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Photos by Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Manager Brian Rorick, of Connolly’s Do it Best, 5221 S. Calhoun St., displays a snowblower, which requires gasoline.
Be wary when filling up

Blower, ethanol don’t mix

Small engines not working at best with gas blend

Photos by Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Many gas-powered items cannot run with ethanol.

Soon enough, you won’t just be eyeing that snowblower – you’ll need to fill it up and use it.

But there’s a wrinkle users of equipment powered by small gasoline engines need to keep in mind, according to the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute.

More gas stations are carrying ethanol blends, and more people are putting the fuels into their cars. But many don’t know those fuels should not be used in the equipment they turn to in winter weather.

“Don’t assume that the same ‘gas’ you put in your car can still go in your mower, snowblower, chain saw or generator,” says Kris Kiser, institute president and chief executive officer. “It will destroy your engine.”

That’s because most power equipment was not designed for fuel containing any percentage of ethanol, Kiser says. But gas containing up to 10 percent ethanol is considered safe, he says, although it may decrease performance.

Michael Bates, chief operating officer for Fort Wayne-based Lassus Bros., says regular gasoline at that company’s stations has included 10 percent ethanol for several years. The company also offers E85 ethanol at some outlets and a pump with both E30 and E85 as an option, he says.

But ethanol fuels are only for flex vehicles, Bates says – more than 10 million from 2001 on are designed to operate on gasoline, E85 or a mix.

Since 2006, vehicles have been identified with a yellow gas cap with a message.

“The (ethanol) pumps have a significantly different nozzle, and a sign that tells you that this is not gasoline,” Bates says. “You should not put it in your lawn mower or snowblower.”

John Connolly, president of Connolly Do it Best hardware stores in Fort Wayne, says he’s not aware of fuel mix-ups. While people might be used to filling a gas can for gas-powered tools at home when they fill up, he says, not that many use ethanol.

“It’s probably a good thing to tell people (not to use ethanol) because they might think it’s OK,” Connolly says.

Meanwhile, OPEI is starting a national “Look Before You Pump” public awareness campaign, including “Use E10 or Less Fuel” on hang tags for new equipment.

But Kiser says an estimated 250 million pieces of older equipment – boat motors, ATVs, utility vehicles, snowmobiles, leaf blowers and weed whackers among them – have no visible warning.

“This stuff is expensive,” he says about gas-powered equipment, adding there’s little recourse for damage from the wrong fuel. “By using it, you’d have voided the warranty.”

Consumers concerned about ethanol content can find no-ethanol 91-octane gas at CountryMark, 1105 Production Road, says Eric Adair, energy department manager for Ag Plus in New Haven, a farmers co-op among CountryMark’s owners.

“The reason we do carry it is that it’s a niche market,” he says, adding small-engine mechanics find ethanol blends hard on equipment.

“We’ve not really been advertising,” Adair says. “But we have people call us (for no-ethanol gas) every day.”