While motorcycles and scooters are fuel-efficient and a lot of fun to ride, they aren’t necessarily cheap. There are approximately 200 million motorcycles in use with about almost 600 million cars. Nearly 60% of these are in Asia and the Far East –China and India both have over 35 million motorcycles and motorized scooters in use.
Higher-end motorcycles can easily rival what it costs for a new automobile. But no matter what you’ve paid, if you own a motorcycle or scooter, you’ll be tempted to save money buying the lesser expensive fuel – but this is going to cost you more in the long run. Using the right fuel for your motorcycle is important to its longevity and to your fun riding for years to come.
Your Motorcycle’s Fuel System
The fuel system is a vital internal system that ensures your motorcycle gets its essential power – fuel delivered to the right place in the right amount for the best performance. Like other parts of the bike, the fuel system requires looking after, but it doesn’t have to be difficult but more of a preventive.
Getting the Right Type Of Fuel For Your Motorcycle
Fuel is far too often overlooked as a form of preventive maintenance on a motorcycle. And any time you’re talking about fuel and fuel systems, your fuel filter needs to be included. If you have a fuel filter, check it regularly to make sure it’s clean and not clogged up. Don’t forget to check the bike’s fuel lines for weather damage and cracking – and replace if any wear or damage found.
Avoid Fuels with Ethanol
Ethanol fuels are best avoided completely which takes some effort when fuelling up. Most pumps state how much ethanol is in use, but many do not. Ethanol is a fact of life now, with 10% ethanol blends being commonplace for a number of years. 15% ethanol has passed all of the approval stages and should be commonplace in fuel supplies.
Some US states like Minnesota are doing state-wide mandates to go up to 20% ethanol in the next five years, if not sooner. All of these mandates are aimed at improving air quality and reducing air pollution from fuel emissions, which ethanol blends achieve through the lowering of harmful emissions.
Ethanol fuels have many negative effects for your motorcycle. They have the issue of pulling water out of the air and into the fuel due to the chemical nature of the ethanol itself. When enough water is absorbed, the dissolved ethanol is likely to start to drop out of solution in a process known as “phase separation”. The free ethanol mixes with the water and sinks to the bottom of the tank (because water and ethanol is heavier than gas). When this happens, you’ve got some problems that could have been avoided such as gasoline that is stripped of its octane rating, or your fuel line drawing up a water/ethanol mix instead of gasoline.
Ethanol Effects on Your Bike
Ethanol fuel, a gas additive, is everywhere! Nowadays, the gas you pump from almost every gas station contains a blend of gasoline and ethanol. The percentage of ethanol blend is indicated by the E number. For example E10 means the gas mixture contains 90% gas and 10% ethanol. In automobiles, ethanol fuel won’t do much harm to your car’s engine.
However, when you’re using gas with ethanol mixture in your outdoor power equipment, you run the risk of engine damage and incurring costly repairs.
More Ethanol Facts
- All gasoline brands have both pure and ethanol–containing gasoline under the same brand names. For example, Shell V-Power ranges from 91 to 93 octane both with and without added ethanol. It just varies from station to station, and it’s up to the station owner whether or not to sell pure gas.
- Loss of Mileage. Gas that’s blended with ethanol is less efficient. You’ll get between three and five percent less MPG if you’re using gas with 10% ethanol. Use of ethanol blends results from the ethanol molecule containing less energy value than gasoline. The energy value in petroleum fuels is a function of the number of carbon bonds in the molecule. Gasoline molecules are much longer with more carbon bonds than the small ethanol molecule, so you have less energy potential in that blended fuel.
- Water Attraction. Pure ethanol has a strong ability to absorb water from the atmosphere around it, leading to poor engine performance. E10 gas absorbs up to 50 times more water than standard gasoline. Ethanol has such a strong attraction to water that chemical producers cannot even sell 100% pure ethanol – it is always 99.8% or less, because there will always be at least a tiny bit of water. It then contributes to a whole host of fuel problems and issues for all types of engines (big and small) that use ethanol. It is best that you replace gas in your fuel tank every 2-3 weeks to avoid alcohol and water related engine issues.
