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E15 harmful for motorcycle engines

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At least one fuel station in Shreveport sells E15, a bio fuel consisting of 85% gasoline and 15% ethanol, (the current standard is 10% ethanol). Last month the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), authorized distribution of E15 at the pumps. It is currently recommended for use in cars and light trucks manufactured since 2007. Used in older vehicles or smaller engines, it can cause premature engine damage and void your manufacturers warranty. Not only will it harm motorcycles, but boats and other small engines, like lawn mowers or leaf blowers are at risk of damage if filled with E15. If used in motorcycles, not only can performance be decreased considerabley, but it can seriously harm the engine.

There is much controversy over this bio fuel partially made from corn, and many political considerations, too. The ethanol industry argues that testing shows that ethanol is safe. Retailers are already objecting, since they are not certain how to label the fuel properly and are concerned about lawsuits as a result of mislabeling. "Opponents argue that the increase in production of corn and its diversion into ethanol is making animal feed more expensive, raising prices at the grocery store and tearing up the land. Manufacturers of smaller engines - used in everything from lawn mowers to boats - also oppose increasing the use of the fuel, saying those engines are not designed for the higher concentrations. The Obama administration has remained supportive of the renewable fuel. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said 'wherever sound science and the law support steps to allow more homegrown fuels in America's vehicles, this administration takes those steps.' The EPA has said a congressional mandate for increased ethanol use can't be achieved without allowing higher blends. Congress has required refiners to blend 36 billion gallons of biofuels, mostly ethanol, into auto fuel by 2022. The ethanol industry has maintained that there is sufficient evidence to show that a 15 percent ethanol blend in motor fuel will not harm engine performance. They say increased consumption of the renewable fuel creates new jobs and replaces imported oil." (The Associated Press). The AMA (American Motorcycle Association) is fighting this ruling because gasoline in the marketplace should not be potentially harmful to engines and can be easily mistaken by consumers. For more than three years the AMA has been on the record opposing increases in the ethanol level allowed in gasoline until studies show that an increase won't damage motorcycle or all-terrain vehicle (ATV) engines, and won't make motorcycles emit more nitrogen oxides than are allowed by the EPA.

Although the ruling by the EPA has authorized its use in the marketplace, E15 is not safe for motorcycles. Protect yourself and your property by reading the labels at the gas pump before you make the error of filling up your tank with the dangerous E15.


  • Profile picture of Raine Devries
    Raine Devries 3 years ago

    Excellent to see you covering this story Mary. I, too, have addressed it in one of my columns. One step that riders can take is to use an additive called Seafoam and it's been around since at least the 1960's.

    Simply put, ethanol evaporates into water inside the tank. In smaller tanks (motorcycles, jet ski, lawnmower) it noticed far more quickly than in a car.

    Adding Seafoam will evaporate the water that has settled to the bottom of the tank. Because, as my mechanic Butch says, "Harley's don't run well on water."

    There may be similar products to Seafoam out there, but I don't know what they are and can't vouch for them. I buy Seafoam at O'Reilly's Auto Parts. The first time, an entire can was added to my tank it was literally night and day difference on performance! Since then, I have added a little bit every other fill up.

    Hopefully this feedback will save someone some grief and money because all too often a rider that doesn't wrench is directed toward the most expensive solution.

  • Profile picture of Sharon Smith
    Sharon Smith 3 years ago

    Thanks for your alerting us to know what to look for. Very valuable column.

  • Profile picture of Patty Davis
    Patty Davis 3 years ago

    Great info - I put in high test gasoline (no ethanol) in my tank. So far avoiding E15 hasn't been a problem.

  • victory rob 3 years ago

    if i am paying for gasoline then give me gasoline not ethanol which produces less horsepower and worse fuel mileage . tell the truth about this corn is for eating not for my engine .