TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (Wednesday, September 30, 2009) - Will ethanol blended gasoline ruin your classic car? Hagerty Insurance, the world’s leading insurer of collector cars, decided to find out by funding a recent study conducted by Kettering University regarding the effects of ethanol on collector vehicle fuel systems. E10 (gasoline blended with 10 percent ethanol) is the type of gasoline that most people use to fill their vehicles at their local gas station.
Hagerty conducted the study as a result of numerous inquiries from their clients about ethanol blended fuels. Many clients voiced their concern that this type of fuel may cause various issues with their collector cars. Since E10 was not commonly used when many collector cars were produced, there has been growing concern whether those older vehicles could safely use this fuel. Common concerns with the use of E10 include fuel pump and carburetor issues as well as degraded fuel lines.
Most current studies on the effects of ethanol blended fuel have been conducted exclusively on modern day vehicles. With the growing concern about the potential effects of E10 on collector vehicles, Hagerty began a search for universities well known for their expertise in automotive research. Hagerty chose Kettering University due to their extensive ties to the auto industry and overall reputation in the field of automotive research.
“Determining the effects of a substance we put into our cars every day is vital to vehicle preservation,” says McKeel Hagerty, CEO of Hagerty Insurance. “We were eager to find a comprehensive study that could truly answer the question of the effects of E10 on collector cars. We thank the team at Kettering University for their focused efforts on the program and hope that this study will prove to be valuable to our clients and the hobby.”
The research was conducted using E10 and E0 (straight gasoline). Six different fuel systems were assembled representing a range of eras and fuel system configurations. One series of tests was completed with new or freshly rebuilt carburetors and fuel pumps set up to replicate typical collector car vehicle usage. A complete set of components was run with both E10 and E0. Another test exposed fuel system components to different fuel blends, allowing them to dry. All six carburetors and fuel pumps tested with E10 showed discoloration to pump and carburetor bodies, as well as some minor gum buildup. The discoloration turned out to be staining. This was most likely due to the aging fuel that darkened as the more volatile gases evaporated when remaining fuel oxidized. In addition to the discoloration and minor gum buildup, there were also minor particle buildups, tar deposits and slight corrosion. However, at the conclusion of testing, all pumps were still working like new, and the carburetors were free of large particle deposits and showed no signs of leaking. Seals were consistently swelling when moist and contracting when dry just as they should.
To summarize, after 1,500 hours of testing (nearly twice the industry standard for such a test) fuel lines didn’t leak, carburetors didn’t disintegrate and fuel pumps did not fail. Although the study showed minor build up and corrosion in the carburetors and fuel pumps while using E10 as opposed to E0, the general consensus is that with minor updates and proper maintenance E10 will not prevent the ability to enjoy your collector car.
Minor updates and maintenance on your collector car will help protect it from the effects of modern fuels – steps like draining fuel out of the carburetor fuel bowls and changing fuel filters more frequently. If you are planning to store your classic for more than 30 days, have a full tank of gas and mix in a fuel stabilizer since modern fuels break down faster than gasoline from the past. Also, make sure your fuel tank is completely clean with no sediment or sludge. These can cause fuel system problems, since ethanol in the fuel tends to re-liquefy the varnish from the bottom of the tank. Additionally, if your collector car is still in its original condition, consider replacing seals, gaskets and fuel lines with modern replacement materials since older fuel system components are often incompatible with ethanol blended fuels. To view more information about Ethanol in relation to collector vehicles please go to www.hagerty.com/ethanol1.
The Hagerty-funded study shows that damage caused by ethanol blended fuels is minimal. However, the effects of higher concentrations (such as the recently proposed E15 and E20 blends) on older cars are currently unknown. Research needs to be conducted as the Hagerty-funded study focused exclusively on E10 and its potential effects.
Hagerty Insurance Agency, Inc. is the leading insurance agency for collector vehicles in the world and host to the largest network of collector car owners. Hagerty offers insurance for collector cars, motorcycles and motorcycle safety equipment, tractors, automotive tools and spare parts, and even “automobilia” (historic or collectible items linked with motor vehicles). Hagerty also offers overseas shipping/touring insurance coverage, commercial coverage and club liability coverage. For more information, call (800) 922-4050.