Small engines, such as those in lawn mowers and power tools, can be damaged by gasoline containing ethanol, cites Consumer Reports. Using gasoline with more than 10 percent ethanol may also void the warranty of these tools.
Ethanol is an additive made from sugar cane, corn or grass and combined with gasoline. It is seen as a benefit to the environment because is a renewable resource and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. It is normally blended with gasoline in 10 or 15 percent ethanol by volume.
A study performed by the Department of Energy tested the performance of small engines using gasoline with 15 percent ethanol content. Hotter operating temperatures, engine part failure and spotty operation were some of the problems reported.
Even typical gasoline with only 10 percent ethanol can ruin small engines. Ethanol gasoline damages carburetors by absorbing and retaining water from the atmosphere. It also has a higher alcohol content than gas without ethanol, therefore, it can damage plastic, rubber and metal components and fuel lines.
Fuel stabilizers are designed to be added to ethanol fuel to protect small engines from damage. Tools with small engines are not used as often as vehicles, so ethanol can settle out of the gasoline. Fuel stabilizers lubricate engine parts, prevent corrosion and keep ethanol fuel from separating.