How safe is ethanol for your Chevy Camaro?

When filling your Chevy Camaro up you may have noticed a sticker on the gas pumps that says “Gasolines May Contain Bio-Based Oxygenators (Ethanol).” This just means you are getting E10 ethanol gas. Additionally you may have even noticed a sticker saying “By New Federal Law all Gas Blends contain up to 10% Ethanol.” If you have rebuilt the fuel system in your classic Chevy Camaro recently then you should have had few if any problems running it on E10 ethanol gas. If you have not rebuilt the fuel system on your classic Chevy Camaro then you may want to look into rebuilding it before running a lot of E10 ethanol gas. The use of E85 ethanol gas in your classic Chevy Camaro is not suggested at all unless it has been properly altered to run on flexible fuels.

Ethanol is an alcohol made from corn, sugar cane and other grains. In automotive fuels it is used as an oxygenate. It promotes clear burning and helps increase octane. One good thing (but in excess potentially a bad thing) it does is absorb water which means it will help prevent fuel lines from freezing and it will limit the corrosion caused by water in the tank. The ethanol in E10 is also a solvent that will loosen sludge, varnish and dirt that has built up in your fuel tank. It promotes clear burning and helps increase octane. One side effect of ethanol is that it absorbs water. This means it will help prevent fuel lines from freezing and help curb the corrosion caused by water in the tank.

There are two types of Ethanol fuels currently available in the US. One is comparatively safe for all Chevy Camaros and the other is not unless your Chevy Camaro expressly states it is designed to run on flexible fuels. The other type of ethanol blended gasoline is known as E85 which is 85% ethanol. E85 is not a safe choice for any Chevy Camaro unless it is designated as a “flexible-fuel” vehicle.

There are certain potential hazards and unwanted side effects associated with using E10 in your Chevy Camaro. Your vehicle will consume more fuel especially if you use E85 which officially and generally stated by the ethanol industry as a 25% to 30% drop. The drop is contributed to the fact that ethanol contains less energy than gas even though ethanol has a higher natural octane number. Ethanol can cause problems with clogged lines and filters as well as block carburetor jets and fuel injectors due to the fact that it does help loosen sludge in your fuel tank. After all those loosened particles have to go somewhere.

Collectors of Chevy Camaros need to be careful when using ethanol based gasoline in vehicles that will be stored for extended periods of time. The fact that ethanol can absorb some water is good but there is a limit to what it will absorb. Ethanol saturated with sizable amounts of water will cause the ethanol and water to separate with the water settling on the bottom of the fuel tank where the pickup is located. Make certain, no matter what type of fuel is used, that if you are going to store your vehicle for an elongated period of time that you take precautions. To decrease possible damage to your gas tank you should either completely empty it or fill it up full. A word of caution: There are many other elements that should be considered other than fuel in the fuel tank when properly preparing a vehicle for storage. If you should decide to leave fuel in your fuel tank be sure to add some fuel stabilizer to it as well.

Another potentially dangerous issue with ethanol is that it can be incompatible with older rubber compounds. Also in higher concentrations it can bring on corrosion to steel and aluminum which is a part of older Chevy Camaro fuel systems.

If it as been longer than 10 to 15 years since your Chevy Camaro has been rebuilt/restored you should really consider replacing all gaskets, seals and rubber fuel lines. Also fuel screens or filters should be replaced or at the very least cleaned. It is also a good idea to pull the fuel tank, drain it and clean it out to remove dirt and sludge before the ethanol can loosen it up. This should undoubtedly be done before filling up and starting your Chevy Camaro if it has been sitting for a prolonged period of time whether it was prepared properly or not. To fight corrosion you can use a fuel tank sealer insusceptible to ethanol.

If your Chevy Camaro (or any vehicle) was built to run on leaded fuel and hasn’t had hardened valve seats installed you probably want to think of using an anti-valve seat recession additive no matter what fuel type you use these days. However, there has been considerable talk of whether hardened valve seats are really needed. Some have found that hardened valve seats aren’t essential for normal daily driving where the engine is not subjected to extreme heat. So unless you are drag racing, pulling a heavy load constantly (i.e., a truck towing a trailer), have a turbo charger or something similar that puts a lot of RPM’s and a lot of heat (like where the exhaust starts to get red, running lean EPA-style mixtures), then there was no big problem running unleaded in an engine without hardened seats.

E85 is a mix of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gas. If your vehicle is not designated as a “flexible-fuel” automobile you should not use E85. If you run E85 in older automobiles (pre-1995 that are designed for gasoline) then your car may be severely damaged. It can cause damage to seals and hoses along with causing corrosion throughout the fuel system. It can also wash lubrication off the engine’s cylinder walls. The hydroxyl group on the ethanol molecule is an extremely weak acid, but it can enhance corrosion for some natural materials.

For ethanol contaminated with big amounts of water (i.e., approximately 11% water, 89% ethanol), significant engine wear will occur. This wear is especially harsh during times while the engine is heating up to ordinary operating temperatures. Just after starting the engine low temperature partial combustion of the water-contaminated ethanol mixture takes place and causes engine wear. This wear, caused by water-contaminated E85, is the result of the combustion process of ethanol, water, and gasoline producing significant amounts of formic acid (also known as methanoic acid). In addition to the production of formic acid occurring for water-contaminated E85, smaller quantities of acetaldehyde and acetic acid are also formed for water-contaminated ethanol combustion. Of these partial combustion products, formic acid is responsible for most of the rapid increase in engine wear.

Engines specially built for flexible fuels employ soft nitride coatings on their internal metal parts to deliver resistance to formic acid wear in the event of water contamination of E85 fuel. Also, the use of lubricant oil (motor oil) containing an acid neutralizer is essential to stave off the damage of oil-lubricated engine parts in the event of water contamination of fuel. Since older cars are not protected from formic acid the use of E85 is not supported.

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