The curse of ethanol - Part deux.

Mike Pass

In the UK the cheaper petrol/gas fuel is now all 10% ethanol. The better and more expensive fuel is still 5% and is marked on the pump handle E5 or E10. Even though the 10% ethanol fuel has less energy and gives poor mileage it costs more. If that was not bad enough there are some 300,000 cars in the UK, which are not compatible with this 10% ethanol fuel. There are also many, which run poorly and others, which need to be retuned. I won’t go into the tokenistic politics of this except to paraphrase the late great comedian Shaun Locke who described this sort of thing as being like turning up to an earthquake with a dustpan and brush. I guess China and India etc won’t be listening anyway.
However - I digress. To combat the effects of ethanol on fuel lines and susceptible metal parts I have been trying a few things. I am in the process of replacing the braided fuel hoses with Teflon lined ones. Unfortunately this means replacing the hose ends as the old ones won’t fit the new hose. The fittings that they screw onto on the tanks, pumps, etc. are the same. The new ends for the Teflon lined braided hose use a ferrule/olive but work in a similar way to the old ones. The large diameter pipes connecting the fuel filler pipe to the tank can also be replaced with Teflon lined silicone pipe.
Some metal parts are also susceptible to ethanol if exposed over a long period. Ethanol is also hygroscopic and absorbs water from the air, which does not help with corrosion issues.
To combat this I have been experimenting with removing ethanol from the fuel. Because ethanol is more soluble in water than petrol/gas this is a good way of removing ethanol. In a previous post I outlined the way to do this. I mix a litre of water coloured with blue food dye into 20 litres of 5% fuel, shake and leave overnight. The ethanol is taken from the fuel into the water. Then separate the blue water/ethanol mix from the fuel. I use a big plastic container that has a tap in the stopper. This works pretty well so I can now pump out all the fuel from the tanks using the onboard pumps – remove the ethanol and then replace. Run the engine to use up any fuel, which still has ethanol in the system and then it is safe from ethanol damage over the winter lay off.
Since using this method I have found a new ally in the battle. You can now buy a special funnel. These are called Mr Funnel in the USA and a similar one can be found in the UK at Machine Mart for about £11.

These are very clever and have a filter in the centre of the funnel. The clever bit is that this filter is a hydrophobic mesh, which repels water but not fuel. So if you pour in a 50/50 mix of water and petrol/gas the fuel comes out of the bottom but the water stays in the funnel. It is not absolutely 100% effective but is very good and fast and a second run with any watery drops usually does the trick to remove the last bit of water.

I think the best way forward is to only use the 5% ethanol fuel but afterwards pump out the fuel and remove the ethanol so that the vulnerable parts are not left basting in ethanol for a long time. Try and leave as little fuel after the run(s) as possible so there is less fuel to treat. The process time is quite quick except for the leaving it to separate out for at least a few hours.

I hope this will help to prevent the rash of problems and fires that people are having. I checked the lining of the hoses I removed and it was not a pretty sight. Any movement or bending and it would crack or crumble – nasty and dangerous.

I already bit the bullet and replaced all my fuel lines with teflon. But this is a good program you've put together for any older car where you are unsure about exposure to ethanol.
I’ll just say if we wait for china and India to do anything we’ll literally never get anything done. We can’t wait for them. Perfection being the enemy of good and all that.

That said, ethanol was/is an awful choice for so many reasons. Everything from the environmental impact to the cost/benefit in a car just doesn’t work. We’re far better served by better emissions controls on vehicles, hybrid and electric vehicles than we are by ethanol.