The worst thing about “E” used to be when your vehicle’s gas gauge reached it. Now there is an even bigger “E” problem affecting everything powered by a small gasoline engine. That goes for snow throwers, UTVs, pressure washers, lawn mowers, string trimmers, tillers, chainsaws, portable generators, and outboard engines. This evil “E” stands for ethanol made largely from corn. Most gasoline sold at service stations today contains 10 percent ethanol (E10). That’s fine for cars and most outdoor power equipment. But more stations have begun to offer gasoline that contains 15 percent or more ethanol to provide a slightly lower cost fuel alternative and to demonstrate their concern for the environment. These higher ethanol fuels may be labeled E-15, E-85, E-30 or E-50. The EPA says E-15 gas will not harm vehicles made after 2001, but legislation making it the norm has been on hold because of the controversy over small engines. For now, fuel containing more than 10 percent ethanol should not be used in small engines. In fact, it will void your warranty.
How Ethanol harms outdoor power equipmentEthanol is corrosive and burns hotter than gasoline. This can damage fuel systems and cause engines to overheat. If the fuel line on your string trimmer or snow thrower deteriorated, consider it E’d. Ethanol also tends to absorb airborne moisture in damp and humid conditions. This makes engines harder to start, especially in cold weather. Because of the moisture issue don’t even think about leaving fuel containing ethanol in the tank during the off season.
The outdoor power equipment industry and leading small engine makers are teaming up this month to launch a campaign to warn consumers to “Look Before You Pump.” First, check the owner’s manuals on all of your gasoline-powered vehicles and equipment to know what fuel is specified. Second, choose a pump that does not exceed the maximum allowable ethanol content. You may see a red hand “STOP” symbol warning (above). Blender pumps (below) enable you to choose between 90 octane Regular-E-15, 87 octane Regular, 89 octane Regular Plus and either E-30 or E-50 flex fuels. Choose “87-octane Regular” for outdoor power equipment.
“We are cautioning American consumers and business owners whose livelihood depends on our equipment to be more mindful at the gas pump. Don’t assume that the gas you put in your car can still go in your mower, chain saw or generator,” said Kris Kiser, president and CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute. Non-oxygenated “Pure” Gas best for small enginesSome service stations offer gas that contains no ethanol. This non-oxygenated fuel is refined specifically for small engines and outdoor power equipment and is illegal to use in vehicles. It cost more, but it is the best gas for outdoor power equipment. The Pure Gas website enables you to locate the nearest station that carries ethanol-free gasoline. You also can download a free app to locate the nearest station on your smart phone.There was a time when it was enough to have two fuel cans, one with gas for 4-cylcle engines and your daughter’s car when she returns home on E and another with a gas/oil mix for 2-cycle equipment like string trimmers and small snow thrower. If you make the switch to non-oxygenated gas for your outdoor power equipment, you’ll need a third can with ordinary E10 gas for the cars. I labeled mine “Caitlin.”