How to prepare your ATV for storage and reduce the harmful effects of ethanol.
It’s a sure bet that if you’re reading this article, you’re a deer hunter. And although it’s not politically correct to stereotype people, that means you probably have a few items around your house that run on small gas engines.
If you do, whether an ATV, a chainsaw, a snow blower, a string trimmer, a power washer or a generator, there’s a good chance you’re ruining that equipment right now.
Your gasoline, and how you store your gear.
There’s a little secret our bass-fishing friends have known for a while that hasn’t quite made it to hunters: Gasoline containing ethanol is brutal on small engines — and the smaller the engine, the worse the effect.
Further, if your equipment sits for any amount of time — which is highly likely with hunting gear and yard implements — the effect is magnified.
“Ethanol fuels have several challenges,” said Briggs & Stratton fuel engineer Eric Risse. “They pick up moisture from the atmosphere, which can corrode metals in the fuel system, and they make any acids present in the fuel that much worse.”
The most common problems are stuck carburetor jets, gummed up float valves and corrosion of metal and plastic fuel line parts.
While gas with ethanol is noticeably harder on your gear than regular gas, the problems compound when implements sit for any amount of time.
“All fuels degrade somewhat with age, but that effect is much worse with ethanol,” Risse said. “Ethanol readily bonds with moisture in the atmosphere, forming gums and varnishes. Some of the compounds form acids, and the more those build up in the fuel, the more it enhances the gumming action.”
The longer your gear sits, the more those harmful compounds have a chance to form and degrade your engine.
I visited the local Yamaha dealer where I purchased my Grizzly 550, to see what the mechanics there had to say.
“I can’t prove it to you, but it sure seems carburetors stop up a lot quicker these days, and we see more fuel line problems,” said David Huneycutt, general manager at Montgomery Honda/Yamaha in Alabama. “I would definitely recommend running ethanol-free fuel if you can get it.”
So what can you do?
Find a station that sells ethanol-free gas. You’ll pay a little more per gallon, but you’ll save a lot more on your gear in the long run. If you live anywhere near a lake that caters to boaters, you’re in luck. The ethanol problem has been well documented by boat motor manufacturers, and any marina is sure to sell ethanol-free gas.
Another solution is to use a fuel additive that neutralizes the negative effects of ethanol. Briggs & Stratton offers Advanced Fuel Treatment & Stabilizer for just this purpose, and there are several similar products on the market.
“Our fuel treatment has three kinds of antioxidants that prevent the loss of octane,” Risse said. “There’s a metal deactivator that chemically neutralizes metal ions like copper, and there’s also a corrosion inhibitor that coats metal surfaces.”
Whether or not you use ethanol-free gas, it’s a good idea to use a fuel treatment. Also, buy the highest octane rated gas you can get.
Risse explained that our cars and trucks have engineering and parts to deal with the harsh effects of gasoline, but small engines don’t have those features. Fuel additives help small engines overcome the lack of mechanical advancements.
Huneycutt said there are several treatments that help neutralize the effects of ethanol, but not all are meant for stabilizing fuel for storage.
Some perform both functions. Briggs & Stratton, for example, says their Advanced Fuel Treatment & Stabilizer will keep gas run-ready for up to three years.
To prepare a smaller yard implement for storage, it’s best to run it out of gas.
For ATVs, Huneycutt says the first step is to fill the fuel tank completely since air in the tank gives the acids, gums and varnishes more space to form.
Next, add a quality fuel stabilizer. After that, run the engine somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes.
“You want to run the ATV long enough for the stabilized fuel to go through the entire fuel system,” he said. “After that, turn off your fuel petcock and drain the carburetor dry. If you perform those few steps, you’ve done everything you can to help preserve the life of your engine.”
To preserve your ATV battery, disconnect it from the terminal and remove it from the unit. To really extend the life of your ATV battery, hook it up to a trickle charger during periods of non-use.
ATVs cost almost as much as a small car these days, but they give us a lot of pleasure and help us get a lot of work done. Take the time to perform these simple steps, and you’ll get many years of great service from yours.
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This article was published in the Winter 2012/2013 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Subscribe today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.