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Q&A with Kit Foster: May 24, 2012

Q. Thanks for printing my letter regarding STA-BIL (March 1 Q&A). Kit says he needs more information. I thought I made my point that in owning the car 41 years, the only time I had the problem was the one time I used that product. The car is a ’66 Plymouth, the fuel was most likely 10 percent ethanol, and the tank was not full. I’m sure the fumes and the contact of STA-BIL with the rubber donut caused the problem.

I have 10 running old cars from 1935 to 1984. I only chose to treat that one car as it sits the most. All the cars use the same fuel but I never used STA-BIL in the others, nor would I after that experience. Believe me, ethanol was not the problem. All my cars are sitting right now with ethanol in their tanks.

Craig Henderson, via e-mail

A. I will only point out that a scientific test to pinpoint the cause of a problem should involve changing only one variable at a time, and to be conclusive the experiment must be repeatable.


Q. I suggest that the problem that Craig Henderson experienced with the expansion of the rubber fill tube “donut” (March 1 issue) was caused by the effects of ethanol fuel and not caused by the use of STA-BIL. I purchased a piece of filler neck rubber hose from an aftermarket manufacturer of replacement gas tanks. The salesman did not know if the hose was resistant to ethanol. I decided to try my own test by submerging the rubber fill hose in a container of ethanol that was not sealed from the environment. After two months the rubber did indeed swell and became loose fitting on the steel filler tube. This result confirms the deteriorating effects of ethanol on non-ethanol-resistant rubber fuel hose.

Whitman Browne, Boston, Mass.

A. As I said in the March 1 column, ethanol is well-known for deteriorating some materials that were commonly used in fuel systems before alcohol blends. That alone is good reason to replace hoses, etc., on an old car with new, ethanol-safe materials.


Q. I have tried to stay out of the ethanol questions and I thought they were pretty well covered, but after Mr. Henderson’s story in the March 1 edition of Old Cars Weekly, I can no longer remain silent. I started a big restoration on my 1954 Ford in 2002. It had about one-fourth of a tank of gas in it at the time and I put STA-BIL fuel treatment in it because I knew it would be a while before I would get it finished. It turned out to be longer than I thought, because I came down with rheumatoid arthritis and wasn’t able to work on it for five years.

I decided to use the fuel stabilizer when I began the project because I had good luck using it in my boat on Lake Fork. The boat has a Buick V-6 engine and has been hanging in its stall since 1993 about two feet above the water. Our temperature ranges from 19 degrees to 107 and the boat has a roof over it but no sides, so it is constantly subjected to the outdoor temperature. Being so close to the water, it gets all the evaporation from the lake, plus one winter I didn’t close the gas cap completely, so there was not much of a seal to the tank.

I added about five gallons of gas to the Ford since 2002 and I drove to get it painted, once inside and once to paint the instrument panel; then a couple of years ago to get tires put on and again to get the wheels lined up, and just two months ago to show a friend how the car looked. In 10 years I have driven the car less than 150 miles and I added STA-BIL when I added gas. I have never had a problem with fuel in the boat or my old Ford. I can’t think of how anyone could put gas to any more of a test. Oh, I can go out to the garage and start the ol’ ’54 right now if I wanted to, but I’ll wait until I need to use it because I am almost out of gas.

It’s quite possible that the ethanol got to Mr. Henderson’s rubber coupling and caused it to swell and weaken, and I know it will waste a fuel pump’s diaphragm because I have had that problem. Also, flexible fuel lines made before alcohol was required also suffered from its effects. Parts made since the change are able to tolerate the alcohol.

Keep up the good work and thanks for letting metell my story.

Ray Lunday, Emory, Texas

A. To sum up, I don’t think we can say STA-BIL didn’t cause Mr. Henderson’s problem, but based on his one experience we can’t say that it did, either. There is plenty of evidence that ethanol does cause some older materials to disintegrate, so it’s wise to replace them with modern equivalents. Regarding reader Ray Lunday’s experience with STA-BIL, even its manufacturers say it’s good for up to 12 months, but they don’t claim it lasts forever.

To submit questions to this column: E-mail or mail to: Q&A, c/o Angelo Van Bogart, 700 E. State St., Iola, WI 54990-0001.

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