Take precautions with outboard motors heading into winter

Take precautions with outboard motors heading into winter

Posted: Friday, October 5, 2012 12:00 pm
By: By Brent Callicott

The Messenger 10.05.12

Last Friday, I’m sad to report, there was a boating accident that took place that claimed a man’s life on Reelfoot Lake.
Two men, one from Tiptonville who survived and the other man from Shelby County who perished in the accident, were out fishing on Reelfoot. They apparently became hung on a stump and then their weight shifted, sending both men into the waters of the lake.
The man who passed apparently had a heart attack once he hit the water. Both men were rescued by two local young outdoorsmen, Brett Burress, 18, and Shaw Logan, 17, both are students at Obion County Central High School in Troy.
Shaw is the son of TWRA officer Roy Logan. These young men were in the right place at the right time, from what I was told, and we praise them for that because it could have been much worse if they had not been in the area they were. They saved one life for sure.
These fishermen were in one of the old-style, wooden Reelfoot Lake boats, which is otherwise known as a “stump jumper” by many, when the accident happened. I was told the boat sank to the bottom of the lake at the time of the accident.
A note of caution: Just be careful out there, folks. The lake is low and please wear your life vest. It is that important.
Outboard care
Also, in this week’s column, by request of several of our readers, I have been asked to give a few tips and facts on using a gasoline/ethanol blended fuel for your outboard motor. By doing so, I thought it may be a good time and idea to pass along some precautions going into the winter months to the users of E-10 ethanol gasoline. Ethanol gasoline is OK for your auto but outboard motors are a completely different situation.
One bit of information I found that on surveys on the Internet by different companies from across the United States, various outboard mechanics report that at least 70 percent of outboard motor troubles nowadays stem from using blended gasoline (with ethanol) when motors set up for long periods of time.
I know there are many out there using E-10 ethanol gasoline now and have been using it for a while, but you are one of the lucky ones who have not yet had problems. They say that if you are using the fuel blend in motors made after the mid-1990s, you would be safer than ones made before that date. Either way, use ethanol gas in your outboards with caution.
Many times, these problems occur when ethanol-blended fuel has been sitting in your outboard gas tanks and reserve gas tanks for a longer period of time, such as a few weeks, months and a year. This mainly is from the fall through the winter months into the spring or if your boat sits for several weeks for not fishing in the summer due to extremely hot weather. This usually ends up with the fuel filter catching the problems and usually shutting down your motor as being one of the problems.
The difference is, we use our cars and trucks almost every day, where most of us only use our boats once or twice a week at best so the boat sits idle for longer periods of time versus an automobile.
Outboards are unlike our autos nowadays. Most of our autos on the roads now are mostly OK to use the E-10 (up to 10 percent blended) ethanol gasoline. It hasn’t been long now that several makes of different automobiles are equipped to use the new E-15 (up to 15 percent blended) ethanol. Let me go into this a little bit further.
As blends of gasoline are sweeping across the nation and Tennessee, boat owners may have questions about the affect of these fuels and their boat engines. There are two types of ethanol blended fuels that are currently available at retail outlets.
E10, a blend of 90 percent gasoline and 10 percent ethanol, by volume and E15 (E-85) is a blend of 70-85 percent ethanol and 30-15 percent gasoline, by volume. E15 (E-85) fuel ethanol is a fuel intended for flex-fuel vehicles only. It should never be put into any engine that is not specifically designed for E85 fuel.
There are a few situations that boaters need to be aware of while making the transition to gasoline-ethanol blended fuel.
First of all, ethanol is a solvent. If there is any gunk or residue in fuel tanks, then the ethanol may dissolve these, clogging filters. The good news is that after 2-3 tanks of gas, this should not be a problem anymore. Boaters need to carry and be ready to change fuel filters more often until a few tanks of gasoline have been used.
Not all fuel hoses are compatible with ethanol, especially pre-1990 fuel systems. Boaters need to check hoses and make sure they are marked J-1527.
I personally found this out myself last year when my fuel hose collapsed from the inside out. I saw this with my own eyes when I went by Union City Marine to see what the problem was. My motor was starving for fuel at times, almost like my bulb was not working. When we cut my hose in half, you could pull the inner liner of my fuel line out from the main fuel hose. This was all caused by E-10 ethanol gas that I used several years ago which now I use just the regular gas and have for a while.
Most fiberglass fuel tanks do not resist ethanol. Ethanol can break down the resin and create a sludge that bypasses the filter and wrecks the engine. Unless a boat’s manufacturer can confirm that a fiberglass gas tank was built to withstand ethanol, it is recommended the tank be replaced with another material such as aluminum, stainless steel or polyethylene tanks.
Ethanol attracts moisture and as a result, when a boat is idle for a long time and the fuel tank only partially filled, then water and gas could separate, leaving the water/ethanol blend in the fuel tank at the bottom of the tank.
When this happens, filling the tank with fresh fuel will not fix this situation. When you plan to not use your boat for several weeks or even months, it is recommended to top your tank off to at least 95 percent full. But at the same time, it is best not to leave the boat idle over any long period of time.
Now, there are some fuel stabilizers on the market that help to some degree and try to help the gas stay fresher longer, but it will not prevent this phase separation. The best recommendation is that if the boat is going to be sitting for a while, then keep the boat’s fuel tanks filled to about 95 percent capacity.
This is what I found not to do:
Do not drain fuel tanks of E10 gas. While it does eliminate any chance of phase separation, it’s not practical and potentially dangerous and not recommended.
Do not try to plug up a fuel tank vent to prevent moist air from entering a tank. Without room to expand, the additional pressure could rupture fuel system components.
Do not install a water separator thinking it will prevent phase separation. Ethanol readily absorbs water which will burn safely through the engine. But if ethanol-enhanced gasoline does become saturated, an engine will not run on the water-soaked ethanol solution, which sinks to the bottom of the tank.
Elsewhere outdoors
Just a reminder, the second segment of the Tennessee Statewide Dove season will start Oct. 13 and end Oct. 28 and then the third segment will start Dec. 19 through Jan. 15, 2013.
The Obion County Central High School Bass Anglers will be sponsoring a Big Buck Contest Nov. 17. I will have more on this event in the weeks to come.
’Til next week’s column,
Catch ya on the water folks.

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