« Karl's Comments

Engines and Ethanol

by Jeremy Lawrence

I went out to my pole barn and fired up the engine on my log splitter. I did that because I had run across a newspaper column, quoting a lawn owner whos power lawn mower died, and so did the two other mowers he borrowed from neighbors. That, he thought, was worth some investigating, so he went to Facebook. Thats where he found the general information that ethanol-treated gasoline is the likely culprit.

I cranked up the log splitter simply to reaffirm my own long-held contention that ethanol has not been a problem for me. I own, and use pretty routinely, a farm tractor; its an Allis-Chalmers, built in 1950. It starts instantly, and runs like a fine watch. Im pretty sure engineers were not building engines in 1950 designed to handle ethanol. I also own, and use, a garden tractor, a lawn tractor, two chain saws, a string trimmer, a leaf blower, a lawn vacuum and a pressure washer. None of these machines has given me any grief that can be traced back to corroded carburetor elements, rotting rubber hoses, or any of the other small engine ills so commonly assigned to ethanol.

That newspaper article quoted an oil business office manager as saying the ethanol in blends sold at the pump sucks moisture out of the air and gums up fuel systems of small two-stroke motors.

Some of my equipment indeed is powered by small two-stroke engines; others by four-stroke engines. But they all have carburetors and hoses.

A longtime small engine service man, also quoted in the article, says in the old days when an engine fouled out, wed clean the carburetor and fuel system and be good to go. Now, he says, we often replace the whole carburetor.

I had forgotten, until this moment in the column, that I also have one of those - - that is, a walk-behind-and-push-it gasoline powered two-stroke engine lawn mower. Ive had it close to thirty years, and, this Spring, it started on the first pull - - after being stored over the winter in an unheated pole barn. It usually does that. Occasionally it requires a second pull, and ever so rarely a third pull.

The aforementioned log splitter came to me years ago as a home built contraption, belt drive powered by a 12 hp garden tractor engine. I did put an 8 hp engine, direct drive, on it a couple of years ago. It did require three pulls, after sitting, untouched, in an unheated pole barn all winter.

Now - - in the interests of full disclosure - - I will say that all these engines are fueled, not solely by the gasoline as it comes out of the pump. All my offroad equipment is fueled from 5-gallon containers. To each 5-gallon container, I add 2 ounces of Sta-Bil, and 4 ounces of an additive out of Tulsa, Oklahoma, called Essentialube, described on the label as an Advanced Formula Blending Agent.

I have no real quarrel who those who insist Ethanol is the problem; I do insist that I use E10 in all my equipment, and Ive never had a problem attributed to Ethanol.

Karl Guenther is a retired Kalamazoo farm broadcaster and can be reached at khguenther@att.net . He is a member of Michigan Farm Bureau and an emeritus member of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting. (accompanying picture is a screen capture from YouTube)