Motors being serviced a lot this summer

Published 1:50 am Sunday, August 1, 2010

If your outboard or inboard/outboard motor has been in for service more than on the water this season, you are not alone.

Marine service centers are swamped with problems related to fuel containing 10 percent ethanol as a fuel oxygenator.

Engine seizures, clogged carburetor jets, fuel injectors, premature wearing of fuel lines, primer bulbs, o-rings and fuel pump diaphragms are just a few of the many ethanol related problems we and other outboard motor service centers are experiencing.

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In the past, methyl tertiary butyl ether, or MTBE, was used as a fuel oxygenator. It is believed that ethanol biofuel is more environmentally safe for use than the MTBE additive therefore the mandate for 10 percent ethanol in most gasoline.

There are several problems with the use of fuel containing E-10 which is derived from corn and other grains. The number one problem I have personally witnessed is that ethanol works as a solvent.

The solvent tends to loosen gunk that has built up for years in fuel tanks and fuel hoses sending this gunk into your motor’s fuel system creating havoc.

You may take your motor in for repair such as carburetor or injector cleaning only to have the same problem a month later and then it’s back to the shop. Don’t blame poor service work. It is not their fault. While the fuel pumps may say this fuel contains 10 percent ethanol, you may be running 15 or even 20 percent of the additive due to human error in mixing. Gasoline is pumped into the tanker trucks then 10 percent ethanol is added and the sloshing around of the fuel on the way to the gas pumps is the common method of blending the additive with gas.

Needless to say, there is room for error in this mixing procedure. Yet another serious problem is ethanol absorbs moisture like a sponge. When you live in area like the Miss-Lou with high humidity, the moisture problem in multiplied tenfold. If you moor your boat on the water or in a boathouse hoist the problem is multiplied even more.

Pleasure boats that are not used as much as fishing or work boats are experiencing more problems than others simply because the fuel is stale and just sits in the tank absorbing moisture and breaking down fuel lines.

This may sound strange coming from the owner of a marine service center because we are indeed staying very busy repairing engines damaged by ethanol but here are some tips that will keep your engine out of the shop.

Don’t buy gas from stations that have very little traffic. The more traffic, the more fuel they sell and the fresher the fuel will be and there will be less moisture in the holding tanks. Install a good water separator filter between the tank and motor.

Most motors have a very small filter under the cowling but there is no way it can trap all the moisture and debris. Install a canister style filter and drain it once a month and change the filter annually.

Outboard motors built prior to 1995, the older engines, were not designed to burn ethanol. Change your main fuel line, primer bulb and carburetor lines. The older fuel pump diaphragms can be a problem as well. Using a fuel additive like Sta-Bil Marine Formula will also help keep your motor out of the shop.

Eddie Roberts writes a weekly fishing column for The Democrat. He can be reached at