Winter is coming, so its time for many people around the country to put up their small equipment for the winter – lawn mowers and equipment, boats and watercraft, even motorcycles. Diesel fuel and gasoline-ethanol blends both pose potential problems if they’re stored long term in your vehicle. Both of them attract water from the atmosphere, though ethanol blends are by far the worst at doing that. Ethanol has a chemical attraction to water so strong that even industrial manufacturers of ethanol can’t legally sell a 100% product – the most they can go up to is 99.5%, because there’s always going to be a little bit of water impurity in it. And water causes bigger problems in stored ethanol blend than it does in stored diesel.
The worst thing that happens when water gets into stored diesel is microbial growth. The water sinks to the bottom of the tank and the bacteria or fungus grows between the fuel and the water layers, feeding off both. There are few things worse than going to use your equipment and finding a big infestation of stinky microbes in your fuel tank.
Unlike diesel, when water gets into ethanol blends, it causes the blend to break apart. The ethanol will separate from the gasoline and sink to the bottom, stripping the octane from the gas and leaving you with a tank full of poor quality fuel that can even damage your engine.
Beyond water absorption, ethanol left stored in a tank will dissolve plastic and rubber parts in the tank and fuel system, dissolving resins that can gum up your injectors when you restart it or even can equipment damage.
None of this is good news.
Following are some tips for preparing your small equipment, boats and vehicles for storage in the winter months.
- If possible, drain or run all the fuel out of the tanks – purging the fuel will minimize stored fuel problems detailed above. Add a stabilizing additive to the tank as well before putting it up for the winter.
- If you’re going to leave fuel in the tank, apply some additive like Bell Performance Mix-I-Go, Dee-Zol, Marine MXO or Marine Dee-zol to control water buildup and keep the fuel fresh for later use.
- Check any belts for signs of wear and damage. Wash them with soap and water and dry.
- Apply lubricant to moving parts.
- For vehicles, apply wax to painted areas to prevent damage from condensation.
- Change the oil; clean and replace your air filter.
- For mowers, remove the blade and have it sharpened (of course you should replace it when you are done)
Do you have any other suggestions on winterization? Feel free to leave comments and let everyone know.
Update 1/26/2011: Bell Performance is pleased to announce MIX-I-GO SMALL ENGINE FORMULA. It is specially formulated for both two- and four-cycle engines, solving ethanol-related problems in gasoline engines for small equipment like riding and push lawn mowers, lawn edgers, chain saws, leaf blowers, stand-alone generators and other types of small gasoline-powered equipment.
Check out our Ethanol Problems Video Testimonials
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This post was published on September 16, 2010 and was updated on April 9, 2019.