Ethanol and Your Boat On the Dock with Rick Smith

In previous articles we have discussed ethanol blended gasoline (E10) and some of the issues it is creating for the boating community. Unlike your car, typically your boat will sit for weeks at a time between uses (unless you are a commercial fisherman or pro bass angler). This gives ethanol a chance to work havoc on your fuel systems and ultimately your engine. The engine builders and many knowledgeable boating professional have written extensively about problems and possible solutions. I thought I might continue to add to this discourse with a few updates for boaters.

Number one, there is not really a cure for ethanol, since it’s basically 200 grain alcohol and is going to do what comes naturally, which is to attract water and to act as a solvent in cleaning out fuel systems. It also has the uncanny knack for permeating fuel hoses, which allows harmful vapors to escape into engine compartments and into the atmosphere. We have learned some important lessons to slow this process down.

To stop water absorption, a fuel stabilizer must be added to the fuel tank. Products like BioBor EB, StarTron, Yamalube Fuel Stabilizer & Condition Plus and others work to stop this process of phase separation (PS). PS results in the loss of octane and can cause corrosion of internal components. The harmful sulfate salts that attack most metals are controlled by Yamalube and BioBor EB.

To stabilize ethanol based fuels is to keep them fresh, meaning they will retain their octane levels, not phase separate or absorb water, prevent the formation of gum or varnish and slow the oxidation process. To be effective, a fuel additive must not only be added immediately when filling up, but should be done with every tank of fuel. Be sure to read the instructions on the bottle as concentrations vary from 1 oz to 1 gal to 1 oz to 15 gals. These additives are priced from $15 to $25 typically adding from .08 to .15 cents per gallon to your operating costs.

Other things you can do are to make sure you have a 10 micron fuel/water separator filter installed between the fuel tank and the engine. This will stop water from reaching the engine plus filter out most debris. Depending on usage these filters should be changed out no less than once a year. Initially the cost will be $50 to $100 and replacement filters are $10-$20.

While adding the filter, change out all older fuel lines to the new ethanol resistant variety like Sierra brand Silverado 4000. These hoses are engineered to stay pliable, are weather and UV resistant and have a non-permeable liner. The Silverado 4000 hoses come in several diameters and sell for $1.50 to $2.00 per foot.

Other ideas to keep your motor running as designed are to make sure to use your boat often to keep the fuel fresh and to purchase fuel from a location that does lots of business so that you know their fuel is always fresh.

These recommendations are a small price to pay compared to gummed-up carburetors and injectors or a catastrophic engine failure, not to mention being stranded while boating.

By performing a little preventive maintenance your boat will perform for many years to come and best of all you’ll not be playing tow-tow and row-row your boat gently down the stream!


Ethanol and Your Boat

Published by Hank Sibley Bluewater Yacht Sales

Hank Sibley Sales Professional Bluewater Yacht Sales Hampton, VA 804.337.1945 (Mobile) 757.788.7082 (Office) 757.723.3329 (Fax)

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