Ethanol in fuel like E-10 or E-15 can cause a great number of problems for your motorcycle (Don't even get me started on E-85 fuel). Beyond just running poorly, using ethanol fuels can actually shorten the life expectancy of rubber seals and fuel lines, and seriously damage your engine. Fuel economy will also suffer; by as much as 12% for carbureted bikes, and up to about 4% for fuel injected bikes. The following is just a short overview of some of the problems that ethanol fuels can cause you and your motorcycle.
Carburetion Issues: Ethanol can cause carburetor jets to become clogged. Also, the floats can soften, which means they don’t function properly. Leaving the bike difficult to idle, and running rough.
Fuel Tanks: The alcohol in ethanol attracts water like crazy. This can lead to rust forming in your fuel tanks. Even to the point of causing leaks within a relatively short period of time. Since most fuel treatments to remove water from fuel contain alcohol as well, adding them does little to help the problem, and can exacerbate it. When the ethanol separates into gas and alcohol in your fuel tank, it can really speed up the rust process. As well as causing other issues with performance.
Fuel Economy: With carbureted motorcycles, fuel economy can be reduced by as much as 12%. Fuel injection has a somewhat lower loss rate, but it is still in the 3-4% range. This is in part due to the fuel injection system being able to adjust to the lower BTU of the ethanol fuel.
Horse Power: Ethanol reduces horsepower, partly due to its lower BTU level. Partly due to the fact that to average the final octane rating, a much lower octane level gasoline is mixed with the much higher octane ethanol. When the two separate in your fuel tank, you first burn through the lower octane gasoline. This can lead to pinging, and even detonation in your motor. Then, when the gasoline is used up, the now nearly pure alcohol is fed into your motor. This sudden change can cause damage and performance issues.
Fuel Lines: You should make sure that the fuel lines you are using will not deteriorate when using ethanol fuel. Some rubber fuel lines can become brittle and crack. They can also begin to decompose and bits break off from the inside and flow with the fuel. This can cause clogs in your fuel injection or carburetor jets. Either way, whether your fuel line becomes brittle and cracks (leaking fuel over your hot motor or you as you ride), or breaks down and clogs your fuel system it can lead to costly repairs in the shop later. So be sure your fuel lines are approved for use with ethanol.
Here is an experiment you can do for yourself that will show you just how quickly ethanol fuel will breakdown. Take a pair of pint Mason jars, and fill them about three quarters of the way with ethanol. Drop a small, but clean new nut and bolt into each jar. Then, to one jar add a little bit of fuel preservative (Sta-bil, or an equivalent). Mark both jars with a sharpie to show the fuel level. Seal both jars and put them in a covered area and forget about them for a few weeks or a month.
After the month has passed, take a look, and you should see that quite a bit of the fuel has evaporated (In your fuel tank this evaporation will help promote rust). Also, check out and compare the two jars of fuel to each other. Do they look the same? And how does the bolt look inside of each one? Now put them back on the shelf for another couple of months. Imagine these jars as your fuel tanks sitting over winter when you don’t get to ride as much.
When you check back on the jars after two or three months, I have a feeling you will be amazed at how downright nasty the fuel looks. Especially the untreated jar of fuel. Can you imagine how that would burn in your engine? And how does that nice shiny new nut and bolt look? That is how the metal parts of your fuel tank, and fuel system will begin to look. If you are like many riders, and take your bike to the shop for repairs, how much does a carburetor rebuild, or an injector replacement cost? Or even worse, if it should clog or even close off a carburetor jet, leaning out your fuel way too much. That can cause some serious (and costly) damage to your motor.
If at all possible, I would advise using non-ethanol gasoline if possible. Yes, I know it can be difficult to find. Personally, I know of only one gas station here in east Lewis County that has it, but luckily it is close to where I work, so I use it as often as I can. If you can’t find non-ethanol fuel, then I would suggest a treatment that stabilizes ethanol. Some of the better ones that I (or friends of mine) have had good experience with are Lucas and Spectro brands.
As long as the government is so intent on forcing us to use ethanol fuels, we need to be smart about it and protect our motors and fuel systems. One of the things A.B.A.T.E. members can do is to contact your Congressman and Senator in Washington, DC and ask them to support our efforts to force the EPA to remove the requirement for ethanol fuels. It isn’t really a ‘Green’ solution since it lowers fuel mileage, which then means we end up having to buy more sooner. Also, since it is made from (mostly) corn and grain, forcing Americans to use it forces up the price on feed grain and corn for animals AND our own food. It doesn't burn as cleanly as pure gasoline either, and when it does break down it burns even more incompletely. But then, it is really all about control, and not really about the environment.
Catch you on the road sometime…
Catch you on the road sometime…