Tag Archives: ethanol

  • Modern Fuel in Old Cars

    Many of you will surly recall the days in the mid-70s when unleaded gasoline first started to become widely available. At that time it was intended mainly for “new” cars with Catalytic Converters that were expensive to replace and would easily be damaged if exposed to good old “lead” or to be more specific, tetraethyl lead. Never mind the fact that it was highly toxic to living creatures, was actually proven to be abrasive to cylinder walls and rings not to mention that it tended foul spark plugs; we knew it to be “good” for our older engines. It was added to  the formulations by the gasoline companies for raising octane levels to allow higher compression by preventing knocking as well as avoiding recession of valve seats by providing a cushion or lubricating qualities.

    Beginning in 1972, most manufactures added hardened valve seats and lowered compression rations in anticipation of coming emissions laws and unleaded fuel. For a while into the mid-80s or so, most gas stations offered both unleaded and leaded fuel. Of course the smaller nozzle size on the unleaded pump was designed to fit the smaller filler pipes on the new unleaded cars preventing leaded fuel from being used and toasting the converter. You could put unleaded fuel into an older vehicle if you wished but few did. Gradually however, the leaded fuel went the way of the dinosaur leaving unleaded as the only choice. This period was full of controversy which continues to this day regarding potential damage to non-hardened valve seats. In the spirit of rebellion, many owners of newer cars and light trucks had their catalytic converters hollowed out or replaced them with “temporary test pipes to verify the need for converter replacement only”. Also, plastic reducer adapters were readily available to allow the owner to pump leaded gas into the filler neck of a newer vehicle.  Once the big foot of the law and the economics of selling two types of gasoline gradually dominated, leaded fuel all but disappeared across the nation making lead additives, octane boosters and other substances very popular products for adding to gas tanks. They were dark days indeed for old car and truck folks or so it seemed at the time.

    This brings us to the present day and the much bigger problem of what to do about ethanol and our old cars and trucks. Much has been written recently about the negative effects of ethanol in our gasoline, in fact an excellent and highly recommended article regarding Alcohol in Gasoline can be found on page 20 in the June 2010 issue of Skinned Knuckles. With real 100% gasoline no longer being available except in super expensive racing fuel form, the proliferation of “E-10” which can contain “up-to” 10% ethanol and the threat of “E-15” looming on the horizon; it looks as though Big Corn is going to have its way regardless of how strongly old vehicle enthusiasts feel against it. The advertised benefits of ethanol indicate that the exhaust emissions are less harmful to the environment than fossil fuel, it raises octane levels, it is from a renewable source, it is cheaper and more. None of this is beneficial to our old cars and trucks however.

    My intent is not to “add fuel to the fire” (pun intended) by further discussing some of the more commonly known negative aspects of ethanol such as rubber and plastic degradation, ethanol dissolving long undisturbed deposits, corrosion problems as well as lowered fuel mileage, but to point out some serious issues regarding performance, drivability and life of our older engines. One issue particularly with winter storage and the increased probability of fuel system condensation brought on by temperature changes is what is known as “Phase Separation”. This is a problem resulting in the ethanol and water actually separating from the gasoline as it sits in your tank. Once Phase Separation occurs, the ethanol cannot be re-mixed with the gasoline and you have a layer of 100% lower octane gasoline, a layer of ethanol and below that, water all sitting in your gas tank.

    My background is in mechanical design and I won’t pretend to be a chemistry professor but in a nutshell, here is what happens; the ethanol is hydroscopic which of course means that the ethanol and water have an affinity to one another. When condensation occurs, it is drawn into the ethanol portion of the fuel. When it becomes saturated and cannot hold any more water, the ethanol and water both separate from the fuel mixture and you have trouble. The percentage of ethanol in the fuel blend determines how much water can be absorbed before the separation occurs. The higher the ethanol content, the more water can be held in suspension. Reach the maximum and they both begin to separate out of the blended mixture into their own layers or phases. This can happen in as little as 90 days or less depending on conditions. One solution is to use up all the fuel and run the tank dry but that isn’t practical or even always possible. Another alternative is to keep the tank as full as possible and seal off the filler neck opening and carburetor throat with some plastic food wrap to minimize venting to the atmosphere but you need to remember to remove it before running the engine as older vehicles have vented gas caps and need to have air displace the fuel as it is used. An additional solution is to use a quality fuel preservative that is specifically formulated to prevent Phase Separation. There are several excellent products on the market intended for this purpose and one that I like to use is Eastwood Fuel Guard for Storage. 

