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The great ethanol debate

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The rise of E10

"A few years ago no one thought there would be any problems with E10, and there were," says BoatU.S. vice president of government affairs Margaret Podlich. "Boaters got stuck with the tab for repairs. Independent authorities have not tested higher levels of ethanol in marine engine systems, and its use may void a warranty."

E10 has led to:

  • the disintegration of fiberglass fuel tanks
  • the gumming up of fuel lines
  • piston and valve failure.

Gasoline with ethanol attracts moisture, and because boats are kept in damp environments, accumulation of moisture is inevitable in their fuel tanks. The mixture encourages the growth of bacteria, which collects as sludge and can be drawn into the fuel system, clogging filters and fuel passages.

In 2005, when ethanol first appeared in the Northeast, boatyards, marinas and engine manufacturers began scrambling to alleviate the engine and fuel-system problems the additive was causing.

They're still scrambling.

To arm its dealers with tools to ward off engine malfunctions, the Yamaha Marine Group has held a series of webinars. These live online conferences attracted more than 80 Yamaha dealers, according to the company.

"E10 is not optimal for use in the marine environment largely because it dissolves contaminants in marine fuel tanks and absorbs moisture from the environment," says Yamaha communications manager Martin Peters. "These issues can be minimized with vigilance and preventive maintenance, and that is what we are encouraging among dealers and the public."

RELATED STORY: Coping with ethanol - tips to help protect your engine