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Made by Monkeys

Ethanol Ate My WeedEater

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Beth Stackpole
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On-going design refreshes
Beth Stackpole   9/19/2012 7:21:10 AM
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Would use of ethanol in this machine have been an after-the-fact development post its original design or should it have been designed that way from the get go? I'm asking because I'm assuming not much changes on a WeedEater machine, albeit a few bells and whistles here and there. That said, there such be some sort of regular revisting of requirements to keep up with new fuel standards. The other big question is likely where you bought the WeedEater. Perhaps some stores still have old inventory on their shelves that aren't retrofit to meet new requirements.

Carmine
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Re: On-going design refreshes
Carmine   9/19/2012 11:24:04 AM
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Beth,


The Federal Government has been promoting the use of ethanol in gasoline for the past 34+ years.

This was kicked-off by the The Energy Tax Act of 1978 which provided a $0.40/gal ethanol subsidy.

I find it hard to believe the same material has been used for the priming bulb for the last 34 years.

It is certainly plausible that a design change was made and old stock was not recalled.  A small mom-and-pop hardware store might have had this machine on the shelf for a while.

While there is certainly a disparity in the use of ethanol across the states (and in the counties within those states) I would still expect an ethanol-tolerant design.

As you say, I would also expect attention to evolving fuel standards and changes to keep materials in compliance.

 

brewman007
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Re: On-going design refreshes
brewman007   9/20/2012 9:37:02 AM
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Connecticut recently switched from MTBE to ethonal fuel.  I use the highest octane for my small engines, to help in starting and I add a product called seafoam that helps keep the fuel system in working order.

Tool_maker
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Re: On-going design refreshes
Tool_maker   10/1/2012 12:58:08 PM
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 Seafoam performed magic on my 115 horsepower outboard. It was running extremely rough and uneven. I thought it acted like a bad fuel filter. I called a repair shop and described the problem and was told to add Seafoam. I asked what it would do and the nechanic told me, "It undoes all of the bad things that etanol does." After I added the product my motor continued its erratic behavior for about 45 seconds or so and then started running as smooth as silk. I cannot say for sure it was the Seafoam, but I add it to all of my gasoline engines periodically.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: On-going design refreshes
Rob Spiegel   9/19/2012 3:15:05 PM
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Good points, Beth. This all leads me to believe I made the right decision with an electric weed eater. While the cord has to be dragged around, it is overall lighter than the gas-powered version. And, I don't have to worry about Ethanol.

tekochip
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Re: On-going design refreshes
tekochip   9/19/2012 4:43:08 PM
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I prefer the electric too.  They don't make as much noise and no noise at idle.  Best of all, they don't spit two stroke oil all over you.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: On-going design refreshes
Rob Spiegel   9/20/2012 12:52:55 PM
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I agree, Tekochip. I have never found the electric to be a restriction. Over the years, my yards haven't been gigantic, so being tethered hasn't been a problem.

Island_Al
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Re: On-going design refreshes
Island_Al   9/20/2012 10:03:39 AM
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Good point Rob on electric weed eaters unless of course the government "mandates" a new 50 or 100hz standard.  I'm sure they could come up with a good "reason" just as they came up with the ethanol scam that turns food into fuel! And it must be subsidized by all tax payers to boot!!  (Notice meat prices skyrocketing?)

Also folks can still find "real gas" at pure-gas.org who list about 5000 stations nationwide.  I'm remote but still can find it locally.

A couple months back some of our finest citizens broke into my place and took two Homelite chainsaws, along with lots of other stuff, that I have owned for years. I had not gotten around to fixing the enthanol damaged fuel lines so neither of them were operational. I hope they are having fun trying to sell these.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: On-going design refreshes
Rob Spiegel   9/20/2012 2:01:55 PM
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So the ethanol also destroys the fuel lines. I wasn't aware of that, Island_Al. I would think that would have been cause for a negative consumer reaction to the legislation.

William K.
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Re: On-going design refreshes
William K.   9/20/2012 9:59:41 PM
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We don't see consumer backlash because the link between the damage and the cause of the damage is not that obvious. Around this part of southeastern Michigan it is hard to find gas that does not have ethanol added. They add ethanol because then water will disolve in the fuel and water is much cheaper. So the profit increases. The downside is that the mix is a bit corrosive, so not only is there an ethanol damage problem, but also a larger corrosion problem. The mix conducts electricity, while pure gasoline does not conduct.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: On-going design refreshes
Rob Spiegel   9/21/2012 1:12:10 PM
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Yes, I would imagine it would be hard to find gas stations that sell non-ethanol gas. Even with the directory mentioned in earlier comments, I would guess those stations come and go. By the way, William, where are you in southeastern Michigan. I grew up near Oakland University.

tekochip
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Re: On-going design refreshes
tekochip   9/21/2012 2:50:11 PM
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Hey, I had a lawnmower that kept wearing out carburator parts.  I wonder if it was the ethanol?  I just blamed the design and rebuilt the carb every couple years.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: On-going design refreshes
Rob Spiegel   9/24/2012 6:43:28 PM
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Looking back, Tekochip, there's a good chance it was the ethanol. Why else would carburetor parts wear out regularly? I can't think of another reason the carburetor parts would wear out regularly and quickly.

loadster
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Re: On-going design refreshes
loadster   9/27/2012 1:10:39 PM
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Two relevant things to this issue.
1. There are so many things put in gasoline these days between alcohol and the entire hydrocarbon spectrum, its almost impossible to figure what might have caused early degradation of the primer bubble. If you get five years out of a $60 weedeater, it owes you nothing. Mine seems to take the worst from UV if I don't put it away and out of the sun. Electric weedeaters are toys good for toy-size yards.

