E85 v/s gasoline

I am thinking of using E85 in my wife’s Dodge Caravan since it is set up to do so. However, I am getting conflicting information as to whether the fuel mileage will go down or not. One person has told me that they got worse mileage, while another person said that they got the same. At a savings of 50 cents a gallon (here in Ohio) I am wondering if it is worth it. Also, the owners manual calls for a special motor oil to be used for the E85 fuel use. Does anyone know what kind of oil this might be? No one at the auto parts stores knows about it. I normally use synthetic in this vehicle. Thanks.

Since ethanol contains less energy than gasoline, your gas mileage will definitely drop–perhaps as much as 15%. As to the motor oil, does the Owner’s Manual actually say that a “special kind of motor oil” must be used without giving some examples of the type of oil or the specification that it must meet?

What exactly does the manual say regarding the motor oil to be used when fueling the car with E85? If it only says “a special kind of oil” without giving any examples of what that means, then that is a poor example of an Owner’s Manual!

Since E85 contains less energy per gallon than gasoline, you’ll see a reduction in fuel mileage when used. As much as a 30% reduction. I also recommend that you read the owners manual for the vehicle for any special service instructions when E85 is used in the vehicle.

And by the way, that special motor oil that’s required can only be obtained from the dealer. Which is not cheap!


To sum up the first two responses, it will almost definitely cost you more to run the van on E85, both in fuel and maintenance (oil).

Yes, as others have pointed out, you will get MUCH WORSE gas mileage. The E85 configuration makes little sense, since that fuel will not be available nation-wide.

The car companies thought they would get credit for the 85% on their CAFE standards, i.e. the car only would use 15% of the fuel it actually uses. George Bush would have caved in to this, but cooler heads prevailed. It would be like getting credit for a plug-in hybrid ian an area where there is no electricity.

Environmentally, E85 is a bad deal, and it takes valuable cropland away from food production. The secretary general of the UN is now crying for a worldwide food shortage to be addressed.

Go to the Dealer. Buy one quart of the “special” oil. Read the ratings on the bottle. Take to several parts stores. Get info from them about which one of their oils match the ratings of the “special” oil from the dealer. Now this is not meant as blasphemy, then go to a quick lube place or two. Speak with the Manager. Ask him/her what oils they have that match the Dealer oil specs. Do not tell any of these places that you’ve spoken to anyone else. If they all say that it’s a “dealer item”, then I guess that you’re stuck with paying the Dealer for the oil. DO NOT have any work done at the quick-lube joints. (See! I told you that I wasn’t being blasphemous!). You can also check at Wally World, but the same warning: don’t let 'em do any work. If they have comparable oil, just buy the oil and change it out yours3elf or have a trusted friend or independent shop do it. Don’t forget to change the engine oil filter at every oil change. Stay away from FRAM oil filters. J.M.O. about the filter.
Once you’ve tracked down the right special oil, take the bottle back to the Dealer and get a refund. Just don’t open the bottle.

E85 is a failure. You’ll get worse mileage, pay more for your special oil, and you’ll pay more for your food at the grocery store. Don’t use it please, for the good of us all.

Well, I wouldn’t trust most of those folks to give me application data for oil. but if you run your specific car through the Mobil 1 website, you can see what they recommend:


I believe you will find that there is some plain old mobil 1 available that meets your car’s specifications. It’s cheap and available everyplace.

It will end up costing more than just using regular unleaded gas, but if you don’t mind paying more, I like the idea of supporting US farmers instead of supporting the oil companies. I say go for it.

The high food prices we pay are only minimally affected by E85 use. There are other causes for our high food prices that are not going away. The prices we are paying for food are the result of several factors that all converged at the same time. E85 is just one of them.

I have no problem with bio-fuels in general, but E85 is not a useful product (economically or environmentally). It will eventually go away anyway, in the mean time I have no interest in supporting farm welfare.

A lot of farmland and farms are now owned by large corporations…

That’s what people like you say when you don’t know the facts. Most family farms are incorporated. They have to be or otherwise the government would tax the farm out of existence everytime someone died in the family.

Yes, today’s farms are large in comparison to what they were in the 1940’s. Why? Back then 80 something percent of the population lived and worked on farms. Today it’s less than 2% and half of them don’t want to work. Farming is work and the vast majority of us don’t want anything to do with it. Eat your 3 meals a day and be thankful someone supplies it for you, or be my guest, go get your own mule and plow and get to work.


Regardless of ownership, I have no interest in buying a useless product to support them.

Oh, never mind.

Fram oil filters work very well for me; have for many years and many miles. I have one car as of now well over 225,000 miles with Fram oil filters used since 50,000 miles. Please provide evidence to indicate that Fram oil filters should be stayed away from. Eyeball inspection won’t work.

This is just a taunt as this topic comes up repeatedly and the final answer is always inconclusive. No, I don’t have a financial interest in Fram; just want Car Talk advice to be objective.

Fine don’t support the American farmers, please feel free to support the towl heads who are using your money to acquire nuclear weapons to kill us with.


Actually, a sizeable portion of America’s gasoline comes from Canada. Canada happens to export more oil than any other country. So, no, using more fuel doesn’t support ‘towl heads,’ it supports beer-swilling poutine eaters.

What is a towl?

What is a towl?

I think it’s something like a troll. (-;

I buy plenty of food products from “american farmers.” I don’t feel any need to fund this particular misguided attempt at alternate fuels. If a bio-fuel that is actually cost/energy effective comes along (possibly bio-diesel, if/when it’s widely available), I will buy it. E85 is the wrong product at the wrong time, just let it die. Some parts of the country (like iowa) will take a big hit when the bottom finally falls out of this fiasco, the longer it takes to die, the worse it will be; and they more money it will cost to bail them out.

I have nothing against family farms, but it is not my “duty” to support them either. They will survive if the a able to compete, if not they will disappear; I feel no obligation to support someone’s hobby/business if he can’t make it profitable. No-one is subsidizing me; if I don’t make money, I go out of business (maybe I need a better lobby in DC). Do you think I should start smoking and drinking to support american tobacco farms and distilleries too?

The one bright spot is the possibility that higher commodity prices in the US and EU will stop them from dumping food on the rest of the world and keeping developing world agriculture out of the world markets. Maybe we (both the US and EU) will finally stop pretending to “help” the developing world by selling/giving them subsidized western food while squeezing out (under-pricing) their local agriculture. That is little more than a very sleazy way to try to prop up the US/EU trade deficit. We are essentially acting as the “OPEC” of the world agriculture market (controlling prices by controlling the supply). This is another case where it would be appropriate to export technology instead of products (if we were really interested in helping).

I just saw something interesting about a fram filter in another forum, this is why I only use OEM filters: