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Top 10 Things to Know Before Switching to E85 Fuel

E85 fuel, which contains 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline, has gained popularity in recent years as an alternative fuel option. E85 is clean burning and often cheaper than traditional gasoline, but switching your car over requires some knowledge and preparation.

Key TakeawaysDescription
Check Vehicle CompatibilityEnsure your vehicle can safely handle and operate on high ethanol E85 fuel
Monitor for Fuel System CorrosionE85 can corrode fuel lines, seals, tanks and components faster than gasoline
Expect 25-30% Lower Fuel EconomyThe lower energy density of ethanol results in fewer miles per gallon compared to gas
Ensure Access to E85 PumpsConfirm there are convenient, local stations in your area that supply E85 fuel
Get Engine & Sensor UpgradesProperly mapping, tuning and upgrading the engine is key to maximizing E85 efficiency
  1. Check if your vehicle is E85 compatible. While many flex-fuel vehicles can run on E85, not all models are approved for high ethanol content fuel. Consult your vehicle owner’s manual or the manufacturer to ensure compatibility. Converting a non-flex-fuel vehicle may damage the engine.
  2. Ethanol is more corrosive to rubber and plastic components. Check and replace any old or worn fuel lines and gaskets to avoid leaks or clogs. Your fuel tank and fuel pump should also be monitored for corrosion over time.
  3. Ethanol has a higher octane rating but lower energy content per gallon. This means you’ll likely experience fuel efficiency losses of 25-30% compared to gasoline. Prices at the pump would need to offset this to achieve real savings.
  4. Cold weather performance can suffer on E85. The higher ethanol content makes fuel less volatile and harder to vaporize, increasing cranking times and impacting idle quality in winter. You may need to install an engine block heater or relocate your fuel filter for colder climates.
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  6. Determine if E85 pumps are available in your region. E85 is not as widely available as traditional gasoline, so you’ll need convenient access for refueling. Install an E85 locator app or check listings to confirm local stations.
  7. Avoid long periods of non-use if E85 is your primary fuel. Its oxygen content can degrade and phase separate faster than gasoline, clogging injectors and leading to poor performance. Consider keeping a reserve gas tank if the vehicle sits unused for prolonged periods.
  8. Calibrated flex-fuel sensors and engine computer mapping are crucial on E85 to balance ignition timing, injector pulse, and other parameters. A professional engine tuning upgrade is recommended to maximize efficiency and performance.
  9. Ethanol in motor oil can trigger lubricant deterioration and oil change intervals will likely need to be shortened compared to gasoline-only vehicles. Consult your owner’s manual for guidelines tailored to high ethanol content fuel.
  10. Fuel injector and fuel pump upgrades can help optimize ethanol performance while preventing wear. Many flexfuel kits include these upgrades to protect key engine components and improve engine efficiency on E85.
  11. Expect a roughly 5% loss in fuel mileage on E85 compared to fuel economy ratings from conventional gasoline. Driving style and use case will further impact real life miles per gallon. Track your own efficiency closely to understand the costs or savings.

Overall, E85 remains a viable eco-friendly fuel alternative if you’re willing to pay diligent attention to conversion requirements, maintenance, performance characteristics, and infrastructure availability in your driving region. With a little extra care and preparation, switching to E85 can be an effective way to reduce your gasoline consumption and environmental impact.

As with any substantive vehicle upgrade, thorough research and analysis of your personal use case are necessary in advance. Be sure to consult multiple mechanic opinions if you decide moving forward with an E85 conversion on your current vehicle.

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