Gas line antifreeze 101

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Ethanol

Ethanol is blended into most fuel in the United States, to some extent. Image: Flickr / astrogrl / CC-BY

With cold weather across the country, those little yellow bottles of gas line antifreeze are flying off shelves. Gas line antifreeze is a product that is only helpful in certain situations, however.

How gas line antifreeze is used

Gas line antifreeze is a product usually added to a vehicle’s gas tank as a way to help keep the gas burning more cleanly. Most gas line antifreeze is some kind of alcohol, which binds to water in the gas line and gas tank and helps flush the water out of the tank and prevents it from freezing. Gas line antifreeze cannot defrost or clean an already-frozen gas tank, but it can help prevent very cold temperatures from freezing a tank.

Alcohol in fuel

Most gas line antifreeze is made up of mostly isopropyl or methyl alcohol. Alcohol has a very low freezing point, which makes it especially useful for this. However, it is important to recognize that most fuel sold in the United States already has ethanol alcohol blended with the fuel. Ethanol is blended in a mixture between 5 and 20 percent of most fuel. This means that adding additional gas line antifreeze could be an unneeded measure if your vehicle is generally operating in environments that are not extreme.

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The problem with too much

Adding too much alcohol to the fuel in your vehicle tank can do damage to your vehicle. Given that there is such as high concentration of alcohol in gas, adding more doesn’t necessarily help. Alcohol is heavier than fuel, which means it sinks to the bottom of the tank, including the water that the alcohol has bound to. This mixture is combustible but not combustible as fuel. This makes an engine sputter and spit when the tank gets low.

Sources

CarTalk
Straight Dope
About.com


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