EPA Approved 15 Percent Ethanol for Some Late Model Cars, Trucks, not Marine Engines

The Boat Owners Association of America (BoatUS)  has warned members and other boat owners that the little label at the gas pump “could be all that separates boaters from dangerously misfueling their boat.”

With the EPAs recent decision to allow the sale of 15 percent ethanol for use in late model cars and trucks 2001 models and later, BoatUS says that trailerboaters will need to remain extra vigilant when filling up their truck and trailered boat at the local gas station.

“That’s because while E15 could be fine for the tow vehicle, it’s not good - nor authorized by the EPA – for use in boats.

A strong solvent, ethanol has been known to degrade marine fuel systems, damage engines, add safety concerns, and lead to expensive repair bills.

“When filling up at gas stations, boaters are used to pulling up to the pump and filling up the tow vehicle first, and then putting the same fuel nozzle into the boat,” said BoatUS Director of Damage Avoidance Bob Adriance. “If that happens with “E15, it could be a big mistake.

“All of this means that when E15 starts to appear in gasoline stations, boaters must heed the warning on the pump and shouldn't even think about using it in a boat. Here's why:

“Going Lean isn't good: In addition to hydrogen and carbon found in regular gasoline, ethanol also contains oxygen, which means less air (or conversely, more fuel) is required for combustion. The term ‘enleanment’ is used to describe what can happen when there is too much air and not enough fuel. While most cars and trucks on the road today have closed-loop systems that can adjust to prevent enleanment, most boats have open-loop systems which do not, adding a greater risk of heat-related damage to your boat's engine with E15.

“Compatibility questions: Many components on a boat come in contact with ethanol-laden gasoline, including fuel lines, fuel tanks, fuel pumps, fuel injectors, carburetors, pressure regulators, valves, o-rings, and gaskets. The compatibility of these components with any blend greater than E10 is currently unknown. The failure of only one of these components in your engine could lead to failure or, worse, a fire or explosion.

“A ‘good’ thing isn't what it seems: Phase separation is what happens when gas becomes over-saturated with water, leading the water/ethanol mixture to separate from the gasoline and fall to the bottom of the tank (where the engine's fuel pickup is located). However, since ethanol absorbs water more readily than gasoline and it burns harmlessly through the engine, adding more ethanol to gas will decrease the chance for phase separation. You'd think that would be a good thing, right?

“However, as you increase the amount of water in ethanol, this mixture also becomes more acidic, increasing the potential to corrode metal, including aluminum fuel tanks.

“Also keep in mind that once gas has phase separated, the only remedy is to completely empty the tank. While BoatUS believes fuel additives in general are a good thing, it has not seen evidence of any additive being able to restore phase-separated gas back to its original state.

“ Your warranty won’t help you: Marine engines are only warranted for use with up to 10% (E10) ethanol.”

 

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Mike Scruggs