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And it's not just the engines that are affected by ethanol.Alyanak says that hundreds of boatbuilders who designed the engines' fuel systems from the gas tank to the engine were also unaware of the future challenges from ethanol.Corrosion can block tiny orifices, causing hard starting and rough running.Another one of ethanol's properties that causes headaches for older boats is its solvent ability.And the very simplicity of older carbureted outboard engines seems to make them particularly susceptible.The issues for older engines fit into three categories: old vulnerable components not designed for ethanol use, ethanol's ability to dissolve deposits, and its ability to absorb enough water to separate.
But anything that gets past the filter, or is already downstream of the filter, can cause havoc in the carburetor.
Before about 1990, carburetors were built with alloys that are much more prone to corrosion from ethanol.
When ethanol contacts the older aluminum carburetor housings, corrosion can cause tiny orifices to clog, which results in hard starting and poor running, two of the most common complaints, especially from outboard owners.
Something else to consider: Fuel hoses don't last forever and those from the 80s — even if they are properly marked — should be replaced.
Most manufacturers advise replacing gasoline fuel hose after 10 years, and any hose that is 20 years old is way past its life; all marine-grade fuel hose has its manufacture date stamped on it.