There’s a new twist to the fuel shortage in Venezuela. The limited fuel that is available is of such low quality that it’s causing catastrophic engine damages to a number of vehicles. And good luck finding the parts you need to repair this damage.
I love vehicles, well, most of them. I particularly love motorcycles, and maybe some classic cars over other old iron.
I have always felt an affinity with them. It has been a love-hate relationship: I have taken excellent care of my vehicles, and I have hated their guts more than once. Like the time I was left stranded without ANY warning nor apparent reason. However, on other occasions the car (or bike) resisted failure bravely until I was safe at home.
I am NOT happy about what has been happening to my beloved vehicles.
What is happening to the automobiles in Venezuela?
It never occurred to me one of the possible effects of the prolonged Venezuelan collapse would be the destruction of my beloved engines. Those fellow bikers who have pampered their hogs and cruisers for decades will understand my concern. My bike was 11 years old and less than 20,000 km when I bought it, and she was always stored inside.
I used a special treatment for engines to reduce friction and prolong life. It’s a good idea to do anything you can for your engines (gasoline engines) to run more smoothly in the Venezuelan heat.
Currently, additives in regular fuels, normally not in Venezuela’s fuel, are being used. They are needed to stabilize the gasoline and avoid it being too corrosive and volatile, among the modifying of other properties like surface tension. Our gasoline formulas, adapted to our country, remain without evaporating for years if properly sealed. The crappy gasoline sold by Iran has an extremely high evaporation rate. People have reported evaporation as high as a half tank in less than a week.
“Fuel” produced by the refineries is proven to be corrosive, and it’s damaging crucial internal components like pumps and tank level gauges. (I prefer carburetors over fuel injection for this very reason.) Imported gasoline has anti-freeze adequate for Iran. Something unnecessary in Venezuela, unless you go to overnight in Los Andes, and generally, temperatures there are not low enough to freeze gasoline.
Severe fires because of the high volatility of this low-quality fuel have occurred. It generates enormous clouds in inadequate spaces where it’s being stored, like basement parking lots in city buildings. And, brings with it the expected consequences of fire and destruction. Many people in Venezuela use only 4 or 5 liters of gasoline then take the remaining out of the tank to sell it to someone else to make ends meet.
Just imagine spending three days in a gasoline station for 15 liters of fuel, and now your car engine is exceptionally damaged? Come on. No one deserves that!
It’s a real tragedy if you ask me. Most of our car population is 12 to 15 years old and older. There were not many new models after 2012, the year the apocalypse unchained. Old engines can last with the addition of treatment (I’m still researching this), but more modern engines suffer a lot.
What is the damage done to the cars?
One of the most common low-quality fuel issues can be excessive friction generated by the fuel’s improper filtering.
Microscopic particles in the liquid stream act as sandpaper in the components where fuel has to go through while flowing at high speed, and high pressure, like the fuel injector tips. Instead of the typical conical mist of fuel/air mixture in the cylinder, a jet-like stream that won’t burn completely washes the oil off the cylinder’s walls. The cylinder is now prone to premature wear, and the engine loses power and starts to smoke.
These are problems that, unless you’re a seasoned mechanic, are going to be expensive. Given the current circumstances in Venezuela, it is very likely going to be challenging to fix these problems at all. Parts availability and shipping costs are a huge factor. Not to mention finding someone who is honest and willing to do the work.
Another critical failure generated by bad gasoline is the knocking. Knocking has a devastating effect on the engine over the long term. The reason is simple. When an engine knocks, the stresses on the parts that embrace the crankshaft peak.
Even with quality fuel, many engine components only work within a specific range of stress. Under high impact loads generated by knocking, material behavior is way different and can crack and break unexpectedly, destroying the engine. Knocking isn’t felt in well-designed modern cars because they absorb engine vibrations. You’ll generally get an indication (check engine light) requiring someone to run the scanner on your car computer.
What is going on with the fuel?
There are gasoline components added that are necessary to make fuel high quality. But, this gasoline is more suited to modern engine consumption. These additional components are likely to change their behavior under the very high temperatures and pressures generated in a running engine’s interior. Some of these components can be very harmful to materials designed to work with regular gasoline.
For instance, in regular fuels, corrosive Sulfide Hydrogen is not going to be present. However, in some gas streams used in huge industrial motors for gas transporting and compression, it is a variable to be considered and controlled.
