FORT MYERS - It's supposed to burn cleaner and reduce the need for foreign oil, but the NBC2 Investigators found ethanol blends are causing problems at repair shops all over Southwest Florida, and mechanics expect the problems to get worse as the EPA allows more ethanol to be blended into fuel.

Right now gas at the pump can contain up to 10% ethanol, but the EPA cleared the way in January for use of up to 15% in certain vehicles. That's something experts tell us would devastate small engines and your car.

Maintaining the grass at Bonita Bay is a big job.

"We mow five days a week, 8 hours a day. At any given time, 45 full-time staff take care of the property," Scott Conkle at Bonita Bay said.

The process is sometimes slowed as equipment ends up in the shop.

"Every week there's something that has to be fixed, broken down, that is gas related," Conkle said.

Not pure gasoline; ethanol blends are causing problems in small engines.

"This technology is not ready for ethanol, that's the bottom line," Joe Sarlo of Sarlo Mowers said.

Sarlo says when ethanol sits in small engines, the blended fuel attracts water and corrodes small pieces.

"The fuel itself is good, but when fuel sits in small areas in small quantities, and especially for up to 30 days at a time, this is what happens," Sarlo said.

All types of small engines are affected.

"We get deterioration of fuel lines, we get carburetors that appear to have a lot of water in them, because ethanol attracts water," Florida Motor Sports Shop Foreman David Craddock said.

The problems have gotten so severe, every item sold at Florida Motor Sports comes with a warning describing what ethanol can do to small engines.

"You could call it an epidemic because about 90% of what we see is a result of the ethanol problem," Craddock said.

"That's a separate issue from what would happen on cars using E-15," Steve Johnson of Terry Wynter Auto Repair said.

Johnson says for cars, E-15 blends would force more fuel through car engines, causing them to run hot. He says if cars aren't calibrated correctly for the higher ethanol blend, engines will burn up.

"It'll be a fact of life if they come in to replace E-10, then there's going to be a lot of recalibration required," Johnson said.

Experts say to prevent damage you should run engines on a regular basis so fuel doesn't sit and attract water.

When E-15 hits the market, make sure your car is calibrated correctly before using it.

source: abc-7

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