The E-15 Gasoline Dilemma
By Steve Chaconas
Boating decisions at the pump are getting worse. Aside from regular, mid-range, and premium, a new ethanol blend – E15 – is finding its way into gas pumps and boaters are being warned with bright orange labels.
It’s been the advice of many mechanics to avoid the standard E10 if possible or use an additive if only ethanol is available and don’t let ethanol gas sit in your motor for more than two weeks. The problem with ethanol, E10, is the alcohol content. Alcohol is “hygroscopic,” meaning it attracts water molecules. Unfortunately, boat fuel systems are vented, and moisture collects in fuel. The moisture bonds with the alcohol and sinks to the tank bottom where the fuel pick-up is located. At this point nothing good happens ranging from performance issues to catastrophic engine damage as the powerful astringent in alcohol loosens fuel tank debris.
Intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40-50% compared to petroleum, ethanol works well in cars, but not in small engines or outboard motors. As if E10 fuel wasn’t bad enough E15, with even more alcohol, is showing up unannounced at pumps across the country. This fuel is not approved in outboard motors by every manufacturer. Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) reminds boaters that it may take a little more effort to ensure the right fuel goes into the tank while fuel sellers don’t make the obvious clarification between mixtures. Federal law prohibits using E15 fuel in boats as well as motorcycles, off-road vehicles, and power equipment, voids the engine warranty, and it has been proven to cause damage to marine engines. Recreational vessel engines may only use gasoline containing no more than 10% ethanol (E10). Any pump dispensing E15 fuel must have an approved orange warning label.
Major engine manufactures include a warning label on fuel tanks, to prevent the use of E15. For these reasons and more, warranty coverage on a wide range of repairs and services will become void on any Mercury engine that has been operated using fuel with an ethanol content of more than 10%. It’s been the long standing policy of Mercury for years that ethanol can cause damage to outboards, but the availability of E15 at pumps this summer adds more risk of its use. This could be due to an unaware boater or one who wants to save some money and isn’t aware of the damage ethanol can cause. But it’s endangering boaters who know but might not notice the pump’s ethanol-content labels when fueling up.
Not recognizing the meaning of the orange labels, a 2020 Outdoor Power Equipment Institute poll shows only about one in five consumers know the difference at the pump between the ethanol mixtures. Creating more confusion for boaters, more E15 is available as a Clean Air Act waiver expanded the sale to June 1 to September 15, prime boating season, where it had previously been excluded. BoatUS has also fought efforts to weaken pump labeling rules, maintaining pressure to keep the bright orange labels and to educate boaters about the hazards of E15 to boats and warranty coverages.
Another major outboard manufacturer, Yamaha, has been recommending the mounting of a ten-micron water-separating fuel filter to help water to safely move out from the fuel and get aggregated at the bottom of the filter, capturing the smallest particles. Yamaha has a spin on filter they say provides a 95% filtration rate almost double the 51% filtration rate required for the ten-micron rating.
Yamaha also recommends a marine-specific fuel stabilizer and conditioner every fill up to prevent oxidation and phase separation. Non-alcohol based marine stabilizers come with anti-corrosive components to protect exposed solder, copper, and other metals from the offensive sodium sulfate present in ethanol.
They go further with an internal engine cleaner, Yamalube Ring Free Plus. Originally developed to prevent carbon building on the rings of 2-stroke outboards, it also safeguards engine components from corrosion and cleans deposits off your fuel system and internal engine.
Purchasing fuel from a place that sells a lot will provide the freshest gas possible since ethanol-blended gasoline has an extremely short life. If using a boat infrequently, mechanics recommend keeping fuel level of the tank at 7/8 full of properly stabilized and filled with fresh gas to prevent condensation buildup in the tank and putting water into the fuel system.
No matter how eager you are to get out on the water, remember to slow down at the gas pump and read the ethanol-content labels, being sure to use only gasoline with ethanol content of 10% or less. Many astute boat owners are only using ethanol free fuel to avoid the major issues with even E10, while keeping a watchful eye on pumps with the orange label, always checking for the ethanol content.
Potomac River Bassing in AUGUST
Hot, hazy, and humid and that means fish will be in the grass. Time to hit the mats with heavy weights and frogs. Both require 60 pound test Gamma Torque braid. Look for thick grass beds close to deeper water.
For the frog, tie a double Palomar knot and work over thick grass. This bait is also effective over cover without grass. When the bass explodes on it, set the hook upward and horse them out of the thick cover. White frogs make it easier to see the strike.
Punching mats involves 1-1.5 ounce tungsten weights pegged with a stopper. A stout hook is needed to prevent bending. Put a small soft plastic on it. Pitch to thick mats and shake until it drops through. Fish will bite the bait and swim off, loading the rod. Just pull to set the hook.
In areas around grass, swim and bladed jigs in craw patterns can come through grass to produce bites. For this, spool with 14-16 pound test Gamma Edge fluorocarbon line. Snap free from grass.
Author Capt. Steve Chaconas is a Potomac bass fishing guide & freelance writer. Potomac River reports: nationalbass.com. YouTube channel NationalBassGuide.