2. Parts. B. S. supposed that a weedeater engine doesn't change or evolve. I challenge her to explore the parts breakdowns at sears or repairclinic.com and revise her worldly view of small engine repair. I counted five iterations of a primer bulb for weedeater carbs in one search iteration. Almost all Briggs & Strattons have slightly different production runs. Some common. Some not.

Nothing lasts forever. Having mega stores contributes to the convenience of cheap stuff. Stop whining about the government. If we didn't have gas, we'd all be busy herding sheep or on our knees from exhaustion of using manual mowers. And we wouldn't have all this spare time to spew electronic drivel on how tough life is.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: On-going design refreshes
Rob Spiegel   9/27/2012 2:49:26 PM
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Loadstar, I have a "toy" yard, so I actually use a manual push mower. It is very like my childhood when I earned $$ mowing large yards with push mowers. Given my toy yard, my electric weedeater will last decades. So no complaints here.

William K.
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Re: On-going design refreshes
William K.   9/21/2012 5:55:32 PM
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Bob,

I am in Royal Oak, two blocks south of the Red Run golf course. 

I investigated the engineering program at Oakland University in 1969, and based on what I saw, I enrolled in the Lawrence Technical Institute instead. I graduated with a BSEE and have been in engineering ever since.

And, based on the several jobs and employers that I have had over the years, I suspect that the engineering salary surveys that I have seen are a bit exagerated. Or at least, they don't include this part of the country. How reliable is that data, and have you ever seen the tax returns to verify it's veracity?

Rob Spiegel
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Re: On-going design refreshes
Rob Spiegel   9/24/2012 6:56:35 PM
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William, I grew up a couple blocks from 15 Mile and Hunter. By the time I left in 1973, I was living near 14 Mile and Woodward.

How is the economy there now? I know Detroit is shot, but I would guess the northern suburbs are OK.

William K.
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Re: On-going design refreshes
William K.   9/24/2012 7:50:31 PM
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Rob,

THings are better than a few years back, and there are fewer bank-owned houses for sale now, BUT there are still a whole lot of industrial buildings for sale or lease, and quite a few stores as well. So whatever recovery is in progress we are not seeing a lot of it. 

On the other side, gasoline prices in this corner of Michigan are quite uniform and 10 to 30 cents per gallon higher than any other area east of the MIssissippi river. But nobody has been able to prove that all of the prices tracking like links in a timing belt is not just a random ocurrence. That is quite amazing to me.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: On-going design refreshes
Rob Spiegel   9/24/2012 9:21:52 PM
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I glad to hear things are coming back, William. The auto industry seems to be in very good recovery mode, but a lot of the auto industry is no longer in the Detroit area. I understand there are more auto-related jobs in Ohio than in Michigan.

Island_Al
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Re: On-going design refreshes
Island_Al   9/22/2012 6:42:51 PM
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Yes Rob, it eats most anything made from rubber. By the looks of it, the rubber becomes brittle, then just falls apart.  Now for "negative consumer reaction to legislation". Who will Congress pay more attention to; a) a guy on a remote island with a few hundred dollars in damaged tools or b) a lobby guy who plunks a million dollars on his desk for reelection?

Same with sugar, Americans pay way more than the international price, but most folks think they don't use enough sugar to whine about the few cents more they pay.  To us, its a few cents, to big sugar, its millions. Lobbists pay Congressmen to support bills like the ethanol scam. Demand for corn increases, prices of food increase, the ethanol business is subsidized by tax dollars, the Federal Reserve prints ever more money driving prices even higher and the resultant comments are: It's those damn Arabs!

I don't know about you, but certaily I don't count much to my Congressman. I send them a letter, I get a form letter back that has nothing to do with my topic (other than he is working/fighting hard for me), and we end up paying for the postage (franking).  What a system.  The best government money can buy.

I'd like to turn the political clock back 200 years.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: On-going design refreshes
Rob Spiegel   9/24/2012 7:23:48 PM
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I don't know about 200 years, Island_Al. We had slavery and the congressmen brought guns to Congress. You are right, though, about politicians sensitivity to lobbying. 

TJ McDermott
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Re: On-going design refreshes
TJ McDermott   9/20/2012 12:13:20 AM
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Beth, I can almost accept the fact that the manufacturer didn't bother to update their materials to stay with the times.  But the unavailability of a simple retaining clip is not excusable.

GOOD customer service would have said, "It's not a replacement part, but If you'll send me a SASE I'll grab one off the assembly line and send it to you for free".

Beth Stackpole
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Re: On-going design refreshes
Beth Stackpole   9/20/2012 7:23:06 AM
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Good point, TJ. That act of doing the simple, but basic things when it comes to customer service is definitely a lost art. On the other hand, I recently had a ceiling fan installed and the electrician who did it (ceiling are very, very high precluding my typically handy husband from taking on the project) commented that the fan motor was very loud and uneven when it ran in reverse mode to keep the heat circulating. The local store where I purchased the fan (I opted for local as opposed to the cheaper Internet sites) not only worked with their distributor to get me a replacement fan, they are paying the not insignificant fee to the electrician to reinstall the fan motor. That, without a lot of run around. I wish more companies practiced that lost art.

