Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation


At the turn of this century before leaving for several overseas tours of duty, I had heard pros and cons about ethanol as a fuel. The biggest pro was price and, with today’s prices in Texas hovering in the low three dollar range, buying what is called E85 (at least 70 percent ethanol) for about thirty cents less per gallon is very tempting.

Here’s the question: I have a 2003 Toyota Camry 4-cylinder and a 2001 Ford Ranger 6-cylinder, neither of which are designed to burn anything but gasoline. Would I be causing any damage to these vehicles by regularly filling up with E85?

Yes. If the vehicle was not designed for E85 then damage will occur. Don’t even think about using E85.

It’s not even a good deal if your car could burn E85. E85 has so much less energy in it, your MPG will be so low that you’d end up spending MORE money on ethanol than regular E10. Your best MPG will come from pure gasoline with 0% ethanol.

Ethanol is just a scam designed to benefit farmers, ethanol refiners, and politicians. In a free market ethanol wouldn’t exist.

I’m in agreement with the others and around here Ethanol is higher in price compared to regular gasoline while most stations tout no ethanol gasoline. Most simply do not want it.

Ironically, most of the farmers around here who grow corn and collect subsidies on it will not use it in their vehicles.

To add to Goldwing’s comment, earlier this year a Wall Street investment guy stated that he didn’t care what people thought of Ethanol but they better get used to it. Ethanol and other green energy programs are being driven by Wall Street for monetary gain; not necessarily because of the green angle.

Never put anything but E10 (or less) in a car unless it is a flex fuel car. But even for a flex fuel car, I would never use E85 because mileage suffers so badly. A 2013 Impala gets 20 MPG (city/highway average) with gasoline (E10) and it gets 16 MPG with E85. If gas costs $3.50, the E85 would have to sell for less than $2.55 to provide the same dollar value.

Like @jtsanders said, even if your cars could use E85 (they can’t, don’t even try), it’s only worth considering if it’s 30% or more cheaper than regular gas, that how much less mpgs you’ll typically get.

I would check with the manufacturer for sure. Like everyone else, I doubt that it would be certified to run on ethanol in that blend. But in actual performance, you would be surprised to really find out what modern cars are capable of running on as they are or with slight modification. There are a lot of true flex fuel vehicles out there that just lack certification. The problem is, even though they are fully capable, there is no warranty coverage due lack of certification should problems occur for other reasons. In a pinch, I might run "your " vehicle on it, but wouldn’t take a chance with mine without talking to a factory (not dealer ) technician.

As others have said, it is a very bad idea to try to run your vehicles on E85, and even if they were not damaged by it, your gas mileage would suffer so badly you would end up spending more money on fuel than if you had stuck with E0-E10. A typical flex fuel sedan that gets 20 or so mpg on gasoline typically gets 12-14 mpg on E85. The only reason to even try using it, flex fuel vehicle or not, is if you believe in the ethanol racket and all that it stands for, and don’t mind spending more time (and money) at the pump and less time driving.

Another thing to consider is scheduled maintenance. Last time I looked at a maintenance schedule for a flex fuel vehicle, there was an additional chart to follow if you regularly ran the vehicle on E85. That chart for E85 use required more frequent oil changes and spark plug changes from what I recall, and may have required more on top of that. Bottom line is that, even if your vehicle is approved to use E85, using it will cost you a lot more money than using traditional blends of fuel, unless they get the price of that junk below $2 a gallon, and that will never happen.

Ethanol and other green energy programs are being driven by Wall Street for monetary gain; not necessarily because of the green angle.

Of course it’s a green angle. greenBACK angle that is

If by “Wall Street” you mean “the big agriculture lobby” is pushing ethanol, then yes…

I agree with texases. It’s big Midwestern farmers that grow corn for ethanol and their pet congressmen that are behind E85.

Here is reference to a study saying race cars do very well on ethanol. Unfortunately it’s promoted by a producer who stands to profit by it’s use and, race motors are rebuilt more frequently then the daily driver. If my old trucks got the attention of a race car, I would consider using e85 regularly. I still have no problems in a pinch…with someone else car.

One, thought. The gas lines in NJ area are a good argument for flex fueled cars. Though some of the problem is derived from fear, it is well founded and having and being able to use more sources then just petro products could help.

That article’s absolutely correct, race cars do well because ethanol has, I think, a 110 octane rating. They do have to either use larger fuel tanks or stop more often, but those are easy to do. But that’s not the issue, it’s the costs that go with ethanol as a large-volume motor fuel.

Europe has discontinued their ethanol program because they recognized that it was counterproductive.

In the U.S., we have a 54 member ethanol producers’ lobby plying our members of congress with free trips, meals, campaign contributions, and whatnot.

Use ethanol if you like (and your car is rated for E85), but don’t think you’re accomplishing anything.

Cars that run only on ethanol have significantly higher compression ratios to use the 110 octane fuel effectively. Flex fuel vehicles can’t do that, and have to use lower compression ratios which will not use the ethanol effectively.

thanks for the lessons everyone