Corn growers love it, but ethanol continues to cost boaters

Trailer wheel hub
Accidents and failures happen but some can be prevented by pre-trip checks. This trailer wheel hub failed at highway speed. It was bad but could have been much worse. A gas stop is a good time to touch tires and hubs for excess heat that could be a warning sign of impending trouble.

If you hear the story of fuel additives, actually fuel extenders, from a smooth talking politician it all sounds good. It means more fuel from renewable, home grown resources, more environmentally friendly emissions, better fuel economy, a cleaner world, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Ethanol has taken over as the top choice as the fuel additive, or fuel extender of choice and in fact has been pretty much accepted by the general public as the way it’s going to be.

The reality

That in itself is a good thing because ethanol-mix gasoline is not going away so we need to live with it, and by living with it I mean boating with it — unless, of course, we can find what most people call real gas or gas minus the ethanol.

But boaters and other users of gas-powered small engines have not been overly happy with ethanol, especially when they are handed a vacation-spoiling repair bill to get a broken boat motor running. Yes, I know I’ve mentioned the ethanol thing a time or two but it such a significant problem that it deserves to be on every boater’s mind.

Let’s not debate the wisdom of mixing ethanol to gas; that’s a tired discussion and sure to go on for the next several years, but there is this ultra-scary thing about the already mandated jump to E-15 from the present E-10 mixes.

That means that while boaters are still trying to deal with 10 percent added ethanol by switching older fuel lines, rebuilding clogged carbs, changing water separators, wrestling with corroded aluminum fuel tanks, and trying to control the movement of dissolved fuel line liners through their fuel systems by jury rigging filters, it isn’t going to get any better anytime soon.

More upgrades

In fact, unless lawmakers back off on the jump to E-15, boaters better prepare for another round of expensive upgrades.

I stopped in to visit with a local marine repair shop to update myself on the ethanol situation. As I approached J.R. Macrinos, a fully-certified marine technician, I noticed he was in the act of re-assembling a carburetor that he had removed from an outboard motor that he said had been unused for several months.

Aluminum pieces and parts were visibly corroded and some other parts needed his attention before reassembling and reinstalling the unit. Typical ethanol damage, he said, adding that by his estimate, some 60 to 70 percent of repairs that come through his shop can be attributed to fuel problems.

Of that number, he said, ethanol damage is significant. Other fuel system, according to Macrinos, included old or stored gasoline. He said that the current gas being sold just doesn’t last very long and smart boaters need to keep that in mind when they fill on-board or portable fuel tanks.

Know the facts

Without going into the boring details, an overflow of technical jargon, and the potential warranty issues which may be voided by using certain fuels, let it suffice to say that every boater needs to school themselves about fuel issues, most of which were unheard of before gasoline extenders, most commonly ethanol, came into being.

It’s worth a visit to a favorite dealer, where questions about fuel can be answered. But don’t think that fuel is the only threat to a happy day afloat.

So are summer maintenance issues. Don’t think for one moment that because the trailer and boat was thoroughly checked out prior to the season that all is well this week. Before hitting the road this week, re-check lights, hitching hardware, springs, wheels and tires.

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Mike Tontimonia has been writing weekly columns and magazine features about the outdoors for over 25 years, a career that continues to hold the same excitement for him as it did at the beginning. Mike is a retired educator, a licensed auctioneer and marketing consultant. He lives in Ravenna, Ohio and enjoys spending time at his Carroll County cabin. Mike has hunted and fished in several states and Canada from the Carolinas to Alaska and from Idaho to Delaware. His readers have often commented that the stories about his adventures are about as close to being there as possible. He is past president of the Outdoor Writers of Ohio and a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Mike is also very involved in his community as a school board member and a Rotarian.



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