RURC
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Re: On-going design refreshes
RURC   9/20/2012 1:03:04 PM
Talk about slow in the reporting. This should be old news to you. Ethanol is the single WORST thing ever to be done to our food system and fuel sypply. Take away food product (driving up the cost of almost all food at the grocery store) and then place the highly corrosive liquid, ethanol derived from corn mostly that WILL damage anything that uses gasoline. I am a master guilded Porsche and Audi technician as well as having master status in all ASE automotive certifications. I have been watching ethanol damage cars and everything  that has a gas motor for years.

Reguardless of the damage it does to your engine and the damage it does to our fuel systems the rest of the world is not this stupid. That is why you dont see massive redesigns to just meet the dumb ass American gas. These changes cose huge ammounts of money that the companies should not have be doing at all.

You should be beating down Washington in total for the criminal behavior they have done to you. If you are having problems with your lawn equipment in the way it runs chances it is caused by the fuel with ethanol. Look in you area find a gas station that sells ethanol free gas. I have 3 stations within 3 miles of my house. You will even get better fuel mileage in  your car.

econobiker
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Re: On-going design refreshes
econobiker   9/20/2012 3:16:14 PM
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Ethanol has been the cause of fiberglass fuel tanks breaking down in multiple vehicles.

http://www.boatus.com/seaworthy/fueltest.asp

http://www.eaa.org/lightplaneworld/articles/1003_warning.asp

http://www.fiberglasstankandpipe.com/ethanol.htm

 

Nasty stuff.

 

Go to pure gas (non ethanol) if you can find it for your small engine units...

Dave Palmer
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Re: On-going design refreshes
Dave Palmer   9/21/2012 7:04:58 PM
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This story is a good example of environmental stress cracking, which I covered in an article earlier this year.  Evaluating the resistance of rubber and plastic materials to new biofuels helps keep materials engineers like me busy.  Besides ever-increasing ethanol percentages (your product had better be able to tolerate gasoline containing 25% ethanol if you want to sell it in Brazil!), there are also newer alternative fuels and fuel additives such as biobutanol that need to be considered.

As Beth points out, it's important to keep up on these trends, and make sure that the materials in your product will be compatible.

jmiller
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Re: On-going design refreshes
jmiller   9/24/2012 11:13:43 PM
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I wouldn't put a gas/oil mix in a small engine that doesn't need it.  Or vice versa so as a rule of thumb I only use ethonal in products that say it's okay to use them.

naperlou
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material evolution
naperlou   9/19/2012 8:36:35 AM
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This reminds me of my British sports cars from the1960s.  They used natural rubber, becuase the British with their empire were able to get it easily.  American cars typically used synthetic rubber parts.  These tended to last longer, and changes in the formulation of gasoline tended to impact unfavourably on the endurance of the British parts.  Of course, being foreign, they were more expensive.  We would replace them with American made rubber whenever we could find a match. 

RURC
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Re: material evolution
RURC   9/20/2012 1:13:02 PM
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While you are correct somewhat in the connection to the natural rubber issue you must realize that there were a myriad of reasons that natural rubber was being used in Europe, and in many cases still is. But you as the car owner had the choice to buy the proper psroucts that would not damage the natural rubber. However if you chose to be an uninformed car owner you paid the price for your stupiditity.

With the ethanol you have NO choice. You, for the most part, are forced to take something that is damageing to your car and put it in. Forced to by the federal government and the nit wits that having never seen under the hood of a car have decided that this is good for you.

The environmantal impact is totally negated because to do the same work (BTU) it takes more of the ethanol based fuel to do it than straight gas. That is why your gas mileage is less. Another reason that car manufacturers are having a harder time to meet the mileage rules.

I could go on and on but suffice to say I know this story very well. This was a dumb ass idea before it was done and it is even dumber now. Just go to the groscery store and check out the prices. Most of the increase in price is due to ethanol.

jmiller
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Re: material evolution
jmiller   9/24/2012 11:36:36 PM
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I'd love to see some data on the amount of corn used for ethanol production compared to the amount shipped overseas.  The other part of this that I don't know if people understand is the government actually pays part of the corn price.  As well as a subsidy to rotate crops and plant beans every other year.  That's right the government actually pays people not to grow corn.  Not to mention the set aside acres program which actually pays farmers not to grow any crops.  I'm thinking ethanol is not as big of a deal as the other government meddling.

Michael Corvin
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Possible Epoxy solution to glue the bulb assembly back together
Michael Corvin   9/19/2012 1:30:53 PM
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Loctite H 4710 or 3M DP 420 should be good choices to take the heat of a weed eater engine.

Thanks for the article, My weed eater just quit on me.  You have given me an additional avenue to explore

Cadman-LT
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Same problem
Cadman-LT   9/19/2012 4:56:20 PM
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I had the same problem with my old weedeater. My next one will be electric for sure. I had a battery operated one in the past, but it was before its time and didn't really even work. Maybe they make decent ones now.

Droid
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Mine too!
Droid   9/20/2012 9:29:32 AM
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I've had similar problems with my Weedeater, a chainsaw, and a small tiller.  

So congratulations to me!  and - thanks Mr. government genius for ethanol.   I get to subsidize it on the front end, pay extra for food because of it, have my checkbook squeezed at the pump, reduce my gas mileage, and buy new yard equipment every couple years because of its deliterious effects.   Is this a great idea or what?

