Has your lawnmower ever been hard to start? Has your chainsaw ever needed a repair to its fuel system after a period of storage? Hopefully you’re amongst the lucky ones who haven’t experienced the problems caused by regular pump petrol, or, maybe you are already using stabilised fuel or Aspen so don’t need to worry about fuel issues. Many people suffer from fuel related issues without even knowing it can be avoided. Although you may have heard that ethanol in regular pump fuel causes problems, you may not understand why, so we hope to explain it a little further here.
From 1st september 2021 the ethanol content found in the standard grade 95 octane unleaded petrol will change from 5% (E5) to 10% (E10) and will cause the problems found with E5 petrol to happen much faster.
What is ethanol & why is it in petrol?
Ethanol is an alcohol derived from plant materials. It has become one of the key players in the biofuel industry as it’s made from crops or waste by-products and is therefore renewable. The process to develop crops into ethanol is relatively simple, the production is considerably cheaper than other fuel sources and can help to produce cleaner exhaust emissions from vehicles.
Because of this, the UK government introduced financial incentives for suppliers of petrol to use a percentage of ethanol in their blends.
It is estimated that the switch from E5 to E10 petrol will have the same emissions benefits as removing 750,000 cars on the roads.
How does ethanol affect the performance of petrol?
There are pros and cons of using ethanol in various blends, but in terms of performance, 3 things stand out:
- Ethanol is a great oxygenate which helps to give a cleaner burning fuel and increase power from the engine if fuelling can be adjusted to suit. E85 (85% ethanol, 15% petrol) is often used in motor sport for this reason.
- Ethanol contains less energy than regular petrol so as you increase the level of ethanol. Fuel consumption will increase.
- Ethanol is aggressive to fuel system components and will absorb moisture from the atmosphere which can cause issues that are mainly seen in engines fitted with a carburettor (vented fuel systems).
As a rule of thumb, most vehicles produced since 2002 are ok to use E10 fuel and all cars produced after 2011 had to be E10 compatible.
You can check the compatibility of your vehicle on the government website:
Why is it okay in my car?
Small percentages of ethanol blended into the pump fuel you use will not impact on the running of your vehicle (unless a classic car or classic motorbike).
Modern cars have a sealed fuel injection system which means the atmosphere cannot oxidise the fuel at the same rate. Cars also have sophisticated fuelling systems which can compensate for the different qualities of fuel, whereas garden machinery only has one setting and relies on the fuel quality being consistent.
Symptoms of fuel issues
How does ethanol in petrol affect garden machinery?
Whilst using fresh fuel containing ethanol is unlikely to cause any performance issues with your garden machinery, in reality, it is very rare that fresh fuel is always used. Although most garden machinery uses small volumes of fuel, it is more practical for the operator to purchase their fuel in bulk. Can you remember when you last filled up the can of fuel which is in your shed? Most manufacturers state fresh fuel should be less than 30 days old and kept in a sealed container.
Use ethanol-free fuel such as Aspen and you will also benefit from reducing toxic emissions and not needing to mix 2-stroke fuel.
Aspen fuel cannot be sent via courier but can be delivered locally or collected from store.
If you continue to use regular pump fuel, be sure to always keep your fuel fresh, never buy supermarket fuel (this seems to cause more problems) and never use fuel over 30 days old – whether in the fuel tank or from a storage container.
The affects of old, stale fuel can be reduced by mixing an additive in with the fresh fuel. We recommend the use of Briggs & Stratton Fuel Fit petrol stabiliser in all 2 & 4-Stroke products. Fuel Fit® keeps E10 fuel fresh and protects engines better than ever before.
Fuel Fit® not only keeps the carburettor clean for easy starting but now also protects against the corrosive effects of ethanol and maintains fuel stability for up to 3 years.
Does this Effect my Warranty?
No, your warranty is not effected. However, any issues with any petrol product that are found to be caused by stale fuel will not be covered by the engine manufacturers warranty.