Gas ingredient causing lawn mower problems

A John Deere lawn mower in a Finnish garden.

Image via Wikipedia

Have you started your mower yet this spring? If it started, you’re lucky because I bet you didn’t the steps you should have to prevent costly repairs to it.  You may have escaped problems this time around, but it may not happen next time.

Lawn mower repair companies are booming with business as consumers walk in befuddled as to why their mower didn’t start.  It has to do with what’s in our gas.  There’s up to 10% ethanol in our gas, and some states don’t tell you about it. In Ohio, there’s no regulation of gas so you have no idea what’s in it including ethanol.

In many states, there are stickers that say “May contain up to 10% ethanol” on the gas pump.  Small engines like lawn mowers and chain saws can’t handle the ethanol. It draws moisture, and with time the water droplets clog the lines in your mower and cause rust on your carburetor.  This doesn’t take long to happen.

You should only leave gas in your machines for two months at the longest, and that’s if you use a factory recommended stabilizer. Otherwise, the ethanol in the gas can cause problems.

The repairs can be costly, and often it’s cheaper to just buy a new machine. The solution is to rotate your gas often and drain it completely when you’re not using a machine for a long period of time.  Just because the gas should no longer sit in your lawn mower, doesn’t mean it can’t be used in your car. We go through so much more gas in our cars it’s not as big a deal. Plus, cars can deal with the ethanol better than small engines.

You can also buy ethanol free gas like MotoMix although it’s expensive at around $9 a quart. The manufacturers are trying to come up with new products to deal with this growing problem and new products are continually rolling out on the market.

This problem is likely only going to get worse. The EPA wants to allow up to 15% ethanol as their studies show many cars can safely use it.  There are many critics of adding that much ethanol to gas, but it’s a sign that this issue is not going away.

6 thoughts on “Gas ingredient causing lawn mower problems

  1. Thank you for the tip. This is the first year I have had problems with my mower. Usually I put a product called Sta-Bil in my left over gas in the mower tank and have no problems. This year not so. I was ready to buy a new mower,however this tip lets me know what other direction I can take.Keep up the good tips.


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  3. The E15 waiver is only for autos made from 2001 on, it exempts small engines and the waiver will not be implemented for years, if ever. Between several lawsuits and all of the EPA regulations that have to be changed plus the myriad of states that don’t allow the sale of E15, including CA the largest gasoline market in the world, E15 isn’t happening. ( has numerous blogs about why E15 won’t happen.)

    Unfortunately you missed the most serious point about ethanol and small engines. It is the engines that power portable tools used by Public Safety that are most vulnerable, especially when many of them sit idle for weeks or months and are then called into service and won’t start or crap out after a few minutes. It has already happened and it will spread as we hit the blending wall later this year or early next year and all of the gasoline in the U.S. is E10.


    • You are right — public safety is an issue. We talked about that during research on the story but we’re hearing most departments already drain their tanks so they do work in an emergency. The steps they take already helps avoid corrosion problems.

      It will be interesting to watch to see what happens with E15.

      Thanks for your comments.


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