Kernel Knowledge: One man on a mission to show how ethanol is wrecking your engine



August 24, 2011

To leave one of Ed Syrocki’s standing-room-only ethanol education seminars is to go home amazed, enlightened, and probably a little upset. Syrocki doesn’t just claim ethanol destroys fuel lines, wrecks fuel pumps and clogs accelerators—he lets you see the damage for yourself. Find out why Syrocki is on a one-man grassroots campaign to educate historic vehicle owners about the damage ethanol fuel is doing to their engines.

Ed Syrocki just might be the only mechanic in America who’s tired of getting paid for his work.                

“It about my reputation—my ability to fix an engine,” says the owner of EMS Classic Car Care of Warren, Michigan. “It’s being called into question because of things I can’t control.”

What Syrocki can’t control is what ethanol-blended fuel does to his customers’ engines. Since 1998, Syrocki has specialized in repairing and maintaining all types of historic vehicles.

“From Corvairs to Lamborghinis,” he says. “We don’t specialize in restoration. We specialize in making these cars run, and run well.”

Syrocki is plain-spoken and modest about the quality of his work, but the constant parade of customers who travel far and wide to his Warren, Michigan, garage are testament to his integrity and reputation. Since founding EMS Classic Car Care in 1998, feature stories have appeared in a number of automotive magazines and national newspapers. Customers have gone on to present cars at the Meadow Brook Concours and other top shows and concours.

Despite the wheelchair and crutches he has used since contracting polio in 1957, Syrocki can be found working under the hood almost every day of the week. But these days, he says, most of his hours seem to be spent diagnosing engine problems caused by ethanol-blended fuel.

More Time, More Repairs

Ethanol—a blend of ethyl alcohol and gasoline (usually 10 percent ethanol, known as E10)—acts as a solvent that is believed to cause problems for older cars with engines not designed for this type of fuel.

“In the past three years, work on fuel-related repairs has more than doubled,” he says. “Gas tanks, floats going bad, fuel pumps, carburetors—where it used to be that most of our work was related to other mechanical problems, now three days every week is spent working on cars with fuel systems damaged by ethanol-blended fuel.”

Since founding the company, Syrocki has always made follow-up calls to customers after their car left his shop to see how the vehicle was performing.

“But people started calling me and saying the same problem was back,” he says. “And it wasn’t just after a long winter ‘sitting period’ when the car was left in the garage. I found that E10 damage to a vehicle’s fuel systems can begin if the car is left to sit only a few weeks. Based on what I seen, I believe that with E15 the damage would be almost instantaneous.”

In the Trenches

For the last three years, Syrocki has collected cracked and damaged fuel system parts. He’s conducted his own fuel tests. When a customer would reappear complaining of the same engine trouble over and over again, Syrocki took the time to show them gas samples so they could see ethanol fuel separation. He tore apart gas tanks and cut open damaged fuel lines to show the effects of ethanol. Then he also told customers what they could do to prevent the damage in the future:

“Use a soy-based fuel additive,” he says (Syrocki recommends Shaeffer Oil’s Soy Ultra, which encapsulates the damaging water molecules ethanol fuel attracts).  “Never let the vehicle sit without topping off the tank and keep your fingers crossed.”   

Finally, one Saturday this past July, Syrocki decided to take his findings and his message to the masses. He opened his garage and on the night of his first free slide show and three-hour presentation, every one of the 200 chairs in the place was full.

Ethanol Show-And-Tell

“I’m just a mechanic who fixes this stuff,” he says. “I’m not a scientist, but people were spellbound. The seminar is like a show-and-tell.”

Syrocki does for a room full of people what he used to do for customers, one at a time. He’s conducted three ethanol education seminars for historic vehicle enthusiasts this summer and is planning more.

“I’m volunteering all my time because ethanol is just wrong,” he says, adding that he has yet to find a sure-fire cure to help historic vehicle owners completely protect their investment. “I tell people to contact their senators and demand that we just get rid of it.”

With government subsidies and farmers making money on corn grown for fuel, Syrocki understands that ethanol might never go away. In the meantime, he’d be happy to see states be able to opt out of using ethanol fuel or simply to see a lonely pump in the corner of every filling station that serves up pure unleaded fuel.