Once you change something as important as the chemistry of the fuel mixture, almost everything engineers use to predict the failure of engines has just evaporated. (As fast as the crappy gasoline in the tanks of the Venezuelan drivers.) But, to some degree, we could still predict failure based on the maintenance history and attention to the performance.
(Although, we may be navigating uncharted waters with a captain wearing a blindfold, and drunk, at the wheel.)
One of Venezuela’s worst possible scenarios is being left stranded on a desert road, not being a mechanic. Having some device that could increase the chances of fixing the problem is well worth the expense. I highly recommend anyone with a modern car get one of those scanners. They will provide you with the code referring to the type of failure your car is suffering.
If I can get people to pay attention, there is a solution.
I mean, we could produce very high-quality fuel, but this is against the interest of the ruling Mafia. It would mean mobilization and economic recovery and loss of control by the Mafia. The Mafia wants to keep control of the food chain supply in the main cities; they need to keep people from gathering or transporting materials from one place to another.
So, what is this solution? Biogas.
For me, as an engineer, it’s interesting to watch how some people respond to stuff like this. Most of my closest friends are engineers; they get me. We have overcome obstacles and solved many difficult problems together. It’s challenging to find others who understand the need to build a biogas facility. The lack of information on this subject has led to a complete lack of interest by many.
In Venezuela, an old vehicle with a conventional fuel system shines! I suggested almost 1.5 years ago to one of my most appreciated friends that he get rid of his old beater and get himself an older, converted diesel truck. I will never understand why he prefers to sleep in his car for two days in a row at the gas station to refuel.
Modern technologies rock, sure. But for the conditions found in the semi-apocalypse, old vehicles with diesel engines are the way to go. No matter the smoke, if I can run that thing using light crude, unrefined oil that seems to be spilling all over the place because of the communist rampant, reckless ineptitude, so be it!
Even though it takes a great deal of abuse before the permanent (and costly damage) occurs. When it does, it is sudden. It’s uncertain which engines will incur the damage. Different engines have different designs, and their response to knocking is indeed different. Modern engines are more sensitive. My old trashcan of an SUV had a crankshaft knock sensor. That doesn’t impede the engine self-destroying, though. A combination of low-quality oil and oil-pressurized timing chain tensors generated the failure.
No need to worry, guys like me can figure these things out.
The engine’s more susceptible parts will need special treatment to resist the new conditions generated by the chemistry introduced by the new fuel: Biogas. (Already in the works by yours truly.)
These widely used suggested solutions come from the industrial machinery world. The main disadvantage until not too long ago, was the high cost. But thanks to a patented process I’ve been researching, this could be done in a small workshop with non-hazardous compounds or technically complex chemical processes. And they are very likely to mitigate the damage rate on time.
From my perspective, there is absolutely no reason for people to be struggling, whether looking for a crust of bread or fist-fighting over a rationed propane tank smuggled by the mafias. It does not matter that countries are floating over oceans of hydrocarbons. No one is left to get the hydrocarbons out, and those running the facilities seem not to have a clue. Or maybe they know, but to increase the production (something not exactly the priority of the Mafia) needs tons of money that no one is going to invest.
The current mindset of many in Venezuela makes me wonder if we will ever be capable of getting ahead. Perhaps I would be doing as they are doing if I were there. However, I would prefer to use my free time to make more money and find ways to get around the whole scheme.
P.S. To you, my fellow readers. You have proven to be superb companions on this journey. It wouldn’t have been the same without you, your support and encouragement. Thanks for being there for kiddo and me. One day, he will read this and understand how much his papa loved him, and all the effort I made to give him the needed tools to survive.
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 a small 4 members family, plus two cats and a dog. 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. Thanks to your help Jose has gotten his family out of Venezuela. They are currently setting up a new life in another country. Follow Jose on YouTube and gain access to his exclusive content on Patreon. Donations: paypal.me/JoseM151
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Jose, having a long time ago rebuilt Weber carbureted cars from multiple wrecks, just as mechanical fuel injection was coming to market, I completely understand your appreciation for that carburetor technology.
The history of alternate motor fuels goes back a long way. The Stanley Steamer company made steam-powered cars from 1902 to 1924. Henry Ford made flex-fuel Model-T cars and trucks in the decade preceding Prohibition — which was publicly pictured as a morals crusade, but had been driven by the Rockefeller family’s big city network of gas stations. Those gas stations faced severe competition in smaller towns and in rural America where distilling alcohol for motor fuel (as well as for medical, sanitation, cooking, and drinking) was commonplace.
