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Waning supply of pure gasoline could affect small engines

The decreased availability of ethanol-free gasoline could pose increased risks to lawn mowers, boats and other small engines, according to some local repair shops.
by Adam Wilmoth Published: August 27, 2013

A few tanks of gas might have cost Vickie and Tony Kyzer hundreds of dollars in repairs on their riding lawn mower and boat.

The Yukon couple blames the damage on e10 gasoline — a blend of 10 percent ethanol and 90 percent regular unleaded gasoline that is sold at most fueling stations throughout the country.

The Kyzers noticed their troubles when they took their boat and lawn mower in for regular spring maintenance.

“They called and said there were extra issues and problems because of the ethanol in the gasoline,” Vickie Kyzer said. “When my husband took his boat in, he had the same issue. The repairs were a lot more expensive than usually, especially on the boat motor.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved e10 for use in most cars and trucks, but there are more questions about boats, lawn mowers and other small engines.

Most engines OK

The Renewable Fuels Association, however, said most modern engines are designed to run properly on ethanol blends.

“Small engine manufacturers have continued to make modifications to the engine fuel systems to be compatible with ethanol-blended fuels,” association spokeswoman Dawn Moore said. “This can be seen through the collection of varying recommendations from equipment owner's manuals from over the years. These changing recommendations have led to some confusion about the selection of fuels to use in various nonautomotive applications.”

Kevin O'Connor, owner of O'Connor's Lawn and Garden in Oklahoma City, said the biggest problems he sees are with people who leave e10 in their mowers or in gas cans for extended time periods.

“It doesn't store well,” O'Connor said. “It's going to draw in moisture from the air, and when water and alcohol mix, it's more corrosive than battery acid. It eats the carburetor and rubber hoses.”

O'Connor said all the lawn mower engines he sells are rated for e10, which means they are designed to handle the additional heat produced by the ethanol blend, but that consumers should buy only as much fuel as they need for a week or two.

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by Adam Wilmoth
Energy Editor
Adam Wilmoth returned to The Oklahoman as energy editor in 2012 after working for four years in public relations. He previously spent seven years as a business reporter at The Oklahoman, including five years covering the state's energy sector....
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