Forget Something?

By Beth Leonard

Don't panic, it's not too late if you didn't remove or top off the ethanol in your boat last winter.

Since E10 — gasoline consisting of 10 percent ethanol — has become a standard part of boaters' lives, manufacturers have strongly recommended either emptying the tanks completely or topping them up and adding stabilizer for the winter. Doing so helps to prevent phase separation — when the ethanol-water solution settles out of the gasoline, creating a corrosive mixture damaging to most engines. So what should you do if you forgot?

First you need to determine if there is water in the fuel. Pump a small amount out of the bottom of the tank into a glass jar or clear plastic bottle using a hand pump or a large baster. (Don't use an electric pump to do the job — a small spark can lead to an explosion.) Let it sit for 10 or 15 minutes. If the gasoline appears close to colorless and smells normal and nothing settles to the bottom of the container, go ahead and top off the tank with fresh gasoline and then run it through your engine come spring. If your engine shows any signs of hard starting or difficulty in running, dispose of the fuel, change the filters again, and switch to fresh gas.

If clear water or a cloudy layer settles out of the gasoline, then it has become contaminated with water, and it will have to be discarded of. You can dispose of small amounts by taking it to your county's household hazardous waste collection site. Google your county and "household hazardous waste," and you'll find the relevant information. For amounts over 10 gallons or so, your only option will be to pay to dispose of it. For responsible options on disposal of hazardous waste, visit  

— Published: April/May 2015

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