If you've been having trouble with your small gasoline power equipment lately, MSNBC reports that you're not alone: Small-engine mechanics nationwide are seeing a spike in engine damage they claim is attributable to the increasing use of ethanol in gasoline. We're not talking about E85 here either; apparently, it's the much more common (and in some places ubiquitous) E10 blend, which is 10% ethanol and 90% gasoline, that technicians are blaming for gummed-up carburetors, internal rust and lubrication issues. Of course, ethanol trade groups are claiming their extensive testing showed no adverse effects from running E10 in small gas engines. But the mechanics' descriptions of what they're seeing, coupled with the known properties of ethanol, make for a compelling argument. Since ethanol combines readily with water, gasoline containing ethanol easily transports that suspended water into the engine. Once inside, the water can gum up carburetors and cause rust on key components, leading to rapid wear and eventual breakdown. On two-stroke engines, the potential for damage is even more acute. Small two-strokes carry their lubricating oil suspended in the air/fuel mixture. Mechanics are reporting that the presence of water in that mixture, carried by ethanol, is causing the lubricating oil to disperse before it reaches critical engine components. Since an oil-starved engine doesn't last long, customers are reporting mechanical failure after only a season or two of use. And heads up to you maintenance junkies: draining the tank every season won't prevent problems. The deposits and damage apparently occur independently of the "gum and varnish" issues previously associated with old, stale gasoline. So what can you do? Read pump labels carefully, and if you can find ethanol-free gasoline in your area, buy it. If not, there isn't much you can do except hire a lawn service and let their equipment take the abuse. [MSNBC via Kicking Tires; Photo Credit: aapower.net]
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or you can get a *gasp* electric lawnmower.