Use a Fuel Stabilizer for Winter Car Storage

fuel filter for gas
Even a good fuel filter can't stop ethanol issues. Matt Wright

If you're planning to put your car up for winter, there are a number of routes you can take to protect your car or truck's fuel system. Today's Ethanol infused fuels can really do a number of the delicate parts of your carburetors or fuel injection components, leaving you stranded in the spring and spending money on unnecessary repairs. Ethanol is a terrible thing in my opinion. It's added to fuels in an attempt to reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil supplies, replacing that portion of the fuel with a domestically grown and refined fuel product based on corn.

The problems with Ethanol are many, but there are two issues which I find to be the worst offenders. First is the fact that Ethanol can do all kinds of damage to your engine and fuel system when it's not run at high temperature or is stored for an extended period of time. Why would we put something into our engines that has a high likelihood of damaging something? The second issue I have is a little more esoteric -- there's no advantage here in the U.S. to growing, refining or burning Ethanol. Corn prices have gone through the roof thanks to the Ethanol additives, and as more and more farmers switch to growing inedible fuel-bound corn crops they are leaving more necessary food crops behind. Again, the prices go up. Corn feed costs more, so beef prices, pork prices, milk prices and countless other food sources that rely on corn feed go up. It's a mess. How did I digress to this point? Sorry.

Fuel Stabilizers

We are talking about fuel stabilizers. My favorite is a brand called Sta-Bil, but there are a number of fuel stabilizers out there that do a good job at keeping your engine internals safe and sound in storage. To use a fuel stabilizer, all you need to do is our the recommended amount into your fuel tank along with the fuel that's in there.

Run the engine long enough for the stabilized fuel to reach all parts of the fuel system. This probably happens in five minutes or so in most cases, but to be sure I recommend adding the fuel stabilizer to your engine a day or two before you plan to store the vehicle. This will give you time to be absolutely sure that all of the old gas is out of the fuel lines, carburetor or fuel injection components and pumps and has been replaced with stabilized fuel that will not suffer the same breakdown. The Sta-Bil brand requires only one ounce of stabilizer for each two and a half gallons. If you break it down, that's very cheap insurance. 

In further researching fuel stabilizers, I found some interesting information, especially on Sta-Bil's website. I can't tell you how many theories, suppositions, warnings, and stories I hear about fuel additives. Everybody has an opinion. On the site, they address some of the most common myths they hear about their Sta-Bil product. These myths are repeated more or less universally in conversations about fuel storage and stabilizers. One of the myths I hear all the time involves what ingredient in these stabilizers is actually doing the stabilizing. I've heard alcohol, I've heard kerosene, and both of these are addressed.

I found the answer to the kerosene question interesting. They claim the stabilizer contains "...a highly-purified petroleum distillate to deliver our additive package to the fuel.  This solvent allows the additives to quickly blend completely into the fuel.  The additives themselves would be too concentrated to blend easily, especially in cold weather.  Use of more flammable solvents like gasoline would make shipping and storage too dangerous." Interesting stuff!

The bottom line is this: if you are going to store your vehicle for an extended period of time, you can drain and dry the whole system, or you can use a fuel stabilizer. For seasonal storage, the additive is the way to go, in my opinion. Longer or indefinite storage situations do call for a tank drain and the whole nine yards. Don't forget to fill your tires!