    There is a lesser known and infrequently mentioned issue which is the lower Stoichiometric Ratio of ethanol vs. gasoline. You likely have heard of the ideal air/fuel ratio of 14.7 to 1 for gasoline engines at sea level. This is the ideal Stoichiometric Ratio for the most complete and efficient combustion of gasoline and the ratio that all gasoline engine fuel systems are designed to deliver. Higher than that, toward 16 to 1 and the mixture is considered to be “lean”, lower than 14.7 to 1 and the mixture is “rich”. We are all familiar with having a choke partially closed on a cold engine to “richen” the mixture and the resulting sooty and strong smelling exhaust that results. The opposite lean condition will result in decreased performance, excess heat and detonation resulting in severe stress on engine components. This is where the old ethanol monster shows itself again unfortunately. A mixture of 10% ethanol will result in a Stoichiometric Ratio of about 14.0 or 14.1 to 1. Running constantly like this is a little too lean for a vintage engine to be happy. Of course a lesser ethanol percentage such as 7% will allow a slightly higher ratio but is still on the lean side.

    What can you do? Well, drilling and enlarging or replacing the jets in a carburetor to provide a richer air/fuel mixture is the ideal way to solve it but that is certainly not always desirable. Another way around it although one that will most likely have an adverse effect on performance is to adjust your choke so that it is partially closed when the engine is warmed up and just always run it that way. An alternative is to add a slight restriction to the air intake or air cleaner. Just as a dirty air filter will cause a rich condition the downside is that these methods may hamper efficiency and performance.

    There are also a number of good quality fuel testing kits on the market that are readily available for revealing the ethanol content of a fuel sample. These kits are quite simple to use and provide accurate results. They work by adding a small measured amount of fuel to a measured amount of water in a graduated cylinder, adding some dye, plugging the opening then shaking it vigorously; followed by a settling period. The ethanol will absorb the maximum amount of water; then the two will separate leaving a distinctive color band. By observing the width and position of the band in the graduated cylinder then comparing to a reference chart, you will have an accurate reading of the ethanol percentage in the fuel sample. I find it very helpful in determining the ethanol content of the fuel that I just filled my old cars with. As a side note, the average ethanol content in fuel samples purchased in eastern Pennsylvania this past fall have actually been in the 5% to 7% range. When I find a sample with lower ethanol content, I tend to return to that station although there is no real consistency and it will vary by delivery. You can also test a sample right there at the gas station before you fill up but it can raise some eyebrows when you stroll on up the store clerk and say “gimme 50 cents on pump 4”. I would like to offer a reminder to also properly dispose of the tested sample. I have found that a small turkey baster syringe works well for drawing off the actual gasoline (which will rise to the top and is now ethanol free) and dispensing it in my lawnmower tank.

    I am continuing my research in this serious problem looking for solutions and finding ways to deal with it so we can all continue to enjoy our older cars and trucks without worry. As more information becomes available, I will provide updates in future columns. If you have any helpful solutions, suggestions or other positive input, feel free to share it with Eastwood and we will make it available to everyone.

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  • E15 Ethanol Fuel Is On The Way To Your Gas Station

    Many cars can only use fuel with 10% ethanol or less. (Photo courtesy Wikipedia)

    Just when we were getting used to E10 automotive fuel (up to 10% ethanol added to gasoline), a recent EPA ruling that will require increased use of ethanol means that E15 fuel will eventually be showing up at your neighborhood gas station.

    As a recent Forbes Magazine article stated, "The Energy and Security Act requires that a certain amount of 'renewable' fuel must be introduced into the market each year, an amount that will rise to 36 billion gallons in 2022. EPA regulations identify petroleum refiners and importers as “obligated” parties to bring this about. The only way to meet this arbitrary quota is to add more ethanol made from corn to the mix...an additional 7 billion gallons annually."

    E15 fuel is appropriate only for 2001 and newer passenger vehicles and flex-fuel vehicles. But what if every gas station you drive by in your classic car has only E15 fuel? And how will it affect your current daily driver?

    The Forbes article gives us 10 reasons to care about this issue.

    1) Ethanol yields lousy and expensive gas mileage.
    2) E15 may nullify your car warranty.
    3) E15 approval violates EPA’s own Clean Air Act statute.
    4) Ethanol plays havoc with boat engines and fiberglass gas tanks.
    5) The alcohol wrecks small engines.
    6) The ethanol mandate raises your food costs.
    7) Ethanol affords absolutely no net energy benefit.
    8) The mandate is environmentally destructive.
    9) Ethanol produces even more greenhouse gases than gasoline.
    10) E15 mandate exemplifies out-of-control government.

