Will E15 Fuel Harm Your Engine?

Questions about E15

The politics of corn run deep in this country, as the highly subsidized crop is used for both food and fuel.

Ethanol, the corn-derived alcohol that is sold at gas stations around the country in E10, E15 or E85 fuel, is often cheaper than straight gasoline. Flex-fuel vehicles can run on the E85 (85 percent ethanol, 15 percent gasoline) fuel, while the EPA has approved E10 and E15 fuels for all 2001 and newer vehicles.

That’s where the controversy begins, as some accuse the EPA of approving E15 before testing on its compatibility with modern fuel systems was complete. Most automakers don’t recommend its use, even going so far as to say using E15 will void the vehicle’s warranty.

Is E15 safe to use, or will it cause serious damage?

Depends on who you ask.

The American Petroleum Institute has completed testing on E15 and has some scathing things to say. In a press release to the media, API says:

The additional E15 testing, completed this month, has identified an elevated incidence of fuel pump failures, fuel system component swelling, and impairment of fuel measurement systems in some of the vehicles tested. E15 could cause erratic and misleading fuel gauge readings or cause faulty check engine light illuminations. It also could cause critical components to break and stop fuel flow to the engine. Failure of these components could result in breakdowns that leave consumers stranded on busy roads and highways.

Keep in mind this comes from the American *Petroleum* Institute, which has a vested interest in the use of, you know, petroleum. Still, its findings are enough to question the EPA’s approval of E15.

Ask the Renewable Fuels Association, though, and you’ll be told that moving from E10 to E15 will not harm vehicles newer than 1994, according to a study commissioned by the organization. The RFA says:

This analysis provides conclusive evidence for the EPA that there is no reason to limit the availability of E15 to newer vehicles only. This analysis together with affirmative results in reports from the Department of Energy and other academic and private testing institutions show that there are no significant issues with the use of E15 in virtually all vehicles on the road today.

Right. Someone here isn’t telling the truth. Is it the API, nervous about a growing supply of petroleum and the use of renewable fuels, or is it the RFA, doing what it can to keep a high dollar value on corn grown in the U.S.?

It’s up to you and me, the American public, to decide. I happen to believe corn should be used for food and will avoid ethanol mixes at the pump. I’ll opt instead for high-octane pure gasoline, just as my automaker recommends.

Will you, or do you already, use E15 fuel in your vehicle?


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  1. I have a 94 chevy c1500 can I put e10 or e15 in it and will it still run fine I have a $100 Bet on this that it won’t hurt it

  2. Put 14 gallons of E15 in my 2006 Odyssey. Triggered the “check engine light,” and disabled the “economy” VCM system. Had the light reset — “Both Banks Running Lean,” and it triggered again. Drove 300 hwy miles and burned up all that E15. Refilled. No “check engin light,” and VCM working like normal.

  3. Hello: I’m just concerned if e-15 will bother my 2010 Chevy Colorado with the 2.9,4cyl. I here that stations maybe switching to it. I just don’t want to have a big expensive fix, if I would have to use it.

  4. I have a flex fuel 2012 dodge ram ( non hemi) pickup, the tag says approved for e85 but in my state e85 is not readily available but I’m seeing e15 poo up everywhere, what is the difference between e85 and e15 and can I safely rum e15 in my pickup

    • Yes you can run E-15 in a flex fuel vehicle just fine. E-15 just means it is 15% Ethanol rather then E-85 being 85%.

  5. Randy… as those are all great talking points a few of them are slightly false. I live in the center of an ethanol producing state but I do not approve of the ethanol subsidy that is pushed so hard. My problem however is with all the fallacy that goes along with the propaganda against ethanol.

    The byproducts of Ethanol, ie processed corn, Is still used as a food source for livestock so its not a complete waste for one process over another.

    Processing grain into ethanol Is hardly “dirtier” than processing Crude into usable Gas. For instance If you can tell me that an oil drill rig or a fracking plant is cleaner running than a tractor and a combine you might be smoking some colorado pot. The process its self is actually cleaner and the byproducts of the process are all usable and not pollutants.

    IT drives up food and fuel costs because we dont have enough farmers producing corn anymore so its a high demand low supply issue.

    As far and the industry doing more harm than good….While I wont say that ethanol is the answer because I dont believe it is I don believe that the stuff we have learned from Ethanol not only from a production aspect but from an automotive alternate fuel standpoint is priceless and valuable information that would never have come to light.

    Ethanol is not the devil

  6. The tragedy of the ethanol debate is that as a fuel that is supposed to be “green”, it’s actually dirty stuff that is very bad for our country in many ways. First and foremost, it takes more energy to produce ethanol from food products than the process creates. Second, it drives up food prices, both meat and produce, and reduced food production from drought actually threaten large price spikes because of ethanol demand.

    Unfortunately, the ethanol industry is a subsidized and profitable business with govenment protection, even when the industry does more harm than good. Until cellular ethanol production comes of age (which does not impact food supplies) ethanol will continue to be a bad deal for the country.

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