I've heard from quite a few of you from various parts of the country concerned about finding ethanol-free (100% gasoline) gas for your boats. With warmer weather coming up, many of you may be filling up for the first time this year. There are different laws covering gasoline sales for marinas. Federal law requires notification when a fuel dock is pumping gasoline with ethanol. It's important to pay close attention to the pumps so you know what you're getting.

Many boaters (and vehicle owners, for that matter) have been asking us for a feature that would enable people to report if gasoline at a station contains ethanol. While this is something we may start in the future, implementation may be difficult as more areas of the United States slowly move towards including ethanol in gasoline. Remember- marinas must already label their pumps according to law.

As time goes on, it seems boaters have been increasingly worried as of late about gasoline with ethanol in their boats. Boat-engine manufacturer Mercury Marine says that their newer engines are designed to run on gasoline containing up to 10% ethanol, but that leaves older engines at risk. The age of the engine should be determined- even engines just a few years old may have problems, but replacing or overhauling an old engine may mean that E10 is safe- check with the mechanic first. Many older engines that utilize a carburetor have reported being "gummed up" by ethanol. Also boats with fiberglass tanks should avoid ethanol.

Even after boaters fix their equipment, another problem is that water may enter the storage tank at stations at some point before the gasoline is dispensed to your boat. Gasoline and water don't mix, so you may see start or shutdown issues. Many issues with ethanol and boats can be caused by poor housekeeping that allows mixing of ethanol with water or other chemicals, such as MTBE (which has been phased out). These problems can also cause your boat to run poorly or not at all. Ethanol also acts as a cleaning agent and has the potential to remove years of buildup in an engine or even a fuel tank. Without replacing fuel filters, the buildup can cause problems for boaters. Make sure to check your filters often.

Ethanol issues sometimes are caused by poor maintenance or improper housekeeping of a boat, or sometimes because older boats have equipment that ethanol will destroy. It might be best to pay to have your engine and fuel system checked and your filters changed. That way this summer can be an enjoyable one spent on the lake- not waiting for your boat to be fixed.