Larry M
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Re: Mine too!
Larry M   9/20/2012 12:31:31 PM
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Lawnmowers too. They used to use a needle and brass seat for the carburetor float bowl.  (This bowl fills with gasoline to a specific level. To maintain that level an arrangement is used that is functionally similar to that in a toilet tank.) Maybe 10 or 15 years ago, well after the introduction of ethanol) the manufacturers changed the seat from brass to Viton, a flexible plastic.

If you use pure gasoline, no problem.  But if you use E10 (10 % ethanol), after a few years the bowl slowly overfills, because the Viton is affected by the acohol. This doesn't cause a problem when starting or running, because the leak is so slow. But when you are done and park the mower, the entire tank empties. Ever notice your mower doing this--the tank is empty every time you go to use it?

Where does it go? No smell.  No gasoline on the garage floor. Why? Because it flows into the carburetor, then into the valve gallery, and then into...the crankcase. Ever notice that the mower never seems to be low on oil? In fact it seems to be gaining oil? Well, that ain't oil. It's gasoline, and it's not a good lubricant. When I went to pick up a new Viton seat, the mower service center operator remarked that he had seen many motors destroyed because the oil was so diluted with gasoline.

Local service centers won't sell you just the seat. They will charge $15-25 for a complete parts kit. But you can buy the seats for a dollar or two on the internet.

jmiller
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Re: Mine too!
jmiller   9/24/2012 11:17:20 PM
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You forgot to mention to subsidize the corn price to increase the ingredients going into the ethanol.

darthofer
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Used alcohol for years in karting
darthofer   9/20/2012 9:32:34 AM
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There is no excuse for not selecting the right material for carbs on these weedeaters. We have karted for years using alcohol for fuel and no material problems! Maybe some corrosion, but that is it. I blame the engineers for poor material selection.. shame on them!

Ollie Prophet
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Re: Used alcohol for years in karting
Ollie Prophet   9/20/2012 9:38:01 AM
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I blame the government for forcing us to use ethanol.  Shame on Washington!

darthofer
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Re: Used alcohol for years in karting
darthofer   9/20/2012 9:44:04 AM
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That is a true statement also but it's going to be harder to change Washington than select the right material to deal with the problem. Unless we get at new president.

BB_cuda
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Re: Used alcohol for years in karting
BB_cuda   9/20/2012 9:51:32 AM
Ethanol didn't become mainstream as an additive until MTBE was outlawed perhaps a decade or so ago. MTBE was used as an additive to reduce pollution but was somehow making its way into ground water and became a public health concern. the government needed an alternative to the MTBE and thus began the ethanol 10% mix into our mainstream gasoline.  In rural areas, gasoline can be bought without the 10% mix but it is 1) hard to find and 2) higher cost. The next time i go to Louisiana, I will bring a 5 gallon container and get some of the straight stuff.

Ethanol plays havoc in a different way too for small engines. Ethanol mixed in gasoline becomes unstable and gunk separates from it in as little as 14 days. Small engine repair place advised that we use ethanol stabilizer in our small gas cans whether for 2 or 4 stroke use.  My girl friend's Honda lawn mower had its intake valve stick open due to this gunk.  This caused a total loss of compression AND it would back fire throught the carborator. He pulled the valve cover and removed the valve and cleaned the gunk off of it. Upon reassembly, she was back to running.  The repair guy suggested that after completing mowing that we pull the strating coard slowly until we feel the resistancebecome hard and STOP.  Pointis to store the mower with both valves closed. If the valve is closed it won't get stuck open during storage. This is for a Honda engine that says "OHV" on it's valve cover. 

redandgearhead
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Re: Used alcohol for years in karting
redandgearhead   9/20/2012 10:07:58 AM
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Corn cartel spreading lots of money to both parties.

jmiller
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Re: Used alcohol for years in karting
jmiller   9/24/2012 11:20:17 PM
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Am I missing something because when I don't wan to buy the ethanol blend I just buy the regular stuff.  Are there places where you have no choice but to buy ethanol?

Dave Palmer
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Re: Used alcohol for years in karting
Dave Palmer   9/25/2012 12:39:03 AM
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@jmiller: In most of the midwest, regular gasoline is 10% ethanol. In Minnesota, E10 is required by law. Most other states don't require it (although in some urban areas 3-6% ethanol is required in the winter months as an oxygenate to reduce smog). However, most states allow up to 10% ethanol, and since gasoline blenders get a renewable energy tax credit based on the amount of ethanol they use, most blenders go right up to the maximum. I could be wrong, but I think having a choice between ethanol-containing gasoline and non-ethanol-containing gasoline is the exception, rather than the rule, in the U.S.

Kirk McLoren
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Re: Used alcohol for years in karting
Kirk McLoren   9/27/2012 3:27:38 PM
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Perhaps the best solution is to design multi-fuel. And with all the new advances in batteries coming down the pike, don't forget to keep electric fueled.

Ollie Prophet
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Ethanol: Another Bad Idea from Washington
Ollie Prophet   9/20/2012 9:36:05 AM
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How about we demand the feds stop mandating the use of ethanol in our gasoline?  Are we sheep?  This was a bad idea from the get-go, it destroys fuel system parts and increases the cost of food.  The energy used to produce the ethanol, after you factor in raising the corn, the pesticides needed, the hydration, etc. does not justify the savings in imported oil.  A national energy policy that supported the exploration and drilling in and around the US is the way to go.  Supply and demand is still a solid economic model, despite what the Riech and Krugman espouse.  And let's get some new nukes licensed and construction started, while we are at it.  And build that pipeline to get friendly Canadian oil to our refineries.  And invest in using our abundent coal reserves instead of shutting down and refusing to license coal fired plants.  And.... Well, you get the picture.   

kf2qd
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Throw away products...
kf2qd   9/20/2012 9:57:10 AM
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More and more products are really designed to be thrown away, why would anyone want to fixw them?

