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Have you noticed your mower gets harder to start

By Darrell Catmull
Destiny Real Estate

Pollen counts are high and small engine repair shops like Murray Mower are flooded with homeowners and professionals wanting their equipment to run well for the embarking season.  Over the past few years my personal landscape equipment featuring Honda motors didn’t live up to the slogan, “Easy starting Honda motor.”   The “innovative STIHL Easy2Start” motors were not living up to their claims either.  After three new carburetors and consistent poor starting I sought out what might be the common denominator causing these renowned manufacturers motors to be difficult to start.

It didn’t take me long in the fall of 2014 to find the culprit.  Ethanol Fuel Blend (E85), also called FlexFuel, is primarily produced from corn crops in United States and is arguably a way to lower fuel prices.  According to a Cornell University Study, for every gallon of E85 produced, 1.4 gallons of energy is consumed in the process, compared to 0.15 gallons of energy used to manufacture gasoline.  E85 cannot be piped to a location due to its corrosiveness, it must be trucked.

So does putting ethanol blended fuel into small engines like lawnmowers, trimmers and snowblowers have an adverse effect?  I asked Galen Davis, a Veteran Small Engine Mechanic, with Murray Mower who has been repairing small engines for decades.  Galen has absolutely seen a negative impact on small engine equipment in the past decade (since 2007) — Murray Mower’s most common fuel repair is fuel related.  The mechanics blame the manufacturer and the manufacturers blame the fuel said Galen.

Ethanol dissolves oxide scale from the walls of pipes and tanks, subjecting the systems to internal corrosion, which leads to leaks and failure.  Galen confirms that ethanol’s properties act as a cleaning agent in engines and that gunk ends up in the carburetor where it shouldn’t be.  Galen has seen rubber O-rings and hoses literally dissolving most likely due to the corrosive fuel additive E85.  Engines with carburetors can’t adjust for the blended fuel properties.  Ethanol absolutely increases the likelihood of vapor lock causing poor performance and hot re-start-ability problems.

Another unintended consequence of using fuel with ten percent ethanol is it causes your equipment to run as much as 100 degrees hotter than using non-ethanol fuel which shortens the life of your engine parts.    Those kinds of temperatures comprise the metal and other engine parts that are not designed for the heat or corrosive properties of ethanol said Galen of Murray Mower.

Ethanol blended gas creates more problems related to small engines.  Ethanol can soak up to ten times its weight in water. Gas siting in a can or tank has a propensity to allow condensation (water) to seep in but ultimately separates and settles while being stored.  When you move that can or use your equipment you shake up and mix the water with the gasoline which ultimately causes your equipment to run lean due to the high water content said Galen.

You might have noticed that Big Box chains and dealers are selling canned fuel for your small engine equipment.  The canned fuel is pre-mixed with 2-cycle oil and is “designed” for your 2-stroke engines.  Husqvarna will even add three years to their warranty if you buy 6 cans with a new Husqvarna blower.  Those cans don’t last long and is ultimately very expensive fuel.  Why are manufacturers promoting this insanely expensive pre-mixed fuel that is designed for small engines I asked?  The canned fuel is claims to be designed for small engines but more likely merely lacks ethanol and has a high octane rating.

Until small engine equipment manufacturers equip their motors with fuel injection and computers to adapt for flex-fuel (E85), you’re wise to buy non-ethanol fuel and enjoy easy starts and equipment that lasts a long time.  The easy, more expensive route, is buying the pre-mixed gas in the can, but if you want to get the biggest bank for your buck, you should buy a season’s worth of non-ethanol fuel at Craigs Service Station located at 904 S 1300 E in Salt Lake City or Thomas Lubricants located at 1117 North 400 East in North Salt Lake.  One more thing, top-tier equipment manufacturers recommend one-hundred percent synthetic 2-cycle oil to keep your small engine running well and minimize unnecessary service.

Darrell Catmull is a veteran real estate agent and Homeowner you can reach Darrell by phone at (801) 262-9985 or via

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