Old motor, new problem
I have two old, and I mean really old, outboard motors stored in my basement and my wife is always after me to get rid of them. “You haven’t used them in 25 years,” she reminds me. The other day I thought I’d call her bluff and take them out of storage with the anticipation of using one or both of them this summer. It was a simple idea really.
The larger of the two is a 3.5 horsepower Evinrude and the other a 1.25 horsepower Elgin, made by Sears. The Evinrude was built in the early 1950s while the Elgin goes back to the late 1940s Both were working when I last used them and they were perfect for fishing the Susquehanna River.
Because it only weighs about 15 pounds, I figured the Elgin would do well on the back of my canoe. I could drift downriver for miles and the little motor would get me back to the boat launch without a lot of paddling. Because they were sitting so long, before trying to start them I thought I would get some advice from my amateur boat mechanic friend. The guy can fix just about any small engine so off I went.
“How long since you last used them?” he asked. “About 25 years,” I replied. “You’re gonna have some trouble,” he said. This was not what I wanted to hear.
“Because those motors run on gas and what we have today is gasohol, or what they call E-10,” he explained. “Gas today is a blend of gasoline and 10 percent ethanol and the combination can spell death to old motors like yours,” he informed me.
“What would happen if I use gasohol in my motors?” I asked. Sitting down, he said, “Look, let me explain a few thing to you. First, gasohol can eat up the hoses in those motors and they'll begin to leak. You should first replace all the hoses with new ones before filling the tank. Second, O-rings and rubber carburetor parts on older engines tend to get hard and brittle when exposed to ethanol and then break off in bits and pieces, causing clogs, misfires and shutdowns.
"Pre-1990 carburetors like yours were also made from alloys that don’t stand up to ethanol. This leads to corrosion that can cause the tiny fuel orifices in those motors to clog, resulting in hard starts and poor running.
"Third, if you put ethanol in the tanks of those motors it will dissolve the gunk that's been coating the tank walls (and hoses) for years, and this will clog up the fuel filter and the motor won’t run,” he continued to explain.
Dejected, I turned for home, wondering if my wife wasn’t right. Maybe I should get rid of them but what would I do with them and who would buy them? Anyway, both motors are back in the basement waiting for the taste of some “real” gasoline.