Your fuel is toxic to your bike!!! - Kawasaki Vulcan 750 Forum : Kawasaki VN750 Forums
Carbs and Fuel System
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post #1 of 21 (permalink) Old 01-22-2012, 12:47 PM Thread Starter
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Your fuel is toxic to your bike!!!

I recently read something that I found pretty scary, and I wanted the rest of the Forum to also be aware of this problem.

In the Nov/Dec 2011 issue of Roadbike magazine, I was reading a monthly column (this time on page 60) there, that is written by a long-time career motorcycle mechanic.

As we all know, the fuel that’s most widely available now for us all is a gasoline/alcohol blend that’s usually 10% ethanol alcohol. This formula of fuel may indeed be pretty “clean” as it goes out the end of your bike’s pipes, but it is otherwise apparently much more harmful to your bike that we might realize.

Basically, the short version of the info given goes like this….ethanol is made from corn, and thus is a form of sugar, and...as sugar is burned…it produces carbon!

Thus, it’s highly likely that as you burn this gas as you ride, carbon is accumulating in your bike’s upper cylinder heads.

The columnist describes one instance where this carbon build-up was so severe, that the valve springs on the bike could not close the valve, and thus the valve got whacked (and broken) by the piston below it.

The bottom line here is that….if you really care for your bike…apparently you need be sure to routinely add something to your bike’s fuel to burn this internal carbon build-up away.

The info that I read in the magazine listed a few examples of additives that do a really good job of removing carbon: Startron, and Techron. These were listed merely as examples—NOT endorsements.

Startron is a fuel additive & conditioner that is specifically formulated to go after alcohol and water-related problems with gasoline, and is also a long-term fuel stabilizer, as well. I have routinely found it in the “marine” section at Walmart stores.

Techron is of course an additive in Chevron brand gasolines. It is also sold over the counter as a concentrate in bottles.

The same magazine column also discussed a recent model bike that had been in storage for two years with ethanol gas (but apparently with no fuel conditioner/stabilizer). In this case, the bottom of the bike's gas cap had been eaten away—and the rest of bike’s fuel tank was in similar condition!!!

One possible option to help prevent these problems is to store (or feed) your bike with ethanol-free gas, which you can find via the following website: http://www.buyrealgas.com/.

How practical this can be for you of course depends on your riding habits and how close you are to a station that sells ethanol-free gas.

In any case, it’s of course still very wise to use a proven fuel conditioner/stabilizer if you (still) plan to keep fuel in your bike’s tank for any extended period of time in storage—and be sure to top off the tank as well, to keep condensation from forming and allowing your tank to rust inside. Personally, I habitually top off my tank at the end of each day I use it, even if I will ride it the next day—for this same reason.

Other Forum threads discuss how and when to drain & treat a bike’s carbs for proper long-term storage—I won’t go into that here.

Anyway, hopefully, each of you can prevent similar carbon & fuel-related problems with this above info!....

'05 VN750



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post #2 of 21 (permalink) Old 01-22-2012, 01:26 PM
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Just thought I'd point out that pretty much anything you burn produces carbon. Gasoline itself produces more carbon than alcohol.... So even if there are detrimental effects in using ethanol in fuel, the issue of carbon deposits is not specifically due to the ethanol.

Mechanics are usually not chemists it seems. My guess is the owner of the motor in question was using too high of an octane fuel in his engine, and that was the cause of the excess carbon.

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post #3 of 21 (permalink) Old 01-22-2012, 02:11 PM
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I thought higher the octane the better?

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post #4 of 21 (permalink) Old 01-22-2012, 02:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scuba View Post
I thought higher the octane the better?
Higher octane fuel is simply harder to burn. You use it when a motor is prone to pre-ignition...that is "knocking" which is fuel igniting before the the spark.

Using high octane fuel in a motor that has no preigintion issues tends not to burn as cleanly. It leaves more deposits. Most higher octane fuel contains more detergents.

In a high compression motor, this fuel burns better. The motor was designed to use it. In a lower compression motor, the high octane fuel does not burn as well.

Higher octane fuel does not provide "more power" by itself, it must be pared with the right environment to be used.

Alcohol by the way burns cleaner than any other liquid fuel. It however produces less power by volume than gasoline or oil. When you light ethanol it burns with a light blue almost invisible flame... This is because there are no other impurities present. Gasoline contains all sorts of crap that burn along with the gas, producing a yellow/orange flame.

Formula One racers burn 100% ethanol.... And have fairly clean emissions.... But keep in mind the motor was built to use this fuel.

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post #5 of 21 (permalink) Old 01-22-2012, 04:41 PM Thread Starter
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Re: the above...

The following paragraph is info from the good folks over at Seafoam:

Carbon is leftover residue resulting from the fuel burning in the engine cylinder. Most of the carbon residue formed by burning fuel in the cylinders is expelled through the exhaust valve and out the exhaust system. However, over time as fuel varnish deposits collect on cylinder walls and on the tops of the pistons, small bits of carbon get imbedded into this varnish. As this process continues, significant carbon deposits can accumulate. Carbon retains heat, and some of these deposits remain so hot that they act like small spark plugs, prematurely igniting the air/fuel mixture that is injected into the cylinder before the piston has reached the correct position – a condition called detonation or pre-ignition. Detonation can cause severe damage to the pistons, valves, sparkplugs and cylinder walls.

I think the real purpose of the mechanic's earlier comments in his column were meant to emphasize that the ethanol in the fuel is contributing measurably to the above by producing its own sugarized carbon from the combustion process.