“I understand the market of those in the business of ethanol.  I have a market for repairs,” says Syrocki. “I just don’t believe in letting damage happen on the backs of others. And I don’t like having to do the same job twice.”

The Historic Vehicle Association has already assisted Ed Syrocki in providing ethanol education materials, information on how to contact lawmakers, sample letters from individuals and clubs to congress and direction on how to sign our EthaNo Petition.  To find out how you can attend the next ethanol education seminar hosted by Syrocki should contact him through his website http://emsccc.webs.com/.

 

Comments

  1. Stu Slotnick Sarasota Florida

    This is a big problem for me and my VWs. Thankfully we have 1 station in town that offer ethanol free!

  2. bart evans towanda,pa

    Great information would like to know more . hats off to syrocki . Bart

  3. Rod Dahlgren Napa, Ca

    I too have seen the effects of ethanol. Fuel system repairs are only the beginning. The engines are running leaner and hotter causing internal damage. We are trying to preserve automotive history and it is becoming more difficult to keep these cars running. Our cars are part of history. We are very conservative about how we care for them so they will remain for generations that follow. These fuel and oil blends we are using is not acceptable.

  4. fredRivers Modesto,CA

    Iwascuriousastowhatcarisfeaturedinthearticle

  5. Alex Seattle, WA

    You can find ethanol free gas vendors at www.pure-gas.org. They're listed by state. Many of them are close to small airports and sell to general aviation pilots who converted their engines to run on regular automobile gasoline BUT it has to be enthanol free to work at altitude and is required by FAA who approves each conversion. I run my '05 Ford Focus on ethanol free gas ... measureable gains include regular mixed driving getting 31 mpg - most freeway @ 34 mpg - about 2 mpg better. The ethanol free gas costs about 10% more. Seat of the pants measurements include smoother operation, noticeably better acceleration and going up hills in 5th gear which previously required downshifts to 4th.d Question: If ethanol blends are economically efficient fuels, why are the corn growers using diesel? **Editor's note: The HVA website also provides a map of ethanol-free gas stations, organized by state. Click "Departments", "Legislative" and "Ethanol-Free Gas Stations".**

  6. Roger Barnes Cheyenne, WY

    I have always endeavored to keep ethanol out of all my cars, but lately my last refuge has been purchased by a group out of Utah and they've introduced ethanol into all their grades of gasoline. As a result I've stopped driving my older cars all together (pre 1980's), but am concerned about the newer cars I am driving (1980's and 1990's). Can you tell me whether any of the vehicles from the last century are safe from this scourge, and whether there is a way I can enjoy driving my older cars again?!

  7. Bob Desio Smithtown, NY

    If there is no sure fire solution, what steps can be take to lessen the impact of the blended fuels and to increase the life of the fuel systems parts?

  8. andrew new york

    great article. What everyone also has to know about is the effects of ethanol on small engines. especially two cycle...brutal

  9. Kurt Chicago

    I do not see any connection from Soy Ultra to helping with the ethanol problem. Is Soy Ultra just Ed’s recommendation for a fuel additive regardless of whether you are using E10 or normal unleaded gas?

  10. Conrad Palumbo Longwood Florida

    I have a 1966 Mustand Conv restored and driven only during good weather and mostly on weekend, many time we travel for extended periods of time and the car will sit can we add any additives to the fuel to eliminate or compensate for the effects of ethanol on the engine

  11. Bruce Kline Boston,MA

    I have felt this way for years and hope that this article will get widespread publicity in collector car publications/websites. I have used STP in my gas and ZDDP in my oil for several years with good results in my 55 Mercedes Benz.

  12. Jessie J Berghuis Appleton, Wisconsin

    My classic car isn't super old, Like from the 50's, But it is from an era when I was young and in high school.I loved these cars because I worked part time at a new car dealership washing and prepping new Pontiacs and Chevrolets for customers.In 1995 I purchased a 1984 Pontiac Grand Prix Brougham 2 door coupe. It was in an estate sale and I got it for a good price.After a total restoration in 1997 and a built up 1970 Chevy 350 smallblock that replaced the original 305 4bbl. The 350 seems to run great on a 50/50 mix of Turbo Blue race fuel and super unleaded (no ethanol) from BP It is the only gas station that has 91 octane super unleaded with NO ethanol.Other than a rotten rubber fuel line that goes from the steel line to the fuel pump is all the damage I could find. It has a new Edelbrock 4bbl and hardened valve seats with stainless steel valves to use unleaded fuels. Can this stuff still destroy my engine? It is a 1970 block with 400 heads.

