Ethanol overload? It's bad for your mower and other small engines

VANCOUVER, Wash. - The gasoline you buy for your car may be ruining your other machines.

The Environmental Protection Agency has OK'd fuel with up to 15 percent ethanol, but it's not meant to go into small engines. But that's where it's ending up and doing damage that can be prevented.

If your lawn mower is making a sound like "vrum, vrum,vrum," instead of a nice "vrooooom" then Cal Sawyer at Harry's Lawn and Power Equipment says it's probably the carburetor gummed up by too much ethanol in the fuel.

Harry's is just catching up on a three-week backlog of start-of-the-season repairs.

"It's not like the old days, where a guy could let it sit all winter long, go out and give it three pulls and it would start. Nowadays, 30 days is your limit on the fuel," Sawyer said.

That goes for mowers, leaf blowers, chain saws, even boats and tractors. Companies are trying to let people know high-alcohol fuel can damage the engine and void the warranty.

But there are ways around the gas problem - fuel mixtures and additives that don't evaporate and let moisture in the tank. And there's alcohol-free fuel.

"It's a little bit more than what you're paying for regular fuel. But it makes a difference," Sawyer said.

It is especially cheaper than a new carburetor.

Another solution is to go electric. Electric lawn equipment is becoming more common.