The lone voice of horticultural reason

“Gasoline in a can or tank is good all season”

Here’s something very important I just learned two weeks ago: gas burned in small engines should be no more than thirty days old. Not being aware of the reasoning behind this decree just cost me $105 in small engine repair bills.

Do you do what I’ve always done, head out in the spring and fill a five-gallon plastic gas can with unleaded, then use it during the summer in your lawn mower, rototiller, and woodchipper? How about the one-gallon can that you fill with a 50:1 oil mix so you can fill up the chainsaw or mini-tiller all summer long?

Well, my little Mantis tiller has never run well since the first summer I gave in to the magazine ads and bought it. And my chainsaw has run rough the last few years. Even the new, 5 h.p. rototiller I bought last year was a royal pain to start every time this spring. And I was doing everything right when it came to storing these devices over winter, you know, running them dry, oiling the cylinders, basic manual stuff.

Still, since early May I’ve been victim to a small engine revolt; absolutely nothing was running right. Finally I took them all in to my local, very good small engine repair shop, and the head of repair told me that when it comes to small engines and today’s gasolines, you have only thirty days to use the fuel before it begins to clog up a small engine carburetor.

He explained that today’s unleaded gasoline is of such lesser quality than the product we bought only five years ago that it gums up a small engine’s carburetor after it has been sitting in the machine’s tank (or the five gallon can in your garage) more than thirty days.

So now I only buy the amount of gas I will use in a month. If I’m rototilling but don’t think I’ll use a whole tank during the job, I fill it up halfway. Same for the chipper – I might use it for an afternoon in June, then not fire it up again for four months. So I only fill the machine’s tank with what I’ll use that day. The lawnmower never has gas in the tank for more than a week or two, but how long has the gas been in the can from which you’re filling it? That’s why I’m now filling my plastic gas can at the pump only a gallon or two at a time.

I have $105 in carburetor repair bills to prove the theory. One last tip: if you do have gas in a storage can for more than a month, straight or mixed 50:1 with oil, pour it into your car or truck tank. Your vehicle will burn the “old” gas up without any problem.

Don Engebretson
The Renegade Gardener