The Model-T cars and trucks in the decade before Prohibition all had owner controls to easily switch back and forth between alcohol or gasoline, depending on what was conveniently available. The federal Prohibition on alcohol from 1919 through 1933 caused Henry Ford to drop that flex-fuel feature from his vehicles, at which point a Rockefeller heir announced to the New York media in the summer of 1933 that “Prohibition was no longer needed” (since the alcohol competition enemy had been killed).
You mentioned bio-gas. During World War II, both the Germans and the Russian (each with large forest holdings) converted lots of vehicles to run on woodgas because of severe petroleum shortages. Even today, there are multiple videos on YouTube about woodgas generators and engines.
Even today, the fight continues between any possible success that any given fuel might have in a free market versus whatever interference humans might impose to defeat any results that a free market might yield. The ongoing fight in the US over increasing percentages of ethanol in gasoline (regardless of how much damage that might do) is just one example.
I see you know about the topic much more than I do. My practical experience is marginal but after inspecting fuel feeding systems in the industry world, have an idea about the theoretical aspects, and I know about materials, wear, and that stuff to provide an image about what happens there with bad fuel. Average people believes that modern developments are there to help, and it´s not the complete truth: fuel injection is way more complex and it was developed to AVOID people working on their own cars. I remember a conversation back in the 90s with my fellow students of mechanical engineering:”That´s so great! you just need a needle to clean the injectors! no need to disassemble the entire carburetor, losing some little part, etc”. My friend the electronic engineering student smile and said “Yes, Alberto…but you´re going to need a computer for your car now and you can´t even program your own calculator”.LOL.
Back on topic: The fuel economy achieved is not even much in some engine models. I could write a lot more about this but we all get the point. There are cars built in Brazil that used alcohol made with the payloads of sugar cane they produce, because fuel there was extremely expensive to transport. But people doesn´t know about this. I even have the PDF to convert a pickup truck and use woodgas, being the only impediment the mess at the moment to clean the feeding system. Very likely you will need some spirit solvent to dillute the tar deposites and flush them out. There is an entire world to discover there (I even found a guy in YouTube who used BACON fat as engine oil, and that seems like a terrific idea for a sustainable tech geek like myself) and I´m sure that with time and some practical testing, scientifically tried and trued, I´m going to improve the level of these articles to something really useful for the future. (I´m already collecting some materials for that, indeed)
This is something I hadn’t considered. Bad fuel. It’s either we have it or we don’t with me but I’ve not done great at the slow frog boil scenarios that seem to be playing out. I’ve always been black or white in my thinking with little grey. These articles help me think this direction a little better and not go full Red Dawn all the time.
I can’t say enough for those thinking about storing fuel long term and using PRI-G (gas) or PRI-D (Diesel) . I’ve tested it to 5 yrs and I’m pretty sure I coulda gotten another out of it.
That´s a great think to know Matt. I try to write something with a personal touch, but really useful and practical.
It´s my way to use the gifts God gave me to help as much people as I can, and to get the best out of our situation.
Once back in Venez I´ll go full biogas/Diesel.
Should I could have come back earlier, I´d be one of the few ones not paying to the mafias $$$ for smuggled fuel, nor having to spend DAYS in front of a gas station to get it.
Matt also we need to think about poor quality grid electrical power damaging so many of our micro-processer controlled devices. Grid issues are also a part of stair step social collapse.
Goodness even most “Modern Refrigerators” NOT JUST the “Smart Ones” just regular fridges have some micro-processing in them.
A surge protector helps a little but “Dirty Power” (off hertz, spikes, variable voltages) is the issue. A old style battery charger feeding a set of batteries to run an Sine Wave inverter protects electronics. Adding a set of solar panels and a controller gives you some power when the grid is down.
Anybody have experience dealing with Dirty Power? Please chime in.
Yeah for me that’s a little closer to home and we do it because of our storms.
I will write a whole article covering that and how it has affected in Venez.
Please stay tuned.