- Phase Separation. This term applies to when the ethanol ‘phase’ separates from the gasoline ‘phase’ and results in two layers of two different compounds, instead of a consistent mixture of gasoline and ethanol. At this point the ethanol will sink below the gasoline phase and mix with any more accumulated water, making an ethanol-water phase mixture that sits on the bottom of the tank where the fuel pickup line locates. Ethanol fuel that has phase separated cannot be put back together because the ethanol and water have combined into a seamless layer.
- Ethanol found in most on-road gasoline is highly corrosive and will actually dissolve the aluminium in your carburettor over time. A good fuel additive mixed in with the gasoline should coat and protect the carburettor and fuel system components, protecting them from this process. This is very important when your bike is in storage for a long period of time.
- Ethanol is also an excellent solvent. It will dissolve plastic, rubber, fibreglass and much more, potentially causing serious problems to engines.
- Breeding Ground For Microbes. Microbes like bacteria and fungi all need an accumulated water phase in order to grow and thrive in a fuel storage tank. The bacteria live in between the water and fuel, feeding off of both materials, growing and multiplying and giving off the harmful by-products of their life cycle. If an infestation takes hold, problems with corrosion, filter plugging and reduction in fuel quality can follow.
More Tips To Fuel You:
- You’ll get the same exact gasoline no matter where you buy it from. It doesn’t matter if you go to Shell, Exxon, or Walmart, it all gets mixed together in the pipelines before hitting the storage depots. However, additives make a huge difference. That’s why it is important to stick to the strong brands and those who have ethanol free gas.
- Gas has detergents in it. There are additives that chemically bond to various molecules, to help prevent excess build up in your engine.
- Use “Top Tier Gas”. TOP TIER Detergent Gasoline was first introduced in 2004 when a group of auto makers recognised the need for a higher detergency gasoline standard than that required by regulation. To be officially listed as a Top Tier Gas supplier, there must be roughly 2.5 times more detergent than the EPA minimum standard. Here are the list of recognised fuel stations under the Top Tier umbrella. And definitely stay away from your local convenience store fuel station.
- Gasoline changes with the weather. Gas boils very easily which is bad for the environment and not great for your fuel tank. The formula you’re pumping is altered to fit the conditions. For example, the fuel you purchase in Quebec in say springtime has a much lower boiling point that the fuel you purchase in Florida in August. These are good things to take into consideration when your ride involves such geo changes or if shipping your motorcycle to another country.
- While E10 fuels are approved for small engine equipment usage, it is not recommended, especially in handheld products. Gas with ethanol separates while being stored in your gas tank. The 2 stroke oil remains bonded to the gasoline but not to ethanol. Thus, the ethanol and water part of the mixture contains no oil for engine lubrication. This leads to poor lubrication, performance issues and costly repairs over time.
- Know where the pure gas stations are in your area – download the app – it comes in handy. Also find the Shell Stations near you which offer the non-ethanol gas.
Long Term Motorcycle Storage and Fuel
- The best way to prevent fuel deficient storage problems is to treat the fuel with an additive. But in order to be effective, any fuel additive must be added when the gasoline is in good shape. Once the fuel goes bad, there are no products on the market that can restore it to good condition, and the gasoline must be discarded at that point. At best, poor performance and at worst, serious engine damage can result if deteriorated gasoline is burned in your engine. A good fuel additive treatment can double or triple the life of gasoline and will have a positive typically, untreated gasoline retains its best combustion quality in storage for about six months; much less if the gasoline contains ethanol.
- Things that cause gasoline fuels to lose their quality are: exposure to air and light and accumulation of water from the environment.
Air and light cause chemical reactions (oxidation) to occur in the fuel, producing discoloured gasoline with dark deposits collected on the bottom of the gas can or storage tank. These reactions happen faster in hot weather.
Fuelling up is important to the function of your motorcycle. Where you can and unless strongly otherwise advised from your manufacturer, purchase ethanol free gas. Always keep your fuel fresh and never buy and store gas for more than a 30 day supply.