It’s time to winterize tools and off-road vehicles

The Oregon Department of Agriculture is encouraging users of power tools, all-terrain vehicles, boats, and other off-road vehicles and tools that are used on a seasonal basis to winterize their equipment, especially if they have been using ethanol-blended fuel.

“Winterizing equipment properly is always a good idea, whether you’re using straight gasoline or an ethanol blend,” says Stephanie Page, ODA renewable energy specialist. “Most manufacturers recommend preparing equipment before storage over the winter, or any extended period of time. But it’s especially important to do this if the fuel is 10 percent ethanol.”

Oregon’s Renewable Fuel Standard, which requires gasoline sold in Oregon to be 10 percent ethanol, took effect earlier this year. Most manufacturers have approved ethanol for use in power tools and off-road equipment up to a 10 percent blend. However, Oregon’s Renewable Fuel Standard also allows fuel stations to sell unblended gasoline for certain uses, including antique vehicles, boats, all-terrain vehicles, aircraft, and power tools.

ODA, responsible for implementing the Renewable Fuel Standard, has worked with the Oregon State Marine Board to compile a growing list of stations that sell non-blended fuel. The list, along with winterizing tips for boat owners, is available online.

Ethanol-blended fuel can develop unique problems if stored in a gas tank for a long time.

“Even though non-blended fuel is available for these specific uses, many off-road vehicle operators are using ethanol-blended fuel in their equipment,” says Russ Wyckoff, administrator of ODA’s Measurement Standards Division. “Ethanol can absorb water, which is more likely to happen when it’s left sitting for a long period of time. Ethanol saturated with water separates from the gasoline, creating two separate fuels- a problem for the engine when it’s started again.”

Unblended gasoline can also degrade if left in a fuel tank for a long period of time and may lead to performance problems the following spring. Some equipment operators add a stabilizer to unblended fuel to prevent it from degrading. However, what works with non-blended fuel won’t necessarily prevent problems with ethanol-blended fuel.

Another good practice is to make sure equipment has an empty fuel tank in the off season.

“Many manufacturers recommend leaving the tank empty over the winter to avoid fuel degradation,” explains Page. “This goes for all fuels, whether pure gasoline or an ethanol blend.”

The best way to ensure equipment is properly winterized is to contact the manufacturer or consult your owner’s manual for special precautions to take when storing equipment with ethanol-blended fuel.

For more information, contact Stephanie Page at (503) 986-4565.

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