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Frozen Fuel: A Cautionary Tale


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13 replies to this topic

#1 fishy

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Posted 03 December 2012 - 05:00 PM

Apologies for the long read but I think it's a fun enough story to be worth it:
Last Thursday on the way home from work my low fuel light came on (98 ImpreTza) so I made a mental note to fill up the next day and that was that... nope.

Next morning it was -9 Celsius with a -18 windchill when I buckled my toddler into his seat and hopped into the car. *crankcrankcrank* no fire. Crap. The cranking seemed a bit slow but since mommy was gone with her car already I ran into the garage to grab a booster pack. *crankcrankcrank* no fire. Damnit! It seemed to crank about the same so I thought my booster pack was bogus so I grabbed the spare: *crankcrankcrank* no fire. Maybe neither pack was charged or something. Double Crap. By now the Toddler is starting to whine about freezing to death.

At this point I eye up my 99 Legacy that I haven't daily driven for about 6 months with 100k more kms on it, a broken exhaust, and a leaking everything... I hop into that and it fires up like it was already warmed up. Okay now I KNOW I have a good battery but that car's blocked in by the dead Impreza so I run into the garage again for a pair of gloves and a 10mm deep socket on a rachet and yank the battery. I try boosting off of the good battery and get *crankcrankcrank* no fire. Toddler is now a bawling popsicle.

In my last possible move I put the battery back in the Legacy and pull the toddler out of his seat, pull the seat out of that car, search frantically for the differently-positioned seat anchor in the legacy, install the car seat, install the toddler and head off in the loudmobile with crusty brakes.

*whew*

When I got home that afternoon I sloshed a bunch of gasline antifreeze stuff into the impreza with some nice stabilized mower gas out of the shed and waited till the next day to try it: *crankcrankcrank* no fire. $&^$! So I waited for the next day when it was +3 degrees out: *crankcrankcrank* no fire. This morning it was +10 degrees and the Impreza fired up instantly, puked out all of the colours of the smoke rainbow and settled down just fine. I put some fresh supreme fuel in it and have high hopes for the future cold winter days...

The morals of the story are: Don't let them run too low on fuel in cold weather just in case, make SURE your booster packs are charged, and if you're set on driving old junk cars... keep a spare handy :)

#2 Cougar

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Posted 03 December 2012 - 06:51 PM

Well I doubt the trouble you had was due to frozen fuel. I think gasoline freezes around the -150 degF range. You may have some water in the fuel and that caused the issue. Try spraying some starter fluid into the intake the next time you have an issue like that to see if that helps you out.

#3 porcupine73

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Posted 03 December 2012 - 07:03 PM

Some of those years had a TSB out about icing on the fuel injector tips, that might be what you had too. Do you get forced the ethanol adultered gasohol in your area? There's very few places around here to get ethanol free gasoline, usually its sold as boat fuel.

#4 fishy

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Posted 03 December 2012 - 07:59 PM

Well I doubt the trouble you had was due to frozen fuel. I think gasoline freezes around the -150 degF range. You may have some water in the fuel and that caused the issue. Try spraying some starter fluid into the intake the next time you have an issue like that to see if that helps you out.


You're correct. I should have presented that better. I likely had cruddy watery fuel at the bottom of the tank that got sucked into the lines/injectors and froze.

#5 fishy

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Posted 03 December 2012 - 08:03 PM

Some of those years had a TSB out about icing on the fuel injector tips, that might be what you had too. Do you get forced the ethanol adultered gasohol in your area? There's very few places around here to get ethanol free gasoline, usually its sold as boat fuel.


I'm pretty sure we have up to 15% ethanol in our fuels around here (which also helps destroy small engine carb diaphrams for us). Not sure if I'd get any evilnol-free or 'boat fuel' around my parts. I'll have to ask around.

