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Ethanol Warnings Coming to Gas Pumps

Chances are good that when your boat is on its trailer you fuel it at the gas pump at the same time you fill your tow vehicle. And that could be—to keep things simple—a disaster because E15 fuel, which contains 15 percent of the strong solvent called Ethanol, is destructive to marine engine fuel systems. It’s also not approved for marine use by the Environmental Protection Agency.

According to press release from BoatU.S., the EPA intends to put a warning on the pump—a small label with the exact wording yet to determined.

My suggestion for the wording? “The crap destroys boat engines.”

Here’s a little more information from BoatU.S. about the risks and problems with using E15 gasoline in a boat:

Going lean isn’t good: In addition to hydrogen and carbon found in regular gasoline, ethanol also contains oxygen, which means less air (or conversely, more fuel) is required for combustion. The term “enleanment” is used to describe what can happen when there is too much air and not enough fuel. While most cars and trucks on the road today have closed-loop systems that can adjust to prevent enleanment, most boats have open-loop systems which do not, adding a greater risk of heat-related damage to your boat’s engine with E15.

Compatibility questions: Many components on a boat come in contact with ethanol-laden gasoline, including fuel lines, fuel tanks, fuel pumps, fuel injectors, carburetors, pressure regulators, valves, o-rings, and gaskets. The compatibility of these components with any blend greater than E10 is currently unknown. The failure of only one of these components in your engine could lead to failure or, worse, a fire or explosion.

A “good” thing isn’t what it seems: Phase separation is what happens when gas becomes over-saturated with water, leading the water/ethanol mixture to separate from the gasoline and fall to the bottom of the tank (where the engine’s fuel pickup is located). However, since ethanol absorbs water more readily than gasoline and it burns harmlessly through the engine, adding more ethanol to gas will decrease the chance for phase separation. You’d think that would be a good thing, right?

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