Wikipedia points out that ethanol contains both soluble and insoluble contaminants, which create their own corrosive process. Ethanol is also "hygroscopic"...which means that it absorbs water vapor directly from the atmosphere. Water in the fuel also obviously does bad things for the fuel tank & the rest of the fuel system.

When you add it all up, ethanol gas may indeed be ok for the atmosphere--but it is bad for your bike......

Regular use of your favorite fuel conditioner/stabilizer (that targets ethanol and water-related problems), and/or storing your bike with an ethanol-free gasoline should help minimize these negative effects.....

'05 VN750



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post #6 of 21 (permalink) Old 01-22-2012, 11:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by theauhawk View Post
I think the real purpose of the mechanic's earlier comments in his column were meant to emphasize that the ethanol in the fuel is contributing measurably to the above by producing its own sugarized carbon from the combustion process.
Sorry, but that's the only thing that does not compute. First, just about all alcohol is produced from some form of sugar.... But that does not mean it contains any sugar. When pure ethanol is burned, there are no "sugarized" carbon deposits.

As I said, the mechanic knows nothing about chemistry and is in a word, wrong.Carbon build up does not increase because of ethanol in the fuel.


The rest is true....alcohol does absorb water. And carbon build up can cause pre ignition. But modern engines can burn ethanol fuels without any problem... As long as the fuel does not sit for extended periods and the percentage of alcohol to gasoline does not exceed a certain amount.

Ethanol fuel does produce less power, and the arguments about using it in fuel are more political than scientific. Producing ethanol for fuel is not as environmentally friendly as they would want you to believe. and costs more to produce than just using regular gasoline.

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post #7 of 21 (permalink) Old 01-23-2012, 02:06 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Knifemaker View Post
Sorry, but that's the only thing that does not compute. First, just about all alcohol is produced from some form of sugar.... But that does not mean it contains any sugar. When pure ethanol is burned, there are no "sugarized" carbon deposits.

As I said, the mechanic knows nothing about chemistry and is in a word, wrong.Carbon build up does not increase because of ethanol in the fuel.
When I re-read the info in the magazine, the columnist is saying the exact opposite to the above.....

"Just because corn has been turned into a form of alcohol doesn't mean the sugar goes away"...etc.

Could it be that some magazine columns are going to press now without checking their info? Go figure....

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post #8 of 21 (permalink) Old 01-23-2012, 08:28 AM
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When you are talking about the E-86 I had always heard that the level of ethanol in that fuel was bad for our bikes anyway since it has a negative effect on our rubber componants. Is this still true with the newer blends?

I'm sure not going to be the guinie pig to find out.
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post #9 of 21 (permalink) Old 01-23-2012, 09:55 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by theauhawk View Post
When I re-read the info in the magazine, the columnist is saying the exact opposite to the above.....

"Just because corn has been turned into a form of alcohol doesn't mean the sugar goes away"...etc.

Could it be that some magazine columns are going to press now without checking their info? Go figure....
Wouldn't be the first time...

Am guessing there just were no chemists on staff at Rider. You should not believe everything you read....even from me...so:

Methanol and ethanol can both be derived from fossil fuels, biomass, or perhaps most simply, from carbon dioxide and water. Ethanol has most commonly been produced through fermentation of sugars, and methanol has most commonly been produced from synthesis gas, but there are more modern ways to obtain these fuels. Enzymes can be used instead of fermentation. Methanol is the simpler molecule, and ethanol can be made from methanol. Methanol can be produced industrially from nearly any biomass, including animal waste, or from carbon dioxide and water or steam by first converting the biomass to synthesis gas in a gasifier. It can also be produced in a laboratory using electrolysis or enzymes.[1]

As a fuel, methanol and ethanol both have advantages and disadvantages over fuels such as petrol (gasoline) and diesel fuel. In spark ignition engines, both alcohols can run at a much higher exhaust gas recirculation rates and with higher compression ratios. Both alcohols have a high octane rating, with ethanol at 109 RON (Research Octane Number), 90 MON (Motor Octane Number), (which equates to 99.5 AKI) and methanol at 109 RON, 89 MON (which equates to 99 AKI).[2] Note that AKI refers to 'Anti-Knock Index' which averages the RON and MON ratings (RON+MON)/2, and is used on U.S. gas station pumps. Ordinary European petrol is typically 95 RON, 85 MON, equal to 90 AKI. As a compression ignition engine fuel, both alcohols create very little particulates, but their low cetane number means that an ignition improver like glycol must be mixed into the fuel with approx. 5%.

When used in spark ignition engines alcohols have the potential to reduce NOx, CO, HC and particulates. A test with E85 fueled Chevrolet Luminas showed that NMHC[3] went down by 20-22%, NOx by 25-32% and CO by 12-24% compared to reformulated gasoline.[4] Toxic emissions of benzene and 1,3 Butadiene also decreased while aldehyde emissions increased (acetaldehyde in particular).

Tailpipe emissions of CO2 also decrease due to the lower carbon-to-hydrogen ratio of these alcohols, and the improved engine efficiency.

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post #10 of 21 (permalink) Old 01-23-2012, 10:39 AM
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Oops some of the above got lost on the way here. Go to :

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcohol_fuel

To read the rest.

And kanuk....I have not heard of anyone having problems with using fuel with the higher ethanol content in the Vulcan. I would think older bikes, say before 1980 could. Keep in mind rubber that's 20+ years old to start with might just go bad due to age anyway......

You still have the other issues stated above...water absorption and less bang per gallon of course.

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