  13. Roger Dart Deerfield, IL

    If you love old cars, read this!!

  14. CRAIG GESKE MINNEAPOLIS

    I took MN dot to court on the float in my carb discriminating and flooding the intake, U OF M , ran test on the float and found the Ethanol did the break down of the carb float. DOT, wanted me to just be quiet. and Paid for all repairs due to the ethanol destruction of my carb. , the other issue is fuel injectors on most new cars have a plastic ring set within. and we all know plastic is OIL based. and alcohol is a break down factor for oil. Thus the rings in injectors are drying , cracking and leaking poorly. We need to petition our congress with evidence to the fact and stop backing corn production, to farming tax breaks, and stop the alcohol production period for auto based vehicles. Hydrogen based cars have been built by GM including a HUMMER> why are we not going to supplemental Hydrogen gas based cars instead of alcohol. Hydrogen has NO polution factors, yet alcohol still burns and gives of carbon.

  15. Tom Phillips Suttons Bay, MI

    Yes, E10 is a definite problem for all fuel systems that were not designed to withstand it's impact. And, don't forget, E20 is on the horizon. I am fortunate to live in an area that is a very popular boating destination. While it is not handy to come by, there is pure gas at local marina pumps. The marine industry has done quite a bit of research in this area and further information is available via a google search of marine pure gas resources and locations. If you are active in a car club, I suggest you lobby a local gas station to devote a tank and pump to pure gas. It is still being refined and sold to the marine industry. It is also helpful in older power equipment of all types.

  16. Joel Keefer Coopersburg, PA

    Right On, Ed!!!! More of us in the restoration industry need to get on this bandwagon, educate our clients, and lobby our legislators on the ethanol issue. We can either sit back and moan about the problem, or we can do something about it!!!

  17. John Simbeck State College PA

    Try using good old fashioned Marval Mystery Oil in ALL your vehicles. 1 oz / 7 to 8 gal for late model, 1 oz 5 gal for classic, and any small engine. 3 1/2 years of testing, no failures. Sno-blower, generator, 86 190E 2-3 16v, 1974 911, all OK So easy. many customer cars too. Tip, leave the fuel on in little motor stuff HTH HJ

  18. steve flickinger PA

    I wish more people would know more about the affects of ethanol. I have been telling everyone that I come in contact with. I wish we could stop the government from shoving this down our throats. They just want the old cars off the road.

  19. Woody Snell Alabama

    Thank you very much for an unemotional, factual article on a subject near and dear to my Model A Ford's heart!

  20. robert pollak fairport ny

    info on additive

  21. Bill OGorman Cortland NEW YORK

    I have understood the damage that E10 does and have told others about it... but I think the truth lies in revenue. When the farmer competes with Big Oil for corn, the cost of our fuel and food both rise. When you get less MPG with Ethanol Blends, you go to the pump more often and in turn pay fuel tax more often. Taxes are revenue... city, county and state and money they get by claiming to be eco friendly while they systematically tax us and kill our collector vehicles.

  22. Sheila Krieger United States

    Thank you for the very informative story. This article may have explained what is going on with my 1972 Chevelle right now!

  23. Scott Harris Denver NC

    Very good article!! I hope this a petition, that is being sent to congress. THANX!!

  24. chas Stanton United States

    Mahalo Ed for your dedication to enlighten the masses that simply go along with what ever the EPA dictates. I have short tale as well. In the late '70's I worked for a quaint American motorcycle manufacturer based in Milwaukee. I had mounted a Lectron brand high performance carburetor on my FXE. Then after a month or so ethanol supplemented fuels hit the area. Within 2 months, the clear float bowl was cracked, the rubber tipped metering needle had disintegrated, and my rubber fuel lines split. I talked to the fuel engineers and they told me about the corrosive effects of ethanol on fuel systems. I asked the engineers who worked with the EPA "What are they doing for the owners of older vehicles?" They reply was "Nothing, they don't care about you." I came away with a new understanding about the role of government in the affairs of 'little people.' No matter how much the elected politicians say they do care, their civil service bureaucrats don't care a flying fig. They simply don't care, they only thing we can do is limit the laws by voting for less intrusive, small governments.

