Dear Car Coach: A friend of mine was telling me about E15 gasoline and then he saw you on a national news show talking about it but couldn’t remember all the details. Can you clarify this? – W.L., Amherst
Dear W.L.: Here is what the news story was about and how it affects drivers. You may not even notice the sticker at the gas pump, but next to each pump is a square sticker stating E10, E85 or E15. E85, E15 or E10 tells you the percentage of ethanol blended in your gasoline. Note E85 is for “Flex-Fuel” vehicles only.
Ethanol is a corn derivative that now comprises 10 percent of the gasoline at most filling stations throughout the United States. Called E10, its main function is to reduce the amount of foreign oil we consume and produce fewer emissions. While this sounds great in theory, some evidence has shown that ethanol-blended gasoline can be harmful for various reasons, and now the EPA has approved as much as 15 percent, a 50 percent increase, of our gasoline be laden with it.
The EPA needs to recognize that no substantial testing has been conducted to determine the long-term effects of 15 percent ethanol-blended gasoline, or E15, and that further analysis and assessment are required before caving to the pressure of ethanol special interests.
Tests have shown that fuel efficiency drops with all ethanol as it has 30 to 35 percent less energy density than regular unleaded gas. This will force drivers to buy more fossil fuel and can increase our dependency on foreign oil, not to mention cause cars to produce more emissions.
E15 voids some manufacturers’ warranties as it can deteriorate emissions devices on cars because it burns hotter than regular unleaded gasoline.
What is the real environmental impact if it burns out catalytic converters, which are emissions devices? Drivers who can’t afford to replace or repair them will drive vehicles that will pollute more.
Many drivers will have negative results from E15 and will be responsible for expensive fuel system repairs. This includes replacement gas tanks, fuel lines and fuel pumps and emissions systems.
E15 must be transported via nontraditional methods, which increases the costs to manufacture and deliver. This also results in paying more for food costs while farmers switch over to corn crops.
Some tests have shown that cold weather starting is significantly affected by E15.
Other tests show that cars that are less than 10 years old aren’t as affected as older vehicles. If your car is a model year 2000 or older, don’t risk it; this could be a very expensive tank of gasoline.
Many boats, motorcycles, ATVs, jet skis, lawn mowers, leaf blowers, weed eaters, etc., are not equipped to run on ethanol-blended gasoline. E15 would only worsen this issue and cause further damage to the engines of these vehicles and devices. On paper, there are many valid arguments for E15, but preliminary tests and E10 usage show otherwise. Even the American Automobile Association and the Specialty Equipment Market Association have spoken out against E15 and the damage it causes to vehicles.
Dear Car Coach: I have bought a new car every 10 years since the ’60s and average about 15,000 miles a year. Along with regular oil changes, I change the coolant every two years/30,000 miles and transmission fluid every three years/50,000 miles. I just bought a 2012 Toyota RAV4 and the manual does not list any transmission fluid changes and lists the first coolant change at 100,000 miles. I know engines and lubricants are better now, but are these intervals adequate? – J.G., Buffalo
Dear J.G.: Technology and lubricants are constantly evolving. New synthetic engine oils should be changed every 7,500 to 10,000 miles based on the owner’s manual suggestions. The same holds true for transmissions. Some are sealed and others require more service. Some service stations may try to pressure you to do the changes earlier, but it’s about the up-sell. When it comes to coolant or antifreeze, long-life coolant provides 150,000 miles or five years of maximum protection when a complete cooling system flush and fill is performed. The owner’s manual should have a service schedule that I highly recommend following. When you decide to have any service performed, make sure to use the fluid recommended in your owner’s manual and shop around.