    For more of the details behind these 10 reasons, read the complete Forbes Magazine article here.

    Also, learn more about how to counter the effects of ethanol by clicking here.

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  • SEMA or SAN and Classic Car Enthusiasts Fight Raised Ethanol Levels in Fuel

    Ethanol is a "hot term" right now in the automotive industry. New car manufacturers are developing modern vehicles to run on fuel that has progressively higher ethanol rates all the time. Helping to fight pollution and emissions emitted from a vehicle is great. But, it can be extremely harmful to older vehicles that came from a time before the addition of ethanol into fuel was even thought of. Recently SAN (SEMA Action Network) released a report on the SEMA Push to Ban E15 Fuel until official studies are completed showing how dangerous E15 (gas with 15% ethanol) are for older cars, trucks, motorcycles, ATV, and even lawn mowers.

    SEMA is urging classic car owners concerned about the effects of ethanol on their vehicles to contact their members of congress and voice their opinions on this potentially dangerous new fuel. Check out the video above where Mark R. from Eastwood discusses the dangers of high amounts of ethanol in fuel to collector and antique vehicles. Eastwood offers our Fuel Guard additive that you can add on each fill-up or before storage to help fight the corrosive properties of Ethanol in modern day fuel.

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  • Old man winter is sneaking up!

    In many parts of the country, we are quickly approaching the dreaded (at least for car guys) winter months. This is when we put all of our beloved cars, trucks, and motorcycles away for the winter. Although this article was written towards those of us with cold winter months, these tricks and tips can be used all the same if you are simply storing something for a prolonged period of time.

    The first thing you want to keep in mind when storing a car (especially if it is for winter), is the possibility of rodents making your vehicle their new comfy home while it's parked. The longer it sits unmoved, the more comfortable they make themselves. Below I will touch on some good tips to do before storing your ride that will keep those pests out.

    Fact: Pests can, and will fit in the smallest, darkest ( safest to them) spot they can find on a vehicle. So what I've made a habit of doing, is to scope out the exterior, interior, and engine bay of your vehicle for any small holes, or "pockets" in your vehicle that a small rodent could fit in. They love any spot that has fabric, sound deadening, or paper. A good hint for stopping mice/pests before they even get into your vehicle, is to put some scented dryer sheets on the tops of your tires, and on the floors of your car. Not only does this leave the vehicle smelling fresh when you pull it out of storage, the mice also dislike the scented bit, and they will not stay in the vehicle.

    Next, I usually take plastic bags with some rubber bands, or zip ties and cover any openings in the engine bay where they could hide. The big spots you want to hit are your openings for your intake/air cleaner, openings for your fresh air/heater blower motor, and any openings in the firewall. Some things like the firewall, you can simply use a couple pieces of painters tape and cover the holes. Also don't forget to go to the opposite end of your engine, to where your exhaust exits the car, and put a plastic bag over the tailpipe(s)...shooting walnuts and mouse nests out of your exhaust on first start up is not an exciting way to start the spring show season! Doing the above things, also help keep moisture from getting into the engine as well, which also is key! The last sure-fire way to stop any rodents that may make their way into your vehicle, is to leave a couple packets of rodent poison on the floors inside the car, and in the trunk.


    After you cover all of the spots those pesky rodents can call home, make sure you make a list for yourself, and leave it in the car (or nearby). This way you don't forget any of the spots, and possibly cause an issue once driving it the first time again after storage!

    Another thing you want to do is to make sure your drivetrain is prepped and ready for  storage. Anyone with cold winters should make sure that their coolant is up to "snuff", and can handle the sub-freezing temperatures. You can find these testers for cheap at most any auto parts chains. Simply squeeze up a sample of the coolant, and check to see what temperature your coolant is good until. If the reading is anywhere near the cold temps you get during winter, I suggest either draining the cooling system for the winter, or refilling with fresh coolant. The problem with having coolant that isn't good for low temps, is that when liquids freeze, they tend to expand.. which means something has to give. I've seen freeze plugs pop out, heads crack, cooling system hoses split, and even heard of blocks cracking from this happening. Don't let a 5 minute check, cause you a major issue in the spring! The same applies to your windshield washer bottle, at the least drain the questionable fluid out of there and refill, or at least leave it empty until spring.

