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Ethanol fuel may leave boats dead in the water
By J. STAAS HAUGHT Staff Writer, (609) 272-7253
Published: Tuesday, May 2, 2006
Updated: Tuesday, May 2, 2006


If rising gasoline prices aren't enough to keep area boaters out of the water this summer, the gas itself might do the trick.

Boat owners and marina operators say they're concerned that ethanol-blended fuel, now being sold at all filling stations across the state, could damage their engines and fuel systems, putting them in dry dock for the season.

Bud Dickinson, of Mays Landing, is worried about damaging his three boats.

?Ethanol stirs up the junk in your tanks, and if it gets brought into the injectors, it's going to be a real problem,? he said. ?Most of the manuals tell you really to take a lot of precaution with ethanol so you don't ruin your engine.?

That's because ethanol acts as a detergent, stirring up sediment left in the tanks. If filtering systems fail or get too clogged, the residue could find its way to the engine.

?If your filter works, once that first tank is done, you'll probably be OK, or you might have to change your filters several times, but who wants to ruin a $14,000 engine to test that?? Dickinson said.

From May through October, all gas sold in New Jersey has to be treated with a pollution-reducing additive. Traditionally, that has been MTBE, but recent studies raised concern about its effects on groundwater, so the state ordered a switch to E10 gas, so-called because it is 10 percent ethanol.

Most drivers won't notice any difference running the cleaner-burning E10 in their cars or trucks, but boats are designed differently and the fuel can be a problem in marine applications. Most newer car engines were designed with E10 in mind, while most boat engines are older and were designed to run on other fuels. Wawa posted notices on its fuel pumps last weekend warning customers that some boats will need preventive maintenance to run on E10.

David Brown, owner of Thompson Marine in Egg Harbor Township, said most boat owners are expecting problems.

?I don't think anybody really knows anything yet, and that's kind of the issue. We're not sure what to expect. We had a problem long ago, in the late 70s and early 80s when they tried ethanol before, with fuel lines and rubber hoses breaking down, so there' some concern we could see the same thing this time,? Brown said. ?There's also an issue with the ethanol mixing with water and fouling up the engine.?

Traditional gas, and even MTBE-treated fuel, doesn't mix with water, so any water in a boat's fuel tank can be pumped out before it creates a problem. Ethanol, however, is water-soluble, so it mixes with water and carries it into the engine.

?With the old fuel, if you get some water in there, you can pump out from the bottom and still save the tank (of gas). But with ethanol, the boat just won't run and you waste a whole tank of gas,? said Jack Madore, owner of Graef Boat Yard in Somers Point.

But, Graef said, ethanol poses another concern for boaters.

?The big issue for some of the high-end boats is their tanks. Ethanol eats away at fiberglass tanks,? he said.

That has Scott Raab really worried.

?I'm not going to put it in the water as much this year,? Raab said of his 28-foot Bertram fishing boat. ?I don't know what kind of damage the ethanol fuel might do, so I don't want to risk it too much.?

Seaworthy magazine cautioned boaters last fall that ethanol could break down the fiberglass, creating a black sludge that gums up valves and intake manifolds, destroying the boat's motor.

?That's not a cheap fix,? Madore said. ?It involves cutting out the tank and replacing it with an aluminum one. It's a lot of money and several weeks without your boat.?

Brian Lefebvre, an assistant professor of chemical engineering at Rowan University, said ethanol's chemical characteristics raise another concern for boaters.

?Ethanol can actually suck the moisture out of the air, so if there's any leaks or pressure problems with the fuel lines, it's going to mix water into the fuel,? he said.

Older boats with worn seals and gaskets on fuel systems are at greatest risk, Brown said.

?It's going to cost owners some money in maintenance and repair at first, I think,? he said, adding that occassional boaters would probably suffer the most.

?The guys with their boat in the back yard they take out every once in a while, as soon as they have a problem with it, they're probably not going to be able to afford to repair it. They might not even get it in the water,? Brown said. ?I feel really sorry for the guy who has an outboard and doesn't have any filtering system at all. He's in for real trouble.?

To e-mail J. Staas Haught at The Press:

[email protected]
 

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not sure what size motor your running but dont mix last years gas with this years -run your tanks as close to dry as possible.( you should put on a racor filter with the see throgh bowl and the drain) run the new gas and check filter after every fill up(drain water if needed from filter) change the element on the filter every 50 hrs. this info is based on a call to yammaha. make sure your using 10 micron filters
 

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When exactly was the ethanol itroduced to the pumps this year?
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I just stopped by West Marine outside CM and bought the gray line for alcohol for my conversion. The people there still were up in the air about what kind of filter should be put in line. I also would like to know what about the intake lines inside my motor. I need smaller diameter gas line which is also has to be alcohol resistent any suggestions would be great.
 

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The more I read about this the more anger I feel. Did the intelligent ones that made ethanol mandatory do any research? How many of us can afford costly motor repairs besides time down if we make our living from the sport? Do they care? Maybe a class action lawsuit will open some eyes!!Regular maintenance and breakdowns are expected but to be forced to break down really iritates me!
 
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