Kernel Knowledge: One Man on a Mission to Show How Ethanol is Wrecking Your Engine

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

Previous Post
Making Your Collector Car a Historic Treasure
Next Post
The Concierge’s Corner: America’s Best Swap Meets