 

Sure is nice to have my small milling machine and lathe in the garage. Amazing number of small parts that can be produced in a short time to keep various things running long after the manufacturers expiration date has run out. And then I also have a Neway valve seat cutter so a 4 cycle engine rebuild is rather simple... How many folks even have a set of box-open end wrenches and a 3/8 drive socket set? Forget a good set of screw drivers.

 

The other part of the problem is that fewer and fewer people have any clue about how to fix stuff. Shop class is no longer taught in most schools and no-one at home has ever handled tools so we have a generation that doesn't know that things can be taken apart and fixed. (and then there are Apple products, when the battery fails you just junk it...) All the time spent with electronic gadgets doesn't really equate to many manual skills.

Island_Al
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Re: Throw away products...
Island_Al   9/20/2012 10:58:08 AM
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@kf2qd: Love it!  I too have a lathe and a small milling attachment that has saved me more money than the machine originally cost me. I have had it so long that I didn't even think about it until your post.  If I need a bushing, adapter, or spacer, I simply make one in less time than it would take to go on-line and find the 'correct' part.  Some of my stuff is so old no replacement parts have been available for fifty years. Now I'm putting together a home foundary to make some castings I need. Lots of videos on youtube on this subject.

I taught all 6 of my kids how to use tools, but my 3 girls don't like getting dirty!  At least they understand (hopefully) what they are looking at. They all carry duct tape and WD40 in their cars (the handymans secret weapons) to make it home where they each have precision calipers.  Then I often get the call "dad- can you make me a ....?"  Letting me off the hook is they mostly drive new cars these days while I still drive old ones.

Yes most things these days are throw away units. I recently had a rack mount flat screen that failed. Inside was a FPLA that controlled everything and it was bad. But I hate to throw away a $1000 equipment part, but cannot accept the reality that I can't fix it!  Everything these days has u-controllers, even my washing machine.

Larry M
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Re: Throw away products...
Larry M   9/20/2012 12:45:05 PM
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Island Al writes "...but cannot accept the reality that I can't fix it!  Everything these days has u-controllers, even my washing machine."

Ahh, Al, an FPGA is a tough nut to crack, but don't give up just because you sniff electronics. My 1984 washing machine had the electronics board (with microcontroller) start misbehaving a few years ago. Very expensive board and you can't get it any more. But a little digging at the board and the service material stuffed into the control panel led me to find that a discrete triac had failed. That part number was no longer manufactured either, but I was able to find one with equivalent specifcations and the same case size for 39 cents. I've been using it for almost four years since with no problems.

I envy you guys with the lathes and milling machines. I haven't had access to those since I was a lab tech in college, nearly 50 years ago. I have to beg friends for help. But just wait. When 3D printers get just a little cheaper I'll be back in the game.

bob from maine
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Re: Throw away products...
bob from maine   9/20/2012 1:32:46 PM
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kf2qd I agree. The gvt in their infinite wisdom decided Lead was bad, but engine manufacturers said the gasoline burned too fast and caused knocking, so to slow the 'bang' portion of the 4 cycles, they added MTBE, which slowed the burn process down and allowed us to maintain the high octane necessary; but the MTBE allowed gasoline to mix with water, so gas spills were polluting the ground water. Oh joy! Enthanol was found to be an acceptable octane booster and came from a yearly renewable source; wonderfully green! But, ethanol allows gasoline to mix with water and gas spills continue to mix with ground water, plus, an added bonus, ethanol can separate from gasoline and stratify inside a tank, and it is extremely reactive with many rubber and synthetic rubber products. 

Young people who want to learn to be a mechanic, machinist, plumber, electrician or builder are treated like they should ride on the short-bus. The trade-school portion of our schools is farmed-out to Technical Institutes because as parents we apparently don't want to spend money in our local schools for this small, underacheiving portion of our school population. Our interpretation of "no child left behind" rewards schools that place a high percentage of their graduates in college and penalizes those schools that place students in trade schools of one sort or another. I also have lathes and milling machines and build or repair things that are needed. What I can't build I can describe will enough for a good machinist to build for me. I could not afford to own antique cars, tractors, motorcycles, and boats without the ability to make stuff.

Our governments recent dollars-for-junkers program that took affordable, reliable, maintainable vehicles off the road was a travesty. Our purchase of the latest and greatest microprocessor controlled apple scrubber effectively rewards those manufacturers that place gee-whiz gizmos over reliable function. In both instances, we do have a vote. One with our pocket-book and the other in November.

BillyMoore
User Rank
Gold
Gas is still better
BillyMoore   9/20/2012 2:14:33 PM
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I've had trimmers powered by: gas, battery, and electric.  All have since gone to that tool shed in the sky.  Recently I moved from an apartment to a house, and had to acquire a new collection of yard equipment.  It's all gas powered (and I use ethanol-free gas).  Electric and battery powered sounds great (especially to an EE like me).  I know DC motors.  They're simple, and easy to repair... IF repair parts are available.  AND IF the housing can be disassembled.  When my battery powered trimmer died, it was the motor brushes.  Easy to fix, right?  The housing could not be non-destructively disassembled.  Same thing for the motor.  I'm also tired of moving power cords around the yard.  My current suburban lot requires a trip around the yard with an edger.  Then a trip with a trimmer.  Then a trip with a blower.  All of which would require multiple power cord moves between various outlets.  My time has value, too.