#6 porcupine73

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Posted 03 December 2012 - 08:30 PM

Sounds good, there was a site i looked at realgas.org or something like that, I realized the station I usually get gas at had an ethanol free option. Their 'premium' 91 is labeled on the pump as 'ethanol free' though I never noticed it until later. They're a good size local petroleum and chemical products distributor with a tank farm I'm guessing that's how they do it because beyond that I do not see many options in this area to get ethanol free except at marinas.

#7 Fairtax4me

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Posted 04 December 2012 - 02:02 AM

Effit-all, since its hygroscopic, has a tendency to separate a bit when it gets old. If you never let the tank get below 1/4 you get the leftover old stuff at the bottom that just builds up over time.
A bottle or two of Heet fuel system de-icer will collect the water and allow it to mix with the fuel to be burned off.

Try running the tank lower between fill-ups to keep water content down. If your car is like mine you still have close to 5 gallons in the tank when the gauge gets to the E. I try to get down to about 3 gallons, sometimes less, to help pull any of the bottom dwelling contaminants out before getting new gas. Also helps to run a bottle of fuel system cleaner every few thousand miles.

Edited by Fairtax4me, 04 December 2012 - 11:06 AM.


#8 987687

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Posted 04 December 2012 - 09:09 AM

Well since I'm poor and my tank is always been 1/4 and the gas light coming on, I guess I've been safe from this one! haha.

#9 efseiler

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Posted 04 December 2012 - 10:39 AM

Well, you'd be surprised. The alcohol they mix into fuel nowadays is hydrophilic. Overnight, if the weather conditions are right, it can draw a full cup or two of water right into the tank.

It tends to settle on the bottom of the tank and when you try to turn it over it gets sucked (along with other mysterious bio-reactive stuff) right into the fuel delivery system.

I use a fuel additive (Startron) esp. during the wintertime. It greatly increases the miscibility of the fuel-alcohol-water mix. It also aids significantly its combustability and adds a few extra HP, to boot.

The manufacturer claims it's a type of 'enzyme' and, for all I know...it may very well be.

I buy in bulk and use about an OZ per tank. For $.83 a tank it's well worth the $$$.

Cheers! :drunk:

--Damien

#10 Prwa101

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Posted 04 December 2012 - 10:49 AM

Haha good moral! I like it! Sounds like something that'd happen to me! :Flame: but we don't get that cold.., which is not cool... Haha.

#11 89Ru

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Posted 04 December 2012 - 06:47 PM

By now the Toddler is starting to whine about freezing to death


Sounds like conditioning the Toddler for winter.

I use a fuel additive (Startron) esp. during the wintertime. It greatly increases the miscibility of the fuel-alcohol-water mix. It also aids significantly its combustability and adds a few extra HP, to boot


Just changed out two fuel filters and the contents that came out of the filters separated overnight into two layers, a slightly cloudy yellow layer on top (presume dirty gas) and about 15-20 cc's of bottom layer that was black-tinged (presuming ethanol laced with fuel-line rubber). Both burn. The bottom layer burned clean and the top layer burned with thick black smoke leaving black residue on the metal can. The bottom layer at the very end of its burn spattered and sizzled, perhaps that was water dissolved in the ethanol being boiled off. Seems like without an additive these layers are present in settled fuel after just one night of settling. They probably mix in the fuel filter when fuel is flowing though. I habitually don't run the fuel tank down to fumes...will try to do that.

#12 fishy

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Posted 04 December 2012 - 07:41 PM

Interesting discussion... Maybe I should keep anti-freeze stuff on hand and try running 'er low more often to clear the grunge out.

#13 987687

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Posted 04 December 2012 - 07:44 PM

Why does it matter if you run it low or not? Regardless, it's still sucking fuel from the bottom of the tank.

#14 mikaleda

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Posted 06 December 2012 - 11:01 AM

I use heet in my car at least once a month in the winter never had any problems with gas lines freezing and I run my gas down to e and then some when I add heet then full up with gas




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