Does your boat motor have a problem with alcohol? That is, the alcohol blended into gasoline called ethanol.
Ethanol gasoline may be suitable for car engines, but it can damage fuel systems of boat motors and other small engines. Ethanol can ruin fuel lines or clog carburetors if it sits in the motor for prolonged periods and without a gasoline stabilizer.
Joe Overby Jr., owner of Overby Marine Sales & Service in Kittrell, north of Raleigh, says about 75 percent of fuel issues his shop sees in boat motors are related to ethanol gasoline.
“Gummed up carburetors, clogged up, corroded up,” Overby said.
Boating Industry magazine reported 87 percent of boat dealers, marinas and boat engine manufacturers responding to an April/May survey said they have seen engine damage caused by ethanol.
Most gas contains 10 percent ethanol, labeled E10 at the pump. To avoid ethanol’s hazards, some boat owners tank up at service stations that sell ethanol-free gasoline. There are 10 in Raleigh.
Without preventative steps in boat fuel systems, ethanol can cause harm. A solvent, it’s corrosive to rubber and plastic. Ethanol absorbs water and, after long periods in the tank, will separate into water and ethanol.
Problems arise because boats average just 23 days a year on the water.
“This infrequent usage leads to fuel being stored for extended periods, increasing the opportunity for it to absorb moisture,” according to BoatUS, a boat owners group. “This not only makes the fuel unusable (and) once drawn into the engine, the fuel can severely damage the engine.”
Websites for Honda, Mercury and Yamaha say E10 is acceptable for their motors. But Yamaha warns that, “Outboard fuel systems can still be affected by: Water, dissolved gum, varnish, corrosion particles and dissolved resins that E10 fuel has cleaned from the distribution system and your boat’s fuel tanks.”
Yamaha also warns against using E10 fuel if possible.
“Good for your car,” said Neil Yopp, owner of Yopp Brothers Marine in Sneads Ferry, “but not good for your boat. It degrades (fuel lines), it attracts moisture.”
Yopp offers these recommendations for boaters to prevent ethanol-related problems.
▪ Add a fuel water separator to keep water from entering the motor.
▪ Add fresh fuel to your tank regularly and a stabilizer, whether using ethanol or ethanol-free. A stabilizer slows the breakdown of gasoline.
▪ Use ethanol-free gas, though higher priced than ethanol regular.
Overby, the Kittrell boat dealer, urges boat owners to add stabilizers when putting fresh fuel in the tank, not later. Stabilizers can’t rejuvenate old fuel.
Boater Dean Walker of Lucia in Gaston County says he uses E10 in his boats without problems.
Walker says he goes out in his Tracker bass boat daily so fuel stays fresh and doesn’t remain in his motor for weeks or months.
“I don’t have problems with ethanol,” he said, before going out on a cruise with his dog, Gypsy, on Charlotte’s Mountain Island Lake. “I go out every day. If you’re going to let (your boat) sit up all winter, you definitely should use ethanol-free gasoline.”
Find ethanol-free gasoline
The website pure-gas.org. lists more than 11,000 U.S. and Canadian service stations that sell ethanol-free gasoline.