In a previous post, we discussed how the E15 Fuel waiver from the EPA could spell disaster for claims on auto warranties. Also, it lowers the fuel efficiency and can cause premature engine failure. There is an update on this issue that just came out today.

HR 3199: Dig Deeper on E15’s Effects Engines (and Car Warranties)

HR 3199 is a bill being spearheaded by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) that would make the EPA look for deeper independent scientific studies on how E15 affects engines, and by proxy, car warranties. Especially in the automotive industry, there is a lot of concern that the EPA did cursory testing on E15 before approving it for the market. One thing to take note of: 15% ethanol is 50% higher in content than all engine manufacturer’s recommendations.

While being progressive about the use of alternate and more eco-friendly fuels is commendable, we cannot rush into these things half-cocked. There are many risks, some both mechanical and environmental, with using this fuel in vehicles that are not made to handle it. Components with older plastic, rubber and some other synthetics deteriorate quickly when exposed to ethanol, so the release of toxins from these materials is also increased. Then there are the toxins that are released when your components get burned due to a higher engine temperature from using ethanol. With lawnmowers, off-road vehicles and motorcycles, and small gas-powered engines, an actual fire is completely possible.

Model Year Allowances Cannot Satisfy Warranty Compliance

The EPA’s dividing line on model years is 2001 and newer are approved for E15, and anything older should not use it. The decision to allow the 2001-2006 model years to use E15 is highly contested, as E10 alone can lead to premature failure in engines older than 1998, and many mechanics would say that this also happens to model years that technically are in the 2001-2006 age range.

Taking it a step further, E10 got its waiver over 30 years ago, yet no commercially sold vehicle could use it until 1998, and even that is iffy. Ultimately, it is best to stick with the owner’s manual for your vehicle along with your auto warranty. These two documents are all you need to know about what gas to use to stay in warranty, regardless of the EPA. Just because the EPA approves, it does not mean that your warranty provider will.

Detailed Info on the E15 Label and Vehicle Warranty Compliance

First of all, virtually no vehicle warranty provider has specific clauses about this fuel—it’s too new. Instead, the applicable provisions fall under a variety of categories and for different reasons: “undue wear and tear,” and ethanol provisions in some warranties immediately come to mind.

Before you get too panicky, you can rest assured that E15 is not on the market yet, so there is no current chance of misfueling. When and if that does happen, the EPA has designed a distinctive fuel pump label for 15% alcohol. It specifically states that it is only to be used for model year 2001 passenger vehicles or later, flex-fuel vehicles, and using it in anything else can damage your vehicle and is prohibited by law. Make no mistake, when warranties get involved, the E15 fuel pump label will be a strong indicator who is at fault if you use it wrongly.

In the end, to keep your auto warranties in compliance, you should avoid E15 even if you have a 2011 or 2012 model.