A while back, we shared some basic information on gasoline motor fuels. As a next step, it’s time to look at ethanol fuel additives and biofuel, which are in much of our consumer gasoline supply. Ethanol is considered a renewable fuel, and there are many stories about its harmful effects as a motor fuel. Lucas Oil Products developed Lucas Safeguard Ethanol Fuel Conditioner with Stabilizers to help counter those effects.
The properties of Lucas Safeguard are particularly important for my older motorcycles—notably my 1981 Yamaha 750 Seca and 1985 Honda VT500 Shadow—which don’t get ridden regularly, leaving the fuel in the tank for longer periods of time. That makes those bikes vulnerable to all the ill effects ethanol can cause.
When I can, I tend to keep those bikes filled up with 91 octane E0 gas. Unfortunately, that fuel is not always available where I ride, so using Safeguard when I have to fill up with E10 is a handy way to prevent E-problems. Because my car gets little use these days and runs 87-octane E10, it also gets Lucas Safeguard Ethanol Fuel Conditioner.
Let’s dig into the realities of ethanol in fuel to help understand the need for Lucas Safeguard, and what the Lucas Oil additive does.
The designation E-0 is for gasoline fuel that contains no ethanol, E-10 indicates ten percent of the fuel is ethanol, E-15 is 15 percent ethanol, and E-85 is 85 percent ethanol, with the remaining percentage being gasoline.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, ethanol is produced from biomass, usually by fermenting sugar from corn, sorghum, barley, sugar cane, or sugar beets. It is anhydrous (less than one percent water) alcohol manufactured to meet ASTM Standard D4806 for use as a fuel in spark-ignition engines. In the U.S., most ethanol for fuel is produced from corn; denaturants (usually pentanes) are added to fuel ethanol to render it undrinkable.
Most of the gasoline sold in the U.S. currently is E10, with variants depending on season and location. Any gas-fueled engine can run on E10, according to the EIA. Most vehicles manufactured after 2001 can run on E15. Only flexible-fuel vehicles (FFVs or flex-fuel) can run on E85. E0 is also referred to as “recreational fuel,” and is not available in all parts of the country.
One of the effects of ethanol in fuel is reduced fuel economy. According to the EIA, on average, fuel mileage is reduced by about three percent using E10 compared to the same vehicle running on E0. E85 fuel reduces mpg by about 25 percent compared to E10.
Another major concern with ethanol-blend gasoline is that ethanol combines with water in the environment, if left in the fuel tank long enough. This is why ethanol and gasoline are mixed at the delivery point. Eventually, this causes “phasing,” which is when enough water has combined with the ethanol to cause it to separate from the gasoline and settle at the bottom of the tank. That process cannot be chemically reversed. If it occurs in volume, the tank must be drained.
Water in the fuel system causes oxidation, resulting in corrosion of system parts. Flushing the system may be necessary when phasing has occurred. Ethanol can also adversely affect non-metallic fuel system components and lines, particularly for vehicles built before the mid-1980s.
The product literature for Lucas Safeguard Ethanol Fuel Conditioner states it protects the engine from the harmful byproducts of ethanol combustion, cleans internal engine components, and prevents fuel system damage from water that ethanol can attract.
To do those things, Safeguard is comprised of medium aliphatic petroleum naphtha solvent with some hydrotreated light petroleum distillates.
Petroleum naphtha is used as a solvent in a variety of cleaning agents. It has a low evaporation point, making it useful as a fuel system cleaner. Also, it burns clean, leaving virtually no combustion residue. Petroleum naphtha dissolves varnish that builds up over time in the pre-combustion parts of fuel systems from the fuel tank to the intake valves. It works in carburetor jets and fuel circuits, as well as fuel injector nozzles.
Hydrotreated light petroleum distillates are not water-soluble. They act on water that ethanol may attract into the fuel, which leads to the phasing problem.
Lucas Oil recommends adding one ounce of Lucas Safeguard Ethanol Fuel Conditioner with Stabilizers for every five gallons of fuel. Lucas Oil sells a 16-ounce bottle on Amazon for $10.49, which is good for 80 gallons of gasoline (not diesel)—three or four fill-ups of a full-size truck. A two-ounce bottle for a single fill-up in a small car is $8.