The Sioux City Journal: Octane switch boosts ethanol, sparks new small engine fears

October 14, 2013

Dave Dreeszen, October 13  – SIOUX CITY | Some experts expect regular gasoline without ethanol to become more costly and difficult to find in Siouxland as a result in a recent change in the way fuel is distributed to stations.

The trend worries small-engine repair shop owners like Mike Wilmes, who recommend use regular gas in lawn mowers, snow throwers, chain saws, leaf blowers and the like.

In recent years, Wilmes' business has seen a big upswing in repairs from homeowners who instead put ethanol-blended gas in their machines.

“It's a nightmare. These small engines are not made to run on that,” said Wilmes, owner of Wilmes Do-It-Best Hardware stores in Sioux City and South Sioux City. “Ninety percent of the repairs that we do in the shop are fuel related. It's frustrating for us. It's even more frustrating for the customer.”

Sitting in a small engine tank for weeks and even months, the ethanol blend tends to separate over time, building up a gummy lining that gradually corrodes the carburetor to the point where it no longer starts.

“The ethanol degrades some of the plastic parts in the carburetor. It makes them mushy,” Wilmes said. “The more it sits in there, the more it breaks it down, and gums it up.”

The fix typically include draining the gas, and cleaning or rebuilding the carburetor. Depending on the extent of the problem, it can cost $20 to $50, he said. With some owners forced to fix machines two to three times a year, the added expenses quickly add up.