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How to Protect Your Classic Car from Modern Ethanol Fuel Problems

Posted by: Bell Performance

If you loved one machine, it would be your classic car. 

Unfortunately, running vintage cars on contemporary gasoline containing ethanol can create problems for classic car owners. Most of these cars run best on pure gasoline, not gasoline treated with ethanol.

3858305402_fda8072da4_nThanks to regulations from the federal government and the economics of the farming and fuel industries, finding pure 100 percent gasoline is nearly impossible.

Lots of documentation exists about damage to all kinds of engines running on E10 gas. The United States Environmental Protection Agency also allows the sale of E85 fuel to join E10 at the pumps. As bad as E10 is for today’s cars, ethanol fuel problems are worse for collector cars.

E10 Problems for Collector Cars

  • Ethanol is one-third less powerful when burned than gasoline. This has a negative impact on gas mileage.
  • Ethanol is “hygroscopic.” That is a fancy way of saying it easily absorbs water. In fact, ethanol is so attracted to water it absorbs water vapor in the form of humidity from the air. This water leads to condensation in fuel tanks, fuel lines and carburetor fuel bowls. The high content of water in E10 fuel also will swell the paper filter media found in fuel filters not designed especially for flex-fuel operation.
  • Water in fuel systems also leads to water contamination and/or fuel phase separation. If contaminated or separated fuel gets into the engine, serious and sometime irreparable harm occurs in the engine.
  • Gasoline mixed with ethanol has a shorter shelf life and goes stale quickly.
  • Ethanol is highly corrosive. It helps rust to form wherever air meets metal once submerged in it. Ethanol is also a solvent and it will disintegrate fiberglass, plastic, and rubber.

Fortunately, there are ways to keep classic cars safe from the danger of ethanol gasoline.

Seven Steps to Avoid Ethanol Fuel Problems in Your Classic Car 

  1. Use ethanol-resistant hoses or nylon tubing to replace any plastic or rubber fuel lines.
  2. Replace fiberglass fuel tanks with a stainless steel tank.
  3. Use a water separator filter in the fuel line leading to the carburetor. Since water collects in the filter, you can easily remove it.
  4. Change out any O-rings in the fuel system to ethanol compatible rings.
  5. A carburetor fogging solution prevents condensation from filling fuel bowls.
  6. Use a flex-fuel-compatible fuel filter as it stops degradation of the fuel filter media.
  7. Use a non-alcohol based fuel treatment to prevent excessive water collection in your fuel. Ethanol based fuel treatments worsen problems caused by E10 gas.

Following these steps adds to your short-term costs but will protect your car from problems associated with E10 fuel.

You may be interested in these related posts:

What Classic Car Owners Must Know About Ethanol Fuels  

Photo Credit / Creative Commons / No Changes Made

This post was published on February 28, 2014 and was updated on April 15, 2021.

Topics: Classic Cars, Ethanol