Access to fuel under abnormal conditions is a paramount issue. Without proper access, our mobility will be severely restricted after a disaster. Therefore, we need to consider some other alternatives to your standard tank full of gasoline. Propane, methane, or bio-gas are some of these options.
The problem with using any of these alternative methods of fuel is that their chemistry is wildly different from gasoline. Propane, methane, and other gas fuels come from the bottling facility with odorant products added such as ethyl mercaptan, a product not intended for engine use. (Ethyl mercaptan is added to assist people to find leaks. It has a very characteristic odor.)
And what if you have a dual-fuel generator? If your generator can take both gasoline and propane, you need to know the intricacies of what makes it work (and what’s keeping it from working).
What’s hurting your engine?
To understand how we can prevent damage to our engines, we first need to know what are some of the prime reasons damage takes place. Inside an internal combustion engine, we find these as the main ones:
This is caused mostly by dust particles that make their way into the engine. The oil and air filters catch them, but particles smaller than a defined size (your filter indicates this size in microns) will always be there. The carbon deposits produce an abrasive effect too, which naturally break down and get into the oil flow.
This phenomenon occurs when the oil film breaks down and the different metal parts come into direct contact with each other. This can damage any engine very quickly. Oil also loses lubrication properties with time, as the oil film gets weaker and does not wet the surfaces properly anymore. Adhesion damage is detected by the appearance of tiny metal particles or shavings in the oil pan or by cutting the filter open and seeing the same.
When your engine’s oil is in good shape, the chemistry of it neutralizes the acidic compounds generated by your fuel during the combustion process. These compounds get more and more aggressive with time, given the heat generated inside an engine. An increased aggressiveness means they will corrode the wall cylinders, the heads, and other components that need to keep their mechanical integrity as long as possible. This makes the oil go acidic, too.
(Check out our free QUICKSTART Guide to emergency evacuations. You’ll need a functioning engine to evacuate, right?)
How do I stop these three things?
So, now that we know that, what can we do to keep our engines lasting as long as possible on the homestead and after SHTF? I’m glad you asked…
Use the proper spark plugs for your car and fuel.
Spark plugs differ, and some work hotter than others do. The owner’s manual should say something about what spark plugs to use when installing a vehicular gas system. This car manual is one of the most important documents you should have, next to the legal papers.
Do you remember how we said that excess heat in your engine can contribute to corrosion? This is where the proper spark plugs comes into play. Using top-quality and suited coolants and the recommended spark plugs can really help to efficiently get rid of excess heat within your engine.
Make sure you learn as much as you can about your engine model, size, and configuration.
People hired to work in your vehicle will surely appreciate this technical information if they are true to what they do instead of being pompous know-it-alls.
I would suggest using gas in your vehicles in winter/colder times of the year, and using liquid fuel in spring/summer.
Fuel in the form of a gas burned in a vehicle designed for working with liquid fuel makes the engine run hotter. Some will say that once the fuel enters the cylinder it is in a gas form. Well, not exactly, as most of it is droplets and not gas as in a vapor. It’s a mixture.
The important part is this: using just gas can shorten the life of an engine if we do not make a few changes.
The chemical composition of liquid gasoline is not a gas. A liquid fuel evaporates with temperature increase. However, its properties are different from vehicular gas. When liquid fuel gets into the engine, it is in a thin spray form. Bottled gas is much less dense and ignites faster and hotter.
The liquid fuel has a lower temperature, acting as a coolant of the mixture inside the cylinder. Less heat = less corrosion.
In Peru, they use a lot of gas because it is much cheaper than gasoline, and they have plenty of problems with the three types of damage because they don’t change what they need, maintenance-wise.
Vehicular gas is more corrosive than regular gasoline.
The gas needs odorant compounds that can be corrosive because of the sulfur content or the inclusion of hydrogen compounds. The more you can use less corrosive fuel, the better.
Control the length of the hoses to the fuel injector system.
If you use a fuel injection system, the length of the hoses going to the injectors can alter the air/fuel ratio. If the engine runs with an unbalanced air/gas mixture, this will generate damage. But the effect when the fuel is gas is worse.The length of these pipes should typically not be over one foot.
However, now that you already know the length of these pipes can produce a negative effect, you can control this parameter with the assistance of your mechanic. If the feeding system is a carburetor, the hoses to worry about are those running from the pressure reducer to the intake manifold.
The hose length issue applies to a device known as a “pressure reducer” also.
Once the gas leaves the pressurized vessel or bottle, this component reduces its pressure to an adequate one before entering the admission manifold.
This hose going from the reducer to the admission manifold should not be even half a meter long (20 inches), and more importantly, this device should be at a higher height than the manifold itself!
You need a Lambda probe.
It is very important for those engines with 5th generation fuel injection systems to be calibrated and programmed to use the right air/fuel proportion. For this, it is very important to have a component called a “Lambda Probe.” If this part does not exist and the car or engine is brand new, the seller should explain why the Lambda probe is missing.
Stock plenty of quality oil and coolants if you have an internal combustion vehicle.
Engine oils usually have a long enough shelf life, like coolants. I hate generating more waste than needed, especially plastic, but my recommendation is to stockpile oil in 1-quart bottles. Purchasing a 220-liter barrel could be cheaper, but it is hard to protect this from further contamination with moisture and other agents. Moving it from one place to another is going to be very difficult, as well.
It is a good suggestion to use additives with elements like Zinc to keep the acid low in our oil, especially in engines without a catalytic exhaust system. Better be careful with this. Do your research.
The compound ZDDP is one of the best lubricant additives out there; it works by mitigating oil degradation and stabilizing it chemically. Another compound useful to mitigate friction is Molybdenum. This is sold as Molybdenum Disulfide (MoS2).
Corrosive damage is not that important on engines using liquid fuels like gasoline, but it can become an issue if the engine uses gas 100% of the time. I watched this in taxis back in Lima and talked to plenty of drivers about their experience with vehicular gas instead of liquid fuel. They all reported corrosion in their engines.
Their mistake was not using additives or any additional countermeasure for high temperatures! They just kept using the same oil formulated for gasoline and abusing their cars in the process. Not even one of them mentioned changing the coolant to a more efficient one or using these compounds, or changing the spark plugs for the right ones to use with vehicular gas in their car model.
However, we need a disclaimer: please ask your mechanic before changing some of your lubrication products.
There are many variables involved, and this is a complicated issue.
It seems needless to say that most of these recommendations for car engines will work for any fixed motor.
I treated my brand new generator with a product that generates an internal coating. It has been seldom used, but in high ambient temperature conditions it’s never presented any failure. I expect this generator to work flawlessly with GNV (vehicular gas), methane gas, bio-gas, or gasoline, for many years to come.
Any experience using bottled gas in your motors? Let us know in the comments!
Thanks for your support and sponsorship!
Jose is an upper middle class professional. He is a former worker of the oil state company with a Bachelor’s degree from one of the best national Universities. He has an old but in good shape SUV, a good 150 square meters house in a nice neighborhood, in a small but (formerly) prosperous city with two middle size malls. Jose is a prepper and shares his eyewitness accounts and survival stories from the collapse of his beloved Venezuela. Jose and his younger kid are currently back in Venezuela, after the intention of setting up a new life in another country didn’t go well. The SARSCOV2 re-shaped the labor market and South American economy so he decided to give it a try to homestead in the mountains, and make a living as best as possible. But this time in his own land, and surrounded by family, friends and acquaintances, with all the gear and equipment collected, as the initial plan was.