Ethanol could cause boats to break down

Reported by Max Winitz - bio|email
Posted by Heather Setzler - bio|email

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Charlie Foppiano had owned his vessel for just over a year, until one day.

"My boat was in the water most of the winter," he said. "When we went to start it in the spring, it didn't start."

Foppiano is just one of many boaters who have had to pay big bucks to have their engines repaired because of damage done by the ethanol in everyday gasoline.

A few years ago, Congress wanted to cut down the amount of oil imported from the Middle East. They approved ten percent ethanol to be placed in all gasoline.  It's designed to clean the inside of engines.

Because boats aren't used as often as cars, the gasoline sometimes just sits unused inside the engine, creating the problem.

"Eventually the filters in the engine clog and what does get through, clogs the carboration system," said Ron Stott with Crocker's Marine Service.  "The engines will run, then shutdown and you're dead on the water."

The problem has become so persistant that mechanics at Crocker's Marine in Wilmington say they see about three to four boats a week come into the shop with ethanol related problems.

"This year and last year it has increased our amount of repair work tremendously," said Stott. "It's been good for us one way, but in other ways, customers have been penalized and they could be spending that money on a newer boat."

While it's nearly impossible to find pure gasoline these days, some repair shops carry a product that could help.

"We have a fuel conditioner and stabilizer that we advise our customers to use in every tank of gas they put in their boat," said Stott. "It helps disipate water in the fuel."

Foppiano says he has learned his lesson, but there's no telling if the problem could strike again.

©2009 WECT. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.