First it was boat engines and lawn equipment. Get ready now for potential hassles with portable generators.
Leaving gas in your generator or not adding ethanol stabilizer at the end of hurricane season last year can mean trouble this hurricane season.
Generator owners who didn’t take these measures need to act before a storm is on its way, small engine mechanics say.
That’s largely due to the ethanol-blended gasoline on the market today.
“Ethanol kills everything,” said Mike Iaconelli, owner of Capri Equipment Center in East Naples. “It’s going to cause problems.”
If gasoline sits in the generator for a period of time, it turns bad and the generator won’t run.
“If there is a bad odor in the gas tank, you need to get the gas out of the tank. It’s a pain in the neck; you need to drain it in a container and properly dispose it,” he said.
On top of that, the ethanol, which is alcohol, in the gasoline likely will have dried out O-rings and damaged other parts and that can mean repairs.
A Florida law passed in 2008 requires gasoline to contain 10 percent ethanol, which is called E10 fuel. Marinas and airports are exempt. The Florida law required the conversion to be complete by the end of this year.
A lawsuit was filed in 2008 on behalf of a handful of Florida boat owners who sustained considerable boat engine damage. The suit was against five oil companies which produced ethanol gas without warning of the potential hazard to engines. The lawsuit was settled and dismissed earlier this year. Terms of the settlement weren’t released.
“A lot of the time the carburetor may need to come out and be replaced,” Bill Swanson, an owner of 1st Electric in Naples, said of generators. He doesn’t believe the ethanol-blended gasoline is the sole culprit for engine failure; a lack of maintenance comes into play, he said.
Swanson hasn’t gotten any calls yet about portable generators not cranking up but he expects that to change with the arrival of hurricane season and emergencies.
“We get the calls when the generators won’t run,” said Doug Bonar, owner and manager of Corder’s Landscape Supply in Bonita Springs. “We’re not quite there yet, but we will get an influx of calls when storm season comes.”
Bonar said generator owners need to do the preventive measure of adding stabilizer to the gas to stave off phased separation.
“The longer it sits, the more separation there is, the stabilizer helps keep it mixed,” he said.
What happens is the ethanol attracts water or condensation in the tank. If the gasoline sits long enough, the ethanol and water separate from the gasoline and they form distinct layers in the tank.
The result is the engine won’t start if the water or ethanol is drawn into the fuel line. The engine will perform poorly or stall out if the gasoline layer is drawn into the fuel line because of its lower octane level, according to numerous websites on ethanol’s harm to small engines.
The ethanol-blended gasoline doesn’t have as much opportunity for phased separation in car engines because cars generally don’t sit for periods of time. Lawn equipment, recreational vehicles and boats, which may not be used as often, especially among winter residents, is when the problem arises.
After draining the old gasoline in the generator and adding fresh gas with stabilizer, try the engine and if it won’t start, it probably will need carburetor work or replacing, Bonar said. That can run anywhere from $35 to $100.
Iaconelli, owner of Capri Landscape in East Naples, said his business starts to get a run on generator calls close to a storm coming and that’s too late. Generator owners need to test the engines and get the fixes done early in hurricane season.
“It is my senior citizens who are on top of it,” he said, adding that his business will come and pick up a generator if the owner can’t lift it into their vehicle or arrange for transport to his business.
Paula Bonar, owner of Small Engine World on Bayshore Drive in East Naples and the wife of Doug Bonar, said some people bring their generators in for repair in April or May and then the generators sit all summer when there are no storms. The next spring, they run into same problem of the generator not starting.
Others ignore their generators until a storm is on the way and that’s no good.
“They need to do it now because what they will run into, they hear a storm is coming in a week and everyone waits until the last minute and we get backed up,” she said. “The biggest thing is to think ahead of time.”
Once they get the old gasoline out, the carburetor working and fresh gas in with stabilizer, it’s best to run the generator once a week for 10 minutes to keep it in top order, she said.