTVs. It has always historically been safe that whatever goes in the car or pickup truck you put in the jerry can, whatever goes in the jerry can goes in the bass boat, the chainsaw, the mower, and the snow thrower. That's no longer the case."
As you add higher concentrations of alcohol to fuel, it destabilizes quicker because alcohol absorbs water. In a two-cycle engine where you mix the oil and gas, Kiser says E-15 prevents the ability of that combination to stay mixed.
Kiser says the Department of Energy also found increased heat in outdoor power equipment. It runs hotter and faster with E-15, which can be problematic. "Your exhaust system may not withstand the heat tolerance. It's corrosive, it causes fuel leaks, causes plastic to swell and misshapen. You get something called "unintentional clutch engagement". Like a chainsaw or hedge trimmer, the machine thinks it's throttling up because it's running faster, so the blades engage."
Learn more from the Alternative Fuels Data Center.
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