My current yard tools were purchased at local lawn & garden centers that have the ability to service their products.  They cost a little more, but I don't worry about my equipment being rendered useless by a $0.25 part.

Also, there's another option for ethanol free fuel.  It's called TruFuel, and is available at many lawn & garden and home repair centers.  It's quite costly at $5 per qt, but if the tool uses very little fuel, it's still cheaper than a repair every season.

Tim
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Gas is still better
Tim   9/23/2012 9:53:32 PM
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Straight gas is definitely better than the ethanol blend for hand held power equipment.  There is another option available.  STIHL offers Motomix pre blended fuel that utilizes ethanol free high octane gas pre-mixed at 50:1 ratio for use in hand held power equipment.  It runs great in their product.

copper
User Rank
Iron
ethanol ate my weedeater
copper   9/20/2012 3:15:32 PM
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Ethanol eats up the bulb, diaphram, tubing, and even some in tank filters.  Try ereplacement parts.  They're very knowledgeable and helpful.

warren@fourward.com
User Rank
Platinum
Re: ethanol ate my weedeater
warren@fourward.com   9/20/2012 3:55:05 PM
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It is amazing how many ways our modern materials can be damaged- sun, chemicals, ethanol gasoline, and so on.  Short sighted engineers can cause problems in the field where a little common sense and consulting could resolve them before they happen.

William K.
User Rank
Platinum
ethanol and damaged engines
William K.   9/25/2012 10:47:33 AM
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What has been ignored by all parties is the "DryGas" effect, where adding ethanol to gasoline allows water to be disolved and run through the fuel system without the engine ceasing to operate. That used to be a problem when water would get into the fuel somehow.

The problem now is that sellers can add water to the gas and the cars will still run and only have a moderate loss of power. Of course, there is also a "moderate" drop in miles per gallon as well. The reason that this is a problem is that I don't want to be paying $4 per gallon for water, especially in my gas tank! Besides that, the added water will speed up the corrosion a bit on metals such as aluminum.

But nobody seems to be at all concerned about this problem, at least around this part of the state. 

It seems like checking the conductivity of the mix ought to be a way to evaluate the proportion of water added, but I have not verified this.

Has anybody else experimented with water-in-fuel monitoring?

Dave Palmer
User Rank
Platinum
Re: ethanol and damaged engines
Dave Palmer   9/25/2012 10:06:39 PM
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@William K.: I agree that you should (in principle) be able to measure the water content of a gasoline-ethanol mixture by conductivity, but I haven't been able to find any references on the Internet to anyone actually doing this.  The overall conductivity may be too low to measure reliably.

Another way (in principle) would be by measuring the density, except that the density of gasoline itself can vary by too much to make this measurement meaningful.

You could also add water until you get phase separation.  At room temperature, E10 will separate into two phases (gasoline and ethanol-water mixture) once the moisture content exceeds about 6% (edit: should be 0.5%, not 6%).  So if get phase separation when you add 5% water, you know that the gasoline already contained 1% water.

Or you could combine the two approaches, by adding a known amount of water to deliberately cause phase separation, then measuring the density of the ethanol-water phase only.

By the way, the amount of water needed to cause phase separation decreases as the temperature decreases.  We are just entering the time of year when phase separation often occurs in large storage tanks: the fuel absorbs water during the humid summer months, then undergoes phase separation in the fall as temperatures start to get cold.

William K.
User Rank
Platinum
Re: ethanol and damaged engines
William K.   9/26/2012 11:15:50 AM
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Dave, the points you make are certainly valid, but the hardware for measuring density is a lot more involved than for measuring resistance. My idea was for the measurement system to be integral with the fuel pickup assembly located in the gas tank, so that an immediate indiaction would be available if the gas being purchased contained water and alcohol. That would allow me to stop and avoid filling the tank with the poor quality fuel. Also, the response could be quite fast.

Are you sure that the separation threshold is only 6% water? I thought that it was about equal to the percentage of alcohol?

Dave Palmer
User Rank
Platinum
Re: ethanol and damaged engines
Dave Palmer   9/26/2012 11:34:36 AM
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@William K.: Actually, I was way off with the 6% number.  At 70°F, phase separation occurs when the moisture content exceeds about 0.5%.  This document will tell you more than you ever wanted to know about phase separation.

Real-time, in-line measurement of moisture content in gasoline might require infrared spectroscopy, which probably wouldn't be cheap.  Maybe there is a cheaper way to do this, but I can't think of one.

William K.
User Rank
Platinum
Re: ethanol and damaged engines
William K.   9/26/2012 8:13:52 PM
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Something is missing in the explanation about moisture separateion. Like, what concentration of alcohol are they referencing the moisture separating at 0.5% concentration. Certainly the amount of water that can be disolved depends a whole lot on the amount of alcohol in the mix. That is sort of intuitive.

Of course, that is only with nice grain alcohol, it does not include the less pure stuff, nor is that including the methyl alcohols. 