  25. Bryan Jamtaas Lynnwood WA

    I too have felt the difference of the E10 vs pure unleaded. I have run my 1966 El Camino on E10 untill I found a local coop supply that still carries pure fuel. I always had a hesitation and cough whrn I accelerated. When I filled up with non ethanol gas, it only took a few blocks to feel the difference in power and how smooth it runs.

  26. Mack King Crossville, TN

    Compelling info! I was not aware of the storage degradation effects of ethanol on engines and fuel systems I always fill the tank with premium fuel and add StaBil prior to storing my C6 and C2 Corvettes. From now on I will add Soy Ultra, and be more aware of using only non-ethanol additive premium fuel.

  27. Walter E. Lewis Warren, Michigan

    I live in Warren and I would be VERY interested in hearing this gentleman speak on this issue. I am wondering if my car could be affected, I have a 1984 Chevy Cavalier with a 2.0 liter with throttle body fuel injection. This past spring I had extensive work done to rebuild the throttle body unit and also replaced the original distributor module that almost 200,000 miles. Should I start using the additive he mentions with this newer car?

  28. Walter E. Lewis Warren, Michigan

    I live in Warren and I would be VERY interested in hearing this gentleman speak on this issue. I am wondering if my car could be affected, I have a 1984 Chevy Cavalier with a 2.0 liter with throttle body fuel injection. This past spring I had extensive work done to rebuild the throttle body unit and also replaced the original distributor module that almost 200,000 miles. Should I start using the additive he mentions with this newer car?

  29. George Helwig St. Clair Shores, MI.

    Thanks ed, I just drove my '55 Olds 98 from Vermont to here. I have a stumble & hesitation with my 4GC . I think I now know what I have to do. Thanks for a great bit of Education & the info on products. George Helwig VMCCA Lakeshore Chapter

  30. George Helwig St. Clair Shores, MI.

    Thanks ed, I just drove my '55 Olds 98 from Vermont to here. I have a stumble & hesitation with my 4GC . I think I now know what I have to do. Thanks for a great bit of Education & the info on products. George Helwig VMCCA Lakeshore Chapter

  31. Chuck DeMund North Carolina

    It will not be long before some collector's garage goes up in flames when a fuel hose disintegrates and drains the tank onto the floor. Happened with my '48 F-1 Pickup when a rubber line by the SB 350 fuel pump gave out. Slowly dripped 9 gallons of gas over many days to empty the tank. Fortunately there's no ignition sources in my garage or I would have lost the pickup, a '37 Buick, a '28 Model A Woodie, my '63 Buick Wildcat and probably my home. Same story with the '37 Roadmaster when line to electric fuel pump gave out. The rubber turns to mush!

  32. Chuck DeMund North Carolina

    It will not be long before some collector's garage goes up in flames when a fuel hose disintegrates and drains the tank onto the floor. Happened with my '48 F-1 Pickup when a rubber line by the SB 350 fuel pump gave out. Slowly dripped 9 gallons of gas over many days to empty the tank. Fortunately there's no ignition sources in my garage or I would have lost the pickup, a '37 Buick, a '28 Model A Woodie, my '63 Buick Wildcat and probably my home. Same story with the '37 Roadmaster when line to electric fuel pump gave out. The rubber turns to mush!

  33. Dan Muskegon, Mi

    Shaffer Oils Soy Ultra is not sold locally, the nearest retailer being about 35 miles away. Aside from ordering online, will Sea Foam work? In reading their FAQ, it appears that it also encapsulates the ethanol molecules, and desperses it through the fuel system.

  34. Jim Michigan

    This is something I suspected for quite some time and confirmed it a few years ago through the same 'biopsies' of damaged fuel system parts that Ed is using as teaching aides. I have been using leaded racing fuels ever since. The extra cost of the fuel is offset by having a reliable toy and a little extra power too. I'd much rather be playing that wrenching :) Ed Syrocki is doing the collector car community a great service. Kudos!

