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imagesThese days, Government mandated corn ethanol content in pump fuel is an increasingly important topic of discussion when it comes to small engines and the negative effects that ethanol has on small engine fuel systems. As the content percentage of Ethanol in fuel increases, so does the frequency of ethanol related problems in small engines. In the last five years, There has been a steady rise in the number of ethanol related problems in small engine fuel systems including corrosion, stale fuel, foreign deposits, varnishing and carburetor damage. The small engine repair industry continues to report a growing number of ethanol related service repairs. Small engine manufacturers such as Honda and Toro are hard at work developing improvements in small engine design to combat these issues. While there is no clear permanent solution in sight, There are steps you can take to avoid these issues and help keep your lawn mower, string trimmer, chain saw, and other small engine powered equipment running reliably without needing costly repairs.

Before we cover these steps it is important to have a basic understanding of fuel and how ethanol affects gasoline. Fuel does deteriorate, separate, and attract moisture from the air over time. Volatile compounds within fuel evaporate which will eventually make your small engine very hard, even impossible to start. This evaporation process will continue and cause the fuel to go stale producing brown, gummy deposits. Over time these deposits become a hard varnish like substance that can permanently block fuel passages in your carburetor. In addition moisture absorbed from the air by the fuel becomes liquid water, which is corrosive to the metal components of the carburetor.  Issues resulting from deposits and corrosion include poor performance such as engine surging, a lack of power, stalling, fuel leaks and even an engine that will not start.

Now that we understand the potential problems that ethanol in fuel poses, let’s cover the steps and suggestions you can take to help avoid these problems:

  1. 1
    Run the carburetor dry before storing for 3 weeks or longer

    The best way to protect your carburetor is to avoid letting it sit with fuel in it for extended periods. If your engine is equipped with a fuel shut-off valve that stops the fuel in the fuel tank from reaching the carburetor, you can simply turn the fuel off and allow the engine to continue running until it runs out of fuel and dies on its own (usually within 5-10 minutes). If you do not have a fuel shut-off valve the equipment still needs to be run until it dies, but this can take much longer because you will have to burn through all of the fuel in the tank. Therefore, if you plan on storing your equipment, it is best to pour in only as much fuel as you think you will need for the job. Since gas will still go stale while it sits in your machine’s fuel tank, if your equipment will be in storage for longer than 30 days (or 90 days if you are using a stabilizer in your fuel), run ALL the gas out of the tank even if you have a fuel shut-off valve.

  2. 2
    Never use fuel with more than 10% Ethanol content (E10)

    fuel-warningEthanol acts as a desiccate, attracting additional moisture from the air, which ultimately can cause corrosion of fuel system parts such as the carburetor. This results in potential loss of power, starting problems, and stalling, in many cases requiring replacement of fuel system components. DO NOT use fuel with higher than 10% Ethanol content. Using fuel with a higher ethanol content (such as E15/E85) can potentially cause engine performance issues and/or engine damage.

  3. 3
    Consider using Ethanol Free (E0) fuel

    Gasoline without ethanol will significantly reduce the amount of moisture absorbed from the air, Thereby reducing corrosion of fuel system components and potential damage to the engine. Ethanol free fuel is available in many states around the country. Although it may not be broadly advertised, many QT locations (and some other gas stations) have a special pump devoted to ethanol free fuel. To find ethanol free fuel in your area, go to and click on your state to see a listing of businesses offering Ethanol free fuel near you. (For residents in Georgia, you can click HERE to see the locations offering free fuel in our state.)

  4. 4
    Be Sure To Store fuel properly

    Store Fuel in a clean, plastic container that is approved for fuel storage, and store away from direct sunlight or frequent temperature changes. Using a plastic container prevents rust and metallic contaminants. Fuel will deteriorate more quickly when exposed to air and direct sunlight.

  5. 5
    Only Buy Enough Fuel For 30 Days

    Purchase only the amount of fuel that you will consume in 30 days. Longer storage times (60-90 days) are possible if a good fuel stabilizer is added the day you purchase the fuel. A good stabilizer forms a layer on top of the fuel to reduce evaporation of volatile compounds, and prevent the fuel absorbing moisture. By adding a good stabilizer the day you purchase your fuel, it will remain fresh up to 90 days. It is important to note that a fuel stabilizer will not remove Ethanol from fuel, nor will it negate the effects ethanol has on fuel system components. Additionally stabilizer will not re constitute old/stale fuel. Fuel stabilizers also have a shelf life and a stabilizer’s performance will deteriorate over time.

  6. 6
    Proper Air Filter Maintenance Is Important

    The air filter plays an important part in maintaining the health of your engine and its fuel system. Any dirt drawn into the carburetor can clog the small passages in the carburetor and additionally cause premature engine wear and potentially damage engine components resulting in starting/running problems and even engine damage. Check the filter often and replace when necessary (often if operated in dusty environments).

Finally, It is important to remember that, while there is no “sure-fire magic pill” to ensure your small engine will run reliably with out problems, These simple steps can definitely increase the life of your small engine and greatly reduce the potential for fuel system problems and internal damage in your small engine.


TAGS: Lawn Mower Repair Roswell Georgia, Lawn Mower Repair Alpharetta Georgia

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