Fueling Summer Fun

by Sherry Popham

One of the most common causes of problems we encounter with outboard engines is the use of ethanol-enriched fuel.  While we are fortunate in the Keys to have options for purchasing non-ethanol fuel, it is often more convenient to gas up at the local station. Unfortunately, this can be detrimental to the performance of your outboard engine.  The damaging effects result from ethanol’s ability to absorb moisture and to create corrosive salts that harm the components of your engine’s fuel system while fouling the filters, injectors, carburetors and combustion chambers. So, what can you do to protect your fuel system from ethanol? First and foremost, use non-ethanol gas, if available, and install a fuel/water separating filter.  It is always best to use the brand made by the manufacturer of your outboard.  If non-ethanol fuel is not an option, then utilization of a fuel/water separator is particularly important in that they clean contaminants and water from the fuel before it reaches critical elements of your fuel system.  Changing of the fuel/water separator is recommended as a routine part of your maintenance with installation of a new one every 50-100 hours of running time or, more often if you have on-going problems. Check the fuel/water separator by pouring some of the gas out of it into a clear container and observe if there is water and/or debris in it. If the fuel is milky this indicates it contains water.  Occasionally this can be addressed by the frequent changing of the fuel/water separator until all the water is gone but often the entire fuel tank may need to be emptied or ‘polished’.  When you discover this situation it is also not unusual to find that your fuel injectors are fouled and must be replaced as well.  More often than not, there are multiple issues that must be addressed. Always buy your gas at a location that sells a lot of fuel, ensuring that it is fresh when purchased, and then, keep your fuel fresh.  I can’t begin to tell you how many service calls are made from folks whose boat (and fuel) have been sitting for months and who are stranded with a non-working engine that is compromised with debris and water from their old fuel.    Ethanol-fuel issues in boats can be difficult and time consuming to solve completely and often take a significant amount of effort to get the engine once again running at optimal efficiency.  They have been the ruin of many a beautiful day on the water or the week of vacation planned with family and friends. Use of a fuel stabilizer, like Yamaha’s Fuel Stabilizer & Conditioner Plus, will reduce these issues and also address the “phase separation” ethanol-enriched fuel creates while delaying the development of gum and varnish when your engine is being stored.  Phase separation occurs when enough water contaminates the gasoline leaving two separate layers in the storage tank, a gasoline-only layer at the top and an ethanol/water mixture on the bottom. It is the primary reason why ethanol fuel’s usable life span can often be less than the normal lengths of time our boats may sit unused. Recognizing the common practice of outboard owners using fuel with ethanol, most major engine brands have developed products to help protect your fuel system from its corrosive effects.  Yamaha offers Ring Free Plus.  Check with your engine manufacturer for the equivalent product.  These are designed to help battle the damaging effects of ethanol-enriched fuels and protect the significant investment you have made in your engine. Today’s outboard engines are manufactured to exacting standards but proper maintenance is as essential as ever to assure their longevity.  There is no replacement for diligence in following the manufacturer’s recommended service intervals. Other than this, making the extra effort to fill your tank with non-ethanol fuel is one of the best things you can do to ensure the long life of your motor and its dependability which translates into many happy days out on the water.  And that is the reason most of us live here!

Sherry Popham
Sherry Popham


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