Dealing With Ethanol Fuel Boat Problems

By: Robert

As the fuel crisis forces more boaters to switch to
ethanol fuel mixtures, there have been reported
problems that are linked to the gasoline blended with
ethanol. However, with a little work on your boat you
can avoid these ethanol fuel related boat problems.

Until now many of the new initiatives to help improve
the quality of the air have had no negative impact on
boaters. Recently the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency started requiring the use of an oxygenated
gasoline in order to help improve the quality of the
air. Most started use Methyl Tertiary-Butyl Ether or
MTBE, however this had its own environmental problems
so now ethanol is replacing it as the standard in
boating fuel. However, the recent use of ethanol fuel
in boats has led to many problems including fiberglass
fuel tank failure, blockage of the fuel system, damage
to the engine and an increase in fuel contamination.

So how does the problem happen? Basically ethanol fuel
is a mix of gasoline and ethyl alcohol. This ethyl
alcohol is a solvent that adsorbs water. This means
that if you have an older fiberglass fuel tank the
ethanol fuel can damage your sealants. After the
sealants are dissolved they are then ingested by the
engine, which can cause damage, not to mention that
when you have fuel leaking from the tank into the
bilge you have the added fire hazard.

Fuel tanks that aren't made of fiberglass still
have problems with ethanol fuel, but they aren't
as complex. The ethanol fuel can release fine metallic
particles into the fuel system, which pass through the
filter. This causes the metal to clog fuel injector
nozzles or carburetors.

No matter what fuel tank you have if the ethanol fuel
mixes with any water that has contaminated the fuel
tank you will have expensive repairs to do. When the
ethyl alcohol and water combine they cause a
noncombustible layer to develop which will stop all
engines completely.

So how can you protect your boat and avoid these
complicated problems? While there still is no plan
available for ethanol fuel use you can do some things
to help protect your boat until a solution is found.
First if you boat was built before 1984 then you
should replace the fiberglass fuel tank with a modern
version before adding ethanol fuel. This can help
reduce some of the more difficult problems related
with older fuel tanks and their components.

With ethanol fuel it is important to completely empty
your fuel tanks in the winter and then clean them
thoroughly before you use them in the following
season. When it comes to fuel filters you should have
a good one that can separate the water and carry
several spare cartridges when you are out on the
water.

When it comes to the fuel itself you should avoid
mixing fuel types. Before adding ethanol be sure you
use up all your old gasoline and clean the tank
completely. Then when you add ethanol, be sure to
limit the fuel you have onboard to only what you need
for two weeks. This is because ethanol fuel has a very
short shelf life when compared to other fuels.

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