  35. Joe Martin Sewell,NJ

    That explains why I had to replace the carb on my 1966 Buick Skylark that sits in a garage and gets 1000 miles a year. The float went bad in a year. Also I have replaced 3 rubber priming bulbs on yard equipment. It.s not an expensive repair, but surely an inconvienience. What can we do to make a difference before we lose our classic cars???

  36. Marc Bergeron United States

    Interestingly, the same company who founded HVA ran the following article in 2009: http://www.hagerty.com/Hagerty-Online/News/Industry-News/All-articles/2009/08/13/Ethanol-Demonic-or-Devine ETHANOL: DEMONIC OR DEVINE? Jonathan A. Stein & Craig Hoff, PH .D. August 13, 2009 After several months and a full 3,000 hours of testing, the Hagerty study found that there was no difference between the performance of the SU carburetors (from a 1962 MGA) running E10 and the ones flowing E0 (gasoline without ethanol). **Editor's note: this study also concluded that, "Short-term performance on E10 was unaffected, but there were indications that operating an SU-equipped vehicled over a long period of time may require more frequent fuel system maintenance to replace seals and remove varnishes and particulate buildup on components... Softening or cracked seals and gaskets could allow leakage, and the varnish could impede throttle shaft operation."

  37. Jackie Paul Williams West Valley Utah.

    I think the government is trying to get rid of all the old classic cars. For some reason thay think that the old cars are causing the AIR PROBLUMS we are having. This is crazy, For the miles I put on my 1954 oldsmobile 2 door hard top which are about 600 miles a year if that. there's know way that can cause a problum. you talk about ethanol runing the rubber hoses and fuel pumps. Is the a addative we can put in the fuel to stop some of the damage??. Thank's for the Info. Jackie Paul Williams

  38. Nate Bilaal New Jersey

    I've had some hiccups with my 71 240Z, and some hesitation. I thought it was a carb problem, and rebuilt the set, but still have the same problem. Has anyone else tried the Marvel mystrey oil treatment of ethonal gas and DOES IT REALLY WORK ???

  39. Bradley Schad Missouri

    My dad has a 71 Torino that we have had to work on multiple times because the fuel has went bad so i know your concern and it is very aggravating. However ethanol is alcohol and doesnt go bad so to blame ethanol for this is questionable as well. Since you have mentioned that you have done some research and tests yourself I challenge you to do one more to see if you agree with me. Take 4 sealable containers and put the Straight gasoline that you dont have the problem with in one and take an regular e10 gasoline and then straight ethanol, then take the last container and put straight gasoline and add 10% ethanol. Then you have 2 options either just let it set and observe the changes or add some of the parts to each one of these containers and then observe. Be sure put the same size and type into each container though. I have done this and noticed that the e10 blend will change the quickest then the straight gasoline and other blend then you will not notice much change in the straight ethanol. I hope this will help you realize that it is not ethanol that is causing your problem.

  40. Mike Harrison North Rose N Y

    After 3 years of ethanol usage in a 1972 MGB GT, I found the ethanol had penetrated and filled the carburetor floats.

  41. Alvin Shier Canmore, Alberta Canada

    As an automotive writer and long term enthusiast I'm worried that over time people are going to abandon the hobby in droves leaving a huge hole in at the enthusiasts level. Having just come back from visiting my son in Boise Idaho, I noticed that Phillips 66 service stations sell only "Real Gas" at their outlets, at least in this the state capital. They proclaim in bold letters on blvd signs that they only sell "Real Gas - no ethanol here" Is this just a regional thing or does this chain of filling stations have this policy Country wide? I'm unaware of any Ethanol free stations north of 49. God bless our hobby in the long term.

  42. Mike litsky Rotonda West FL.

    One of our club members returned to MD and started his car in the garage after it was sitting for five months. It caused a fire when the carb jets were destroyed from the e-10. It destroyed his six classic cars and his home for over forty years burned to the ground. I now use only e-10 free gas in my 300k conv. do not put e-10 in your classic cars.