    When storing your vehicle over the winter months, often times the battery can be weakened from the lack of charging by the alternator or generator. If you don't plan to start your car periodically when storing it, You can take some quick, easy precautions while it is stored. The first thing I tend to do is to actually remove the battery and set it on the workbench. I then install a good trickle charger or battery tender. We offer a nice selection of battery tenders (some even on sale right now!), that can do either a single battery, or even your entire fleet of batteries (if you are like me and have numerous "summer cars").

    If your vehicle isn't fully restored, and has some patina to it, you may want to check the battery tray after you remove the battery. Often times moisture and corrosion (which obviously leads to rust), can hide under the battery. I usually hit any spots of corrosion/rust with our Rust Converter, then seal the converted rust with our Rust Encapsulator, and follow up with a top coat of Flexible Sealer and Sound Deadener.

    Sometimes it isn't necessary to remove the battery from the car for storage. In these cases it is a very good idea to install a battery quick disconnect to your existing battery. These allow you to simply unscrew a small knob, and it cuts out any power drains that your vehicle may have (a clock or radio for example). After disconnecting the battery, I do the same as when I remove the battery, and I hook up a battery tender, to ensure a fresh battery in the spring.

    Another important item to consider (and often overlooked) is the possibility of having issues from old/stale gas sitting in the fuel system while the car is stored. I suggest to fill the vehicle up with the highest grade fuel you can find, then add some of our Fuel Guard fuel additive to the tank of fuel and take the car for one last "cruise". Our Fuel Guard will help stop the fuel separation, corrosion, and other harmful side effects of the high ethanol content in modern day fuel. This is very important, as many people are having gumming issues in their carbs, rubber fuel line deterioration, and fuel turning "bad" in as little as a couple months. This formula will help fight these negative side effects, and avoid the need to rebuild your carbs, or replace fuel lines and fuel the car has in/on it currently. I can't stress enough, how important this step is!

    A good tip to keep that musty smell out of the car and also keep the moisture in the air low in your vehicle is to install some sort of anhydride bag or similar. These bags are the same as those little packets that say "Do not eat" that come in many boxes of new items you buy at the store (new sneakers comes in mind for me!). They soak up the moisture in the air, and eliminate that musty smell that is the result of it. The elimination of the moisture in the air also helps combat surface rust all over the car. I've also used boxes of baking soda (if it works for your fridge/freezer, it works for your car!) in a pinch as well.

    When the engine is going to be sitting for an extended period of time, it is good to lube up the internals of the engine that normally would be oiled, but may become dry from sitting for extended periods of time. A good practice is to remove each spark plug, and shoot some spray lubricant down into each opening, and replace the plugs before storing. This will help keep the moisture in the air from creating surface rust on the cylinder walls while the engine sits untouched. You can see below I took some Freeze Off Super Penetrant to lubricate the cylinder walls.

    Have you ever driven a car after storage, and you seem to need a tire balance, or find a new vibration that wasn't there before storage? This can often times be from your tires getting "flat spots" from being stored in the same position with out moving for an extended period of time. A good practice is to jack the car up just enough that all of the wheels are off of the ground, and drop some jackstands under the car to allow the tires to sit off the ground while the vehicle is idle. I also like to spray the sidewalls of the tires with some sort of rubber moisturizer. I've used the same stuff designed for keeping rubber window seals moisturized with great success. This keeps the sidewalls from cracking so easily from dried out and sitting in the same position for extended periods of time. Another good trick if you have limited space in storage, and you may need to move the vehicle around to work on something else, or to get something blocked by your hibernating car, is to invest in a set of Wheel Dollies.

    One of the last steps is to make sure any sort of chrome or polished metal bits are protected from corrosion. This is especially true if you are storing your vehicle outside during the winter, or your storage space isn't climate controlled. I've found that our Metal Protect is perfect to keep your chrome and polished bits from dulling, or corroding while in storage. This aerosol is easy to use, and creates a nearly invisible coating over the metal to seal it from the elements. I use it on my vehicles that are daily driven, and it lasts 6-8 months before I even begin to think about recoating. If you want the metal protect off when it is show season again (99% can't even detect it is there), simply wipe the parts down with most any household cleaner, and you will be left with
    the original finish as you left it before storage.

    I also like to take the time to give the vehicle a good wash and a nice heavy coat of wax to protect the paint while in storage. Follow that up with the installation of a quality car cover, and you have yourself a car that's ready for the first show or meet of next spring!

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