By Carole Rooney
100 Mile House Free Press
Almost everyone who runs small engines – from chainsaws and lawnmowers to snowmobiles and snow blowers – fills up their jerry can at the local gas pumps.
However, some folks might not realize that most gasoline now contains 10 per cent ethanol, and ethanol is not recommended for small engines due to increased wear, carbon build-up and operation issues.
Exeter Forest and Marine owner Pierre Dion, who services small gas-powered equipment, says small engines that regularly run with ethanol show more wear-and-tear, as well as more build-up in carburetors and valves.
“We’ve had some major issues with the way chainsaws have run. The ethanol absorbs water, and it’s very corrosive to aluminum parts in small engine carburetors and other parts.”
This is particularly true for two-stroke engines, but also a problem in four-stroke engines, he explains.
“We’re getting lots of carburetor work on small engines now that we weren’t doing before.”
He adds premium gasoline with no ethanol is the best bet for gasoline-fired small equipment, and it can be found as marked (dyed) premium at about half a dozen local fuel stations.
Folks should always use premium fuel for small engine use, Dion adds, but they should “really stay away” from ethanol.
That means buying marked premium because by federal law, all gasoline in Canada must contain ethanol at a minimum of five per cent (E5), and most gasoline sold at the pump is at the maximum of 10 per cent (E10).
Dion says regular gasoline has never been recommended for small engine use, as stated in most user manuals.
“We’ve gotten away with it for years and years because the quality of gasoline was a lot better than it is today.”
While most gas stations now have labels advising consumers of ethanol content, not all of them post signs warning it is unsuitable for use in small-engine equipment and snowmobiles.
(An industry blog cautioning motorcyclists on the use of ethanol fuels is online at www.facebook.com/cycleworld/posts/10151681077032591.)
People who rely on small engines, such as chainsaws, water pumps and generators may need to plan ahead to make sure they can find and/or store marked ethanol-free premium (high-octane) fuel.
Ethanol also has a shelf life of about three months, while premium dyed gasoline without ethanol can stay fresh for about a season with an added stabilizer.
“After that, you’ll have to change the fuel out.”
In a pinch, using regular/ethanol fuel on a short-term basis isn’t likely to do permanent damage, Dion adds.
For equipment used less often, the industry is addressing the problem by importing jugs of high-octane fuels and pre-mixed fuel/oil blends with no ethanol, which last up to five years.
Exeter Marine supplies this for fire departments, search and rescue and others who rely on fuelled-up equipment for sudden, crucial tasks, Dion explains.
The four-stroke engines on water pumps, generators, ATVs and other larger items it services have also shown more build-up from ethanol-based gasoline, he adds, although many manufacturers still indicate it is acceptable for this use (in higher octane).