Should You Use Ethanol to Fuel Your Lawn Mower or other Outdoor Equipment?

If you have visited your neighborhood gas station to obtain fuel for your power lawn equipment, you have probably seen pumps that release ethanol-blended gasoline. The blend contains 15 percent ethanol 85 percent gasoline. Perhaps you have been tempted to use the blend rather than pure gasoline to fuel your snow blower or other power equipment. Experts like Kris Kiser, president of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute advise that you DON’T use the ethanol blend.

First introduced in 2012, E15 ethanol has been a controversial motor fuel additive from the start. Fairly recently a blend of 15 percent gasoline and 85 percent ethanol has been introduced.

Ever since the Environmental Protection Agency approved the use of E15 ethanol, the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, a power equipment manufacturers trade group, has been advising consumers NOT to use it. It is said that the blend will destroy your power equipment’s engine. In fact, they say that the blend can damage boat motors, too.

Kiser has noted that the government demands that warning stickers on pumps that dispense E15 specify that the fuel be used only in “flex-fuel vehicles” or in vehicles manufactured in 2001 and beyond. Kiser has pointed out that the sticker also advise that consumers should not use E15 in other vehicles, boats, or gasoline-powered equipment. The advisory also notes that the blend of ethanol and gasoline “may cause damage and is prohibited by federal law.”

The sticker on which the advisory appears is small, measuring only 3-inches by 3-inches and is therefore not easy to observe on the pumps.

The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute created a more colorful, attention attracting warning label of its own that it believes should be used on E15 pumps. The institute has encouraged major power-equipment retailers to post the label near product displays.

The head of research and development for Briggs & Stratton has pointed out that ethanol has inherent properties that cause corrosion of metal parts, including carburetors and degrades plastics and rubber components. The company also noted that the higher the ethanol content, the more acute the effects. Moreover, the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute notes that using gasoline with more than 10 percent ethanol voids most small engine warranties.

Fuel additives like Sta-Bil is said to protect engines from ethanol. The formula prevents the ethanol from settling out of the gasoline where it can attract moisture and cause corrosion.

Consumer Reports suggest that you protect your power equipment and use only ethanol-free fuel.   They also advise that you let the machine run so that ethanol contaminated gasoline burns before the ethanol can attract water and draw it into the fuel system, treat fuel with a stabilizer, and run power equipment dry before storing it for the season.