I have a 2003 Dodge Ram 2500 with the 5.7L engine. I read in the owner's manual that you should not use gas containing methanol. I have noticed that most of the gas stations have a decal on them stating, "Contains less than 10% methanol." I only use major oil company brands such as Sunoco, Shell, etc. The truck has 88,000 miles and I have had no problems with it. Is this something I should be concerned with?
A methanol mix in retail gasoline didn't sound right -- ethanol, yes. I was lucky enough to get a hold of Joanne Shore, Senior Analyst with the Energy Information Administration. According to Joanne, aside from alcohol burning race cars, she is unaware of the use of methanol in retail fuels. Either you misread the ethanol tag on the pump, or it's something we can't explain.
Methanol, also known as methyl alcohol, is produced from wood, coal or natural gas. Methanol is more volatile an alcohol than ethanol (produced from corn), and has been used to produce methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE), an oxygenate which blends with gasoline. But MTBE was discontinued years back due to ground water contamination issues.
What we see now in more than half (increasing with federal regulations) the gas pumped across the U.S. is E10, a 10% ethanol/90% gasoline blend which accomplished two things. One, it boosts octane and decreases emissions. Two, it slightly reduces dependency on foreign petroleum. E85, the much harder to find 85% ethanol/15% gas mix, is what only flex-fuel vehicles are equipped to run on.
Ethanol does have its drawbacks. Alcohol contains less energy-per-gallon than gasoline, so it takes more fuel to produce the same amount of power in a gasoline structured internal combustion engine -- meaning less miles-per-gallon. That's why flex-fuel vehicles use larger fuel injectors and a sensor to determine the ethanol-to-gasoline ratio in the tank. Another downside is the corrosive properties of alcohol. Modified fuel lines, rails, pumps and tanks are required to avoid corrosion of gasoline based fuel systems.
E10 is considered to be harmless to a gasoline burning engine, but I have my doubts. Examples from several sources, including myself, indicate significantly quicker fuel contamination and component corrosion with E10 as compared to pure petroleum gasoline, especially with carbureted vehicles unused for relatively short periods of time. The scary part is that a number of states are looking to up the ante to E15 or even E20, while automakers protest knowing the affect it may have on non-flex fuel systems. My advice, use stations that sell gas straight-up until there aren't anymore.