Most fuel system problems in modern equipment and vehicles stem from the fuel itself. What many people don’t realize is that ethanol-blended and oxygenated fuels can start to go bad in as little as 30 days. If fuel is left in a tank for an extended period, it deteriorates and leaves varnish and sludge deposits. Once the fuel is used again, those deposits can inhibit the performance of the engine. So, that leaf blower that still has fuel in it from last fall may not fire up so well in the spring.
The two main problems with ethanol-blended and/or oxygenated fuels are oxidation and corrosion. One way to prevent these in modern fuels used in power equipment, recreational vehicles or even a seldom-driven car, is by using a good quality fuel treatment.
However, it’s important to know that there are no industry standards for fuel treatments, but you can recognize an effective fuel treatment by looking for a few basic things:
Over time, fuel molecules begin to lose atoms and become less stable. The fuel molecules naturally try to fill the openings left by missing atoms by bonding with other fuel molecules with missing atoms. This “clumping” of molecules is a process known as oxidation. Oxidized fuel turns to gum which then clogs jets and other openings. Likewise, since it’s degraded fuel, it doesn’t burn well. An antioxidant works by adding free radicals that get picked up by fuel molecules and help prevent the process of oxidation.
Corrosion Inhibitor (Protection)
Ethanol is a corrosive substance and can eat away at yellow and “soft” metals such as brass and aluminum that are commonly found in fuel systems. A corrosion inhibitor creates a protective barrier on the metal that decreases the corrosion rate.
Better fuel treatments will contain detergents that help clean the fuel system. Detergents form a bond with carbon and help pull it out of the fuel system and engine during the engine’s run process. Detergents can work both inside the fuel system and in the combustion chamber. There are two main types of detergents found in fuel treatments, one cleans up to the cylinder or intake valves and the other cleans into the combustion chamber.
A good fuel treatment will not contain alcohol. Adding alcohol to ethanol-blended fuels only compounds the problems found with ethanol-blended fuels. Some alcohols are effective for use in “winter” fuel treatments and serve a valuable purpose in keeping fuel systems working in sub-zero temperatures. However, some companies use alcohol to further solubilize moisture found in the fuel system and these fuel treatments should be avoided.
To protect your fuel tank and boost engine performance, consider using a good quality fuel treatment.