Buying Guide

Ethanol Fuel Cleaning for Small Engines

How Gasoline with Ethanol Deteriorates

Most small engines have the ability to consume ethanol-blended fuel without major problems. When this blended fuel sits idle too long inside the engine, however, the formation of gum or varnish inside your fuel system causes engine corrosion.

Here’s a good illustration of this deterioration: You have two jugs of open milk containers. Place one inside your refrigerator and the other outside on your lawn in the middle of summer. The container outside will decay much faster because of exposure to the heat and elements. The milk container inside your fridge will decay, but at a slower rate.

In as little as 60 to 90 days, ethanol-blended gas will begin to gum up and corrode your engines. Ethanol also attracts water, causing the already corrosive nature of this blended fuel to become even more corrosive.

If enough water is absorbed, phase separation begins; the ethanol and water sink to the bottom of the fuel tank.

This process is magnified in the winter months because when the temperature drops below 33 degrees, ethanol cannot hold as much moisture as it can when temperatures are warm.

When phase separation happens, the mixture becomes extremely corrosive and starts to destroy the carburetors and fuel system components at a faster rate. In 2-cycle engines, phase separation will destroy the engine if this almost-pure ethanol cycles through.

Care for Outdoor Equipment

The Home Depot offers several products that combat the effects of ethanol. Some clean the engine, others act as a year-round fuel stabilizer while another option is a pre-mixed gas and oil alternative.

Mechanic in a Bottle : These products have the capability to clean the engine and speed up the repair time by reducing contaminates inside the fuel without having to remove the carburetor. Just pour the prescribed amount according to product instructions and you can often save your hard-to-start engine from costly repairs. 

Ethanol Shield : Other products act as a year-round fuel stabilizer for 2 and 4-cycle engines. Their preventative maintenance formula eliminates and prevents engine ethanol-related problems by removing water, preventing corrosion and keeping stored fuel fresh. The result is easy starting engines all year-round.

Premixed : A third option is a pre-mixed gas and oil alternative. These products offer a 100 percent fuel solution to help you take care of your outdoor power equipment over the long haul by never having to deal with ethanol.

Storage Tips

In addition to proper maintenance of fuel, you must take care of the rest of your outdoor power equipment before storing it to ensure it runs smoothly year after year.

  • Run your outdoor power equipment until the gasoline runs out to ensure a clean carburetor and fuel line for the next growing season.
  • Always change the oil per the manufacturer’s instructions for best lubrication.
  • When changing the oil, also change or clean the oil, gas and air filters.
  • Place a battery minder on the battery over winter. The minder plugs into a wall outlet and hooks to the battery to maintain the charge.
  • Inspect the belts and replace as needed if they appear worn or torn.
  • Sharpen the blades on your lawnmower before the next growing season.
  • Check the tires to make sure they have good tread levels and keep them properly inflated.
  • Replace or clean the spark plugs per manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Wash and clean equipment before storing over winter.
  • Make timely repairs to ensure good performance.