Is Ethanol Safe? Experts Say Not For All Engines

Is Ethanol Safe? Experts Say Not For All Engines

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Mobile, AL -

Corn--experts found a way to help decrease our dependency on foreign oil…and it's something we can grow in our own backyard. However, there have been concerns and the Internet is littered with articles talking about its negative effects on engines. University of South Alabama's Dean of the College of Engineering, Dr. John Steadman says ethanol does affect certain engine parts.

"Things like fuel lines, rings and those things that may be affected by having a strong chemical solvent," says Steadman.

Ethanol is a type of alcohol solvent, meaning it can eat through engine parts like rubbers, plastic, and certain kinds of fiberglass. Rubber used in seals and hoses may shrink. But Steadman says complications are rare and usually arise in a higher concentration.

"If you use regular 10% ethanol I think that the research indicates that you do not have any real difference. But if you had a large amount of alcohol, then you might very well find deterioration in things like the fuel lines."

If there is damage in car engines, it is usually in the older model cars, made in 1985 and before, who don't have engines made to tolerate the fuel.

While car engines are better equipped to handle ethanol gasoline, the same cannot be said for boat engines—and the effects could be disastrous.

"It'll either burn up a cylinder and what'll happen is the piston will actually melt, because you can't get fuel to the cylinder. If you can't get fuel, you can't get oil. An outboard motor is different than a four stroke," says Owner of Outboard Repair and Salvage David Chambless.

The fuel lines in outboard motors are not made for ethanol and it clogs the carburetors. Ethanol also absorbs water at a high rate, which is bad news for boat engines are in a water environment. Manufacturers recommend replacing fuel every 14 to 30 days.

In boats, Chambless says motors made before 2008 usually prove troublesome with ethanol gasoline.

Another point about ethanol--it has a lower mpg rating since it puts out less energy and some argue it hardly saves any carbon emissions at all.

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