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My beloved 21-year-old chainsaw, "Mrs. Hawkins" (named after my ferocious third-grade teacher), just died. According the mechanic who tried to save it, the culprit was ethanol, the stuff the government wants us to use to help save the planet. It might save the planet, but the jury is still out on that assertion. It did, however, kill my chainsaw. So what's wrong with ethanol? Let me explain.
First, ethanol, which is nothing more than denatured grain alcohol, has the nasty characteristic of attracting and retaining water. Over time, that water will collect in your engine's fuel tank/lines/filter and begin doing serious damage to your small engine, particularly if that engine is an older "pre-ethanol" model like the one in my chainsaw was. Ethanol doesn't mind destroying the engine of your older model outboard motor, snowblower, lawn tractor, or 60s vintage convertible. And the worst gasoline-ethanol blend out there is E10, which is also the most common. Just how bad is ethanol for a small engine? Well, statute law exempts all airplanes from using ethanol-blended fuel. Why? What's the worst that could happen? As an aside, most piston driven aircraft burn 100-110 octane "low-lead" gasoline specifically defined as "aviation gas."
E10 has a "shelf life" of about two to three months. After that, the alcohol begins separating from the gasoline, forming a second layer in your fuel tank. This process is known as "phase separation." And if you live in a colder climate with damp snowy winters, E10 spoils even faster. Once this happens, the alcohol also begins attracting water, which eventually forms a third layer in your fuel tank. This is particularly problematic for the two-cycle gas you use in your weed whacker or chainsaw, as these devices usually aren't operated frequently enough to use up all of the two-cycle gas you have on hand.
Over time, your two-cycle fuel becomes progressively more contaminated. And as this happens, ethanol also begins rotting away the rubber or vinyl hoses on your engine, like the fuel lines. Worse yet, that dissolved rubber or vinyl gets sent into the cylinders. When combustion occurs, those contaminants form a gooey sludge, which robs engine performance, damages the pistons, and eventually will destroy the small engine. So what's the solution?
There are several things you can do to prevent ethanol-blended gasoline from wrecking your power equipment.
Saving the planet is important, but destroying your expensive power equipment with E10 creates more problems than it solves.
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