Can Ethanol Damage a Car's Engine?

Using a study by the Society of Automotive Engineers supported by the US government, the host of Engineering Explained outlines the effects of alcohol fuels on engines.
Loukia Papadopoulos

It is a common question amongst drivers everywhere, is ethanol, E10, E15, or E85, bad for cars? In this simple to understand video, mechanical engineer and host of YouTube car show Engineering Explained Jason Fenske uses a study from the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) to discuss the effects of alcohol fuels on engines.

SAE's research, supported by the US Department of Energy and the US Army Mobility Equipment Research and Development Command, looked at ethanol, methanol, unleaded gasoline, and alcohol fuel blends on engine internals. Parts investigated included the cylinder liner, piston rings, cam lobes and valve guides.

"They also looked at engine oil wear metal content, as well as sludge, varnish, and deposit formation in various engine locations. The results indicate the various effects of alcohol fuels on an engine," says the video's description.

The study is available for $28 on SAE's site or you can watch the video to hear Fenske's in layman's terms explanation. The car enthusiast delivers the findings with demonstrations featuring the car parts and his popular fact-based tips.

In the end, Fenske clearly answers the question, pinpointing the research's most important and relevant parts. We won't give you the answer since this YouTuber is so much better at that, but you can skip to the 6:09 mark if you want to get straight to the study's three conclusions.