E15 has been in the news lately but it is in boaters’ best interest to know what it is and how it can affect their time out on the water.
Simply put, E15 is gasoline that contains 15% ethanol, and it appears as if it may be common at gas pumps throughout the US in the near future. There is a push by various groups with interests in manufacturing ethanol and fuel companies to produce and bring to market this higher blend. We had covered ethanol issues in a previous article but E15 can prove to be an even bigger issue for boaters as it can cause all kinds of problems with marine engines and fuel systems.
It is thought by many in the marine industry, including the National Marine Manufacturers Association, that the higher level of ethanol will cause damage to fuel systems of many boats and in particular older motors that have not been built to withstand the corrosive qualities of ethanol at higher levels. Opponents to E15 point to damage that can occur in fuel lines, seals and gaskets, valves and valve seats, injectors, carburetors and fuel tanks. Two-stroke motors that usually run hotter are susceptible to greater damage from E15, as are motors more than just a few years old and smaller motors.
Some say the greater amount of ethanol not only poses a risk of more corrosive reactions but also the higher level of ethanol will attract more water to the fuel and add to resulting contaminant issues. Ethanol by nature attracts and absorbs water in the environment around it. Condensation in a fuel tank or even the humidity in the air can cause the moisture to be attracted and combined with the ethanol. Separation of the fuel and ethanol can also occur if left for more than a short time.
The issue that can occur from using E15 can be potentially so harmful that many manufacturers claim their new motors can withstand the fuel but some will not cover issues under their warrantees if it is found that E15 fuel was used. Owners need to be aware of where their manufacturers stand regarding E15 use. If it is not avoided completely then it is vital that an ethanol treatment be used to help avoid potential issues.
Time will tell how E15 affects motors over the long term. Both sides of the argument state facts and figures but none of it matters if you end up with a fuel-related problem and you find your warranty is voided because of using E15. Make sure you know what fuel is going in your tanks and be proactive in preventing future issues.