Mechanics Corner: It All Starts With the Fuel

Don’t fear the fuel. We try to avoid politics on Under The Hood at all costs. But we do take sides with the car when we can offer some advice that will extend the life of that vehicle or help it to run better.

Cars are much like humans or computers: garbage in, garbage out. So, as you can imagine, if you put garbage in the gas tank, you’re going to get garbage out of the vehicle in the way of performance and longevity.

But what if you don’t know what to feed your vehicle? There are so many choices in fuel today, so how do you choose? If all you have to go on is what you hear from the voices of the news or from people who just want to offer their personal opinion without some sort of factual grounds, it’s a difficult choice without some guidance.

I can tell you as a manager and a tech in a professional service center for more than 30 years, I have never seen a fuel issue caused by ethanol use in a vehicle, unless it was caused by misfuelling when someone puts an E85 blend in a non-flex fuel car, and even then, it was simply a matter of changing out the fuel in the tank, and they were on their way.

For years we’ve been taking apart engines in our shop and making repairs on them, and we have found consistently that vehicles using ethanolblended fuels are much cleaner inside than ones that are not. As we have transitioned in the past few years to many vehicles now using direct injection in order to get higher horsepower and fuel mileage, we are coming into a whole new set of complications as far as the maintenance needed with these vehicles.

We have found that when people use a non-ethanol blended gasoline in a direct injected vehicle, the byproducts in the fuel leave behind a heavy deposit in the injectors that will eventually lead to premature failure of them.

On the vehicles we’ve had in our shop that belong to our customers that are using higher blends of ethanol, we just don’t see nearly the amount of carbon on the fuel injectors as we do without the ethanol.

Let me give you a quick example: Replacing a set of direct injectors on a vehicle can be more than $1,000. It’s not something you ever want to have to do. The vehicle manufacturers are asking to run the best fuel possible in these engines in the form of top tier fuel, but we believe there is something even better. If something as simple as lifting up the handle that is labeled E15 can prevent that from happening, why wouldn’t you want to try it?

Our customers ask us regularly what they should be doing to care for their car. They want to know what will save them repair costs in the long run. When we tell them that they can start with the fuel in the tank as the first and most important item, they are surprised. It all starts with the fuel. Without it the car won’t run, and with a poor quality, it won’t run as long.

Our national radio show Under The Hood has been on the air since 1990, and we’ve seen huge changes in cars over that time. Cars get more expensive with every new model, and we need to do everything we can to get as much life out of our cars for as little money as possible, and we believe the best place to start is with that first tank of fuel.

The Under The Hood radio show is America’s Favorite Car-talk show heard on over 230 stations and podcast. The Motor Medics — Russ, Chris and Shannon — are three great friends having fun and offering a wide range of automotive advice without the aid of in-studio computers or reference guides.




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