And now ifrared spectometry can be donefast and cheap if only one target is sought, and that target is well understood. BUt I was thinking of something fast and cheap and simple. So the short answer becomes "probably not".

Dave Palmer
User Rank
Platinum
Re: ethanol and damaged engines
Dave Palmer   9/27/2012 4:43:18 PM
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@William K.: Phase separation occurs at about 0.5% moisture for E10 fuel (i.e. gasoline with 10% ethanol) at 70°F, according to the document I linked to.  Like you say, gasoline with higher ethanol contents, such as E15, can tolerate a lot more moisture before phase separation occurs.  This is one of the concerns about moving to E15, and one of the reason why longer-chain alcohols such as butanol are being investigated as alternatives.

You can read about some exciting current work on biobutanol in marine applications here.

geness
User Rank
Iron
Re: ethanol and damaged engines
geness   9/27/2012 4:56:47 PM
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This is an age old problem, not new.  Most small 2 cycle engines have warnings about using gas containing ethanol.  The ethanol will disolve not only the rubber priming button but the fuel lines and and the intank gas filter.  This can happen using gas with under 10% ethanol.  Once you get over 10%, the metal parts can also get attacked by the ethanol. 

Wayne Eleazer
User Rank
Iron
Re: ethanol and damaged engines
Wayne Eleazer   9/27/2012 9:35:24 PM
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I have measured the alcohol content of ethanol contaning gasoline by using the well known water test, using a graduated cylinder.

I have also attempted to remove ethanol from gasoline using the same process.  It works, but not good enough.  The amount of alcohol you can remove seems to vary somewhat with the maker of the gasoline but in any case you cannot get all of it out.

Aside from the direct impact on certain components, alcohol is an effective cleaning agent for tars left behind by gasoline.  Use of alcohol in the fuel of an older piece of equipment, even with an engine that withstand it, will flush the accumulated tar out of the system, with disasterous results downstream.    

I have not experienced a problem with alcohol in my lawnmower or portable generator, both of which use 4 cycle engines, because I do not use alcohol containing fuel in them.  My personal aircraft can not use fuel with ethanol, and it is normal practice to drain a small portion of the fuel from the tanks before flight to ensure that water and dirt is not present.  For almost 30 years now I have saved that fuel and burned it in my mowers. 

So, if you cannot find fuel without ethanol in you area, you can always go to an airport, and pay maybe $6.00 a gallon for heavily leaded 100LL aviation fuel.  Considering how little fuel a mower uses, this is probably far more attractive than buying a new one.

And I use an electric weed-whacker.

     

 

John
User Rank
Gold
Ethanol
John   9/27/2012 3:49:00 PM
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I don't buy any ethanol mixed gasoline.  It seems to reduce gas mileage and caused deer corn to cost a lot more, plus corn crops are a failure this year.  So, I don't expect and price cuts at the pump.  My gas powered lawn equipment is going through its first massive drought summer and has operated fine all three times I used it.  It advertises that it will operate with ethanol 10% max mix.  10% ethanol in a premium fuel car doesn't work well at all.  Fuel in your oil sounds like a different issue like not changing the oil often enough or bad float height or float valve seat.  Rarely have I ever had to change a plastic float and if it used a brass float, you usually can still get one made of brass.  Maybe not at your local auto parts store, but they are out there.

Haggar
User Rank
Iron
The destructive nature of the Ethanol delivery
Haggar   9/28/2012 10:55:38 AM
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Guys (and Gals),

I am surprised to see so many posts that suggest there is not a problem with the ethanol.

Granted in a THEORETICAL  world a small percentage of ethanol SHOULD NOT adversely effect a standard internal combustion process.  (The efficiency will change from the base gasoline mixture, but that is expected.)

The problem in the REAL WORLD is the inability of the product to be delivered at the proper proportions.  The mixture is made significantly (both in time and distance) farther upstream than the use.  Our country's local fuel delivery/distribution systems were not designed to mix at the nozzle, so who knows when and where it was mixed.

I have confidence somewhere in the system it was mixed at 10% (is this a volumetric or weight percentage....)  I have ZERO confidence that at any given instant that percentage is 10%. 

I have components from both automobiles and agricultural equipment (from small yard equipment to 80hp tractors), that should not have failed at 10%, but are significantly damaged.  (I am working with my congressman to try and get tax credits for the damaged equipment... not going so well.)  Our theory is that they were exposed to ethanol percentages much larger than 10%.   Hard to prove, as the equipment rarely fails instantly, so the fuel in the tank is not the fuel that melted the components. (and I supposed we will get into defining the term "damaged" or "failed".  No catastrophic failures meaning the item was not taken to a junk yard, but getting a tractor out of the field without its own power can be fun, and loading vehicles from the side of the interstate is not always a picnic.)

If you read documentation closely and talk with the manufacturers of the fuel pumps, carburetor kits and components,  they know that their gaskets and seals will fail in solutions with > 10% Ethanol. 

I think this is not as apparent, as most newer cars are more tolerant of the Ethanol percentage.  It is the older equipment.

This brings us to.... Is it really greener and better for the environment?  I am CERTAIN the engineers that did the study do not have a coefficient for lost equipment (not to mention DOWN TIME.... but hey that is just money.) or all of the parts that need to be replaced in the "carbon footprint" equation.  (not to mention all the shipping of those parts and definitely NOT the labor needed to exchange those parts....)

I have to drive to another state to find non diluted gasoline.  Is that in the footprint equation?  The travel is by far less expensive than the tractors KIA in the field.

