Ethanol in Gasoline: Part Two (Jim Tucker)
Published on Tuesday, December 28, 2010 in Guest Columns, News & Updates, Snowmobile Tech
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OK, I admit it. I made some mistakes on my last article, Ethanol in Gasoline. Some astute readers and fans caught me and I’m guilty! Give me a country club prison, please! Alright, let’s get right to it and “right the wrongs.” I have included some facts about ethanol in gasoline and some tips to help all of us live with this sub-par fuel in our snowmobiles.

  • Ethanol is hydrophilic, water-loving and attracted by water.
  • Ethanol raises octane. However, ethanol will lean the mixture out and more fuel is required to make an equivalent amount of power versus straight gas. Typically, ethanol is reported to have about 25-30% less BTU than pure gasoline itself, depending on one’s source of info. Regardless, given the same compression ratio, pure ethanol is less efficient than standard gasoline.
  • The stated minimum of 10% ethanol content can vary as the additive is introduced at the terminal and not the refinery, thus subject to operator error in this regard.The state of Massachusetts, not the Feds, mandate that not more than 10% ethanol reside in every gallon. Different states have different ratios or none at all. You can buy test kits that prove the actual amount of ethanol per gallon that really is in that go-go juice you put in your sled. My guess is there are variations out there. Same goes for the stated octane rating on the pumps.
  • Gasoline with ethanol can “crack” which means that ethanol combines with water and sinks to the bottom of the tank. Since ethanol loves water, this mixture will be the first to be drawn up into the engine. It will also leave lower octane fuel in the top part of the tank. Not the best scenario for a nice trouble-free ride down the trails.
  • Ethanol “cracks” because of high humidity levels in the air, age of fuel, and the porosity of the tank that it is contained in.
  • Gas that is “cracked,” or water-logged, cannot be saved by any means.
  • To avoid “bad” gas, buy from a large volume dealer so that the gas is as fresh as possible.
  • Install a water separating fuel filter on your two-stroke motor. Many of the new Ski-Doo E-TECs use this type of filter.
  • Use Startron, Marine Stabil or Seafoam gasoline additive. Follow the directions on the container. A little goes a long way. These are alcohol-free additives.
  • Do not add extra oil to your tank! A fellow snowmobiler was told by his dealer to pour additional two-stroke oil into every tankful of gas. Remember that as you add more oil you lean the mixture out. The only time oil is added to the tank is during engine break-in, and only if the manufacture recommends it.
  • As stated before, let the sled warm up properly, drain all unused gas at the beginning of the season, and change fuel filters regularly.

I’ve seen gas stations in New Hampshire that advertise “Alcohol-Free Gas.” I tried it in my truck once and noticed no difference in gas mileage or power. More tankfuls would be needed to give a fair assessment of this “new/old” gasoline. Hats off to New Hampshire, though, for giving us Americans a choice!

Having said that, I wish they would give us good-old standard gasoline back at home. We would get better fuel mileage, not have any seal and corrosion issues, fuel cracking issues and save the planet by using less fuel.

I am not advocating the total reversal to lead-based gas but one only has to look at the aircraft industry to find that they run 100 octane avgas and have virtually no fuel or engine-related problems. Hey, it’s an aircraft man! There are no gas or repair stations in the sky! Think snow and ride safe!

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