Q: I was interested in your column on diesel fuel in gasoline engines. In the summer at our lake home I buy ethanol-free gasoline. I use it in the boats, lawn tractor, lawn mower, trimmers and other small engines. I have been told it is a better fuel for these purposes. At summer's end I always have a few gallons left. Rather than store it over the winter I put it in my car, a 2011 Honda CRV. Am I doing any damage? Can you comment on the advisability of non-ethanol gas for these purposes?
A: No, you are not doing any harm to your Honda — or any other gasoline-powered motor vehicle — by using non-oxygenated fuel. In fact, it is my belief that gasoline engines of today would prefer non-oxy fuel — far less chance of moisture buildup and/or corrosion and measurably better fuel mileage.
I think it's important to acknowledge that gasoline engines were designed to operate on — wait for it — gasoline! Modern technology has allowed carmakers to build engines that can operate on, and tolerate, ethanol-blended fuels.
It is also my opinion that the use of ethanol as an octane enhancer in gasoline originally came about due to the outlawing of tetra-ethyl lead in the early 1980s. Tetra-ethyl lead was an inexpensive octane booster that also functioned as a "heat sink" or lubricant to improve the transfer of combustion heat from the exhaust valve into the valve seat and cylinder head. Unfortunately, after decades of use it became clear that tetra-ethyl lead also is a toxic compound that damages the environment.
There's nothing harmful in using oxygenated fuels in modern engines but it is poorly suited to seasonal-use equipment and small engines. Oxy-fuels don't like to sit for lengthy periods due to the potential for phase separation — water and gas — and corrosion.
So no worries, your Honda will run just fine or non-oxy fuel.
Q: My daughter has a 2002 Ford Taurus with the 3.0-liter engine with 59,000 miles on it in very good condition. She is having an issue with the car stalling. The car first stalled after it had been in the shop to have the heater core flushed, coolant changed and some hoses replaced. It first started stalling when she was braking but has since progressed to stall sometimes when she is sitting at a stoplight. The car always starts again right away. The Ford dealer said that there were no codes and verified that the fuel pressure was good, ruling out a fuel pump or filter issue. Any advice?
A: I realize this may sound too obvious, but a leaking or failed brake booster vacuum hose, check valve or booster would generate this precise scenario. It would create a significant vacuum leak anytime the brakes were applied whether driving or sitting at a stop, potentially causing a stall.
Q: In regard to Chrysler minivans burning some oil, the worst oil-waster I ever had was my 1977 Mazda Cosmo, whose rotary engine got to the point where it was using a quart every 15 miles. I sure loved driving that car, though.
A: The problem with the early rotary engines and their epitrochoid-shaped combustion chamber was the apex seals on the three-lobe rotor. As the rotor spins inside the eccentric-shaped combustion chamber, these seals were designed to seal the tips of the rotor to the wall of the combustion chamber. As the apex seals wore, this sealing action deteriorated and increasing amounts of oil were left in the combustion chamber and burned. The first symptom or worn apex seals was long crank times when cold, due to lack of proper compression.
The Wankel rotary engine is an ingenious work of engineering — very light weight, few moving parts, high power output and with today's materials and engineering, long service life.
Paul Brand is the author of "How to Repair Your Car" and "How to Repair Your Truck and SUV," published by Motorbooks.