This is why in the news the other day the 4 gallon fuel minimum was floated with the introduction of the IMPRESSIVE 15% dilution.  (someone is hoping you didn't get a gallon of 100% ethanol.... wohoo EPA and legislators HOPING!! (hoping with quite possibly the SECOND most expensive single item you own!!!) That makes me have good feelings.)

The good news is most cars from 2000 up seems to be pretty tolerant.  Large urban areas pump enough fuel to keep the tanks stirred well and the mixture to stay pretty well distributed.  Take either (or worse BOTH) of those items out of the equation and I can show you pictures or let you hold melted rubber.

 

 

Gregarious2
User Rank
Iron
Weedwacker repairs
Gregarious2   9/28/2012 2:15:46 PM
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I have similar "corrosion" problems here in Hawai'i with weedwackers and other gas powered farm equipment. Like us, many people here cherish their older 2 cycle machines for power, durability and ease of maintenance. In my case, these are not "yard" machines but farm equipment used for clearing acreage. After several trips to the local repair shop for cracked fuel bulbs and new o-rings, we go the extra few miles and buy ethanol free gas. Fortunately, older marine equipment ( outboards,etc... ) has the same problem so we can buy boat gas locally.   But I often wonder what's next. My car is older too.

I was also quite surprised to see unexpected fracture phenomenon in a high end, clear, o-ring sealed plastic food container.  After emptying it once again of my favorite cereal, I was cleaning it and noticed small linear internal stress fractures following the contours of the container from the injection point on the bottom up to my average fill line. Since it was designed specifically for food ( the packaging for the container actually showed cereal in it ), I'm now wondering what component of my organic granola is causing this degradation in the plastic. It's only about 2 years old and was about $20.  

Dave Palmer
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Weedwacker repairs
Dave Palmer   9/28/2012 4:08:31 PM
NO RATINGS
@Gregarious2: I'd be surprised if anything in your organic granola is causing environmental stress cracking of the plastic container, although some fatty acids can do that.  But if the container is made out of HDPE, it may be susceptible to environmental stress cracking from detergents.  This is particularly true if it had high molded-in stresses (which is suggested by the fact that the cracks originate from the injection point).

If you'd like for me to take a look at it, send me an e-mail (dpalmer01 at gmail dot com).  I'd be glad to do some testing and try to identify the root cause.

Gregarious2
User Rank
Iron
Re: Weedwacker repairs
Gregarious2   9/28/2012 6:31:09 PM
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Mahalo for the offer but it's more of a curiosity.  I have an email off to the manufacturer (OXO) concerning this with hopes of getting a replacement container. The cracking stops precisely at my usual fill level for the cereal ( about 2/3 of the way up the container ). This corresponds to one  17.6 ounce package from the cereal box. ( Two doesn't fit and in our 80%RH, I only open one at a time.) The plastic is a 7 ( other ) for the  recycle code. I hand rinse and dry the container just before I refill it which follows the manufacturers instructions. The container is 3.5" x 3.5" x 8.5" with roughly 1/8" thick walls.

Sorry.. didn't mean to derail the weedwacker thread.

Dave Palmer
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Weedwacker repairs
Dave Palmer   9/28/2012 8:37:35 PM
NO RATINGS
@Gregarious2: Most OXO containers are polycarbonate, although some of their newer ("BPA-free") ones are made out of Tritan copolyester.  I don't know much about the Tritan material, since it is relatively new.  However, polycarbonate is extremely sensitive to environmental stress cracking.

If your container was polycarbonate, I wouldn't be too surprised to learn that the oils from the granola caused it to crack; it's not too big of an exaggeration to say that everything causes polycarbonate to crack! (Also, if it happened to be one of the first containers made that day, it might have had higher-than-usual residual stresses, which wouldn't have helped -- just a guess).

One of the side benefits of going to the BPA-free material is that it should also be less susceptible to environmental stress cracking.  I think OXO should give you a new BPA-free container.

(I realize this is getting away from the topic of ethanol and weed whackers, but it's a related topic, and it's interesting -- at least, it is to me!)

Tell the truth
User Rank
Iron
Ethanol Ate My WeedEater
Tell the truth   9/28/2012 8:58:07 PM
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I work on all kinds of 2 cycle trimmers, chainsaws and blowers all makes. I am curious about what brand of equipment the carburetor is installed on? I have not seen a carburetor with a primer bulb that has a plastic retainer ring integrated on the carburetor, I have seen primer bulbs that are separate from the carburetor that have a retainer ring sonic welded to the base of the bulb assembly. What brand of carburetor is it, the brand is usually Walbro, Zama or Ru-Ing, the last one does not have rebuild kits available and have to be replaced. 

Almost all of the work that I do one 2 cycle engines is fuel related, that being said about 95% of the carburetor work is caused by ethanol. Ethanol attracts water and is corrosive to aluminum and rots your fuel lines and seals. All of this could be solved by adding fuel stabilizers specifically made for 2 cycle engines. It all boils down to maintenance, mantain your equipment and avoid costly repairs or the purchase of new.

wheely
User Rank
Silver
E10 fuel
wheely   10/10/2012 5:26:43 PM
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 Ethanol, not in my engines. I get approx. 2 more MPG in my car using gasoline & it has a smoother idle & slightly quicker starts. My dirt bike performs much better on gasoline also, when I'm on it I can't afford any less performance than what gas gives.

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