Thanks Jose, and the work arounds would be a real blessing! I remember visiting in Africa the missionaries often had work arounds for poor quality power. I wish I had taken notes.
the batteries being charged by a charger off solar is a great thing as you get AC out of the inverter/charger and batteries charged when ever there is an excess of grid power or solar/wind/hydro power . It smooths out the problems………You can also run the refrigerator off your computer battery back up unit ( depending on power production and reffer draw). Most frigerators any more use a lot of power 1000/1500 watts to heat the electrical element near the cooling fins to rid them of ice…………..the heater does not run long but you need that 1500 ( or what ever the name plate calls for ) for that length of time. A possibility is to disconnect the elements but that may also be invalidated by the computer if it is looking for that power draw. after a few days or weeks of use the cooling fins will have to be manually defrosted just like I did with so many refrigerators over the 70 years i been breathing.
Engine damage, really? I was former master ASE certified for years, until I wasn’t due to health reasons. I have never heard of gas this bad…… I have heard of bad refining causing issues (On one account only, and the fuel in question only damaged fuel pumps in GM vehicles) I think it was a sulfur issue. The problem with gasoline is the inherent fact it is not one thing. It is a mix of hydrocarbons and additives. (perhaps wrong solvent or detergent trying to make up for crap quality?) Unfortunately, there is no way to mitigate damages without fully understanding (possibly reverse engineering) what they have done to the composition of your fuel. (For example, when we switched our fuel to alcohol/gas mix, cars were dying left and right. I changed more fuel filters that first six months than the entire rest of my life.) Fuel injected cars needed a fuel filter change and were good to go possibly need a second change. For carburetors, (whether in a lawn mower or your favorite classic, ethanol gas spells doom. It dries and hardens gaskets. The alcohol draws water into your fuel like a sponge, becoming acidic, ruining carburetors. If they sit over winter, they are done for. This is half of the reason for those really annoying gas cans. Again, this unfortunately comes back to knowing the fuel. If it really is this bad, I see your reason for not wanting to use it at all.
Dear mr Dean,
You went ahead on something I was leaving for my next articles! LOL. But that´s great.
Venezuela doesn´t produce the needed additives to produce gasoline under API specifications. What we did, as far as I know, is to pay for the additives to the US with crude oil, and I believe someone mentioned that the same tankers brought back the additives (which sounds odd to me, so don´t take this for granted) to produce our gasoline. Nowadays, the refineries are being run by people without any knowledge on what they´re doing. A byproduct of the migration: first migrants were fellows of the oil industry who knew their business and now work in refineries and oil facilities all over the place.
These additives include surfactants and detergents to mitigate the dissolved particles to agglomerate and become large pieces of chunk that eventually will damage the engine.
The crude, incomplete “gasoline” is being fed to engines. The rest of the gasoline (which we don´t have a clue what it is because no one seems to have run a basic quality test) is being fed too. It´s only a matter of time before engines start to fail. I give 3 months running this crappy diet to completely destroy the 60% of the engines where it has been used.
Good for business, though, because I could then come back and set up a parts shop. LOL. Oh, but only original genuine American parts. If they want “Covid-like” crap, they will have to go somewhere else. LOL.
Hi Jose, Best wishes to you and your kiddo. Have you considered a bicycle with an electric motor? I read that Venezuela is in the top 10 of countries with the most bio-diversity. Have you considered fishing, hunting and foraging?
Sure I will. I even designed (have the sketches in digital here) one made with scrap material: a motor with a recycled alternator and a used battery with a panel on top. Sun is strong enough to allow me pedaling a little bit and use the push cart for a few minutes. According to my calculations it should be enough to make it to the cottage from our home in the town. Fishing is not easy, not many rivers nearby and tomatoes/tobacco crops have polluted the water for decades with pesticides and fertilizers.
The only available fisheries are in the main dam, over 10 kms away, and it´s already compromised because of uncontrolled explotation. Hunting has not been ever an option: no guns, no permits, no nada. There is not game either. Uncontrolled savagery diecimated poorly all of the wild life, and it´s very scarce and far away into the mountains. That´s the problem with the current level of population: they will hunt and eat whatever they find without caring about mating seasons, nor sex of the game…lots of predation and these are the consequences. Foraging is hard. Not too many food left into the wild.
Valid options are hunkering down with some means to hold the fort and raising some livestock like chickens, goats and rabbits (their manure is excellent for biogas) and tons of vegetables for bartering.
You could easily get a couple of soap bars or a bottle of shampoo with a bag filled with lettuce, cucumber, tapioca, tomatoes, sweet chili (very used to season our meals), half a chicken and some beans, or even germinates (I like this and people is learning about the nutritional power they provide).
One should be able to grow another vegetables batch before even finishing the first soap bar, so it´s already a win.