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Alcohol's effect on drivability diagnostics and how to identify these issues
Friday, March 18, 2016 - 07:00
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Alcohol's effect on drivability diagnostics and how to identify these issues

In chemistry, alcohol is an organic compound that occurs naturally on earth — and in space! I will not get into the scientific and technical aspects of the various types of alcohol, their chemical compositions or any other aspect they possess, with the exception of how we in the automotive fields are affected by them. Just keep in mind that alcohol contains carbon, hydrogen and oxygen molecules because I’ll be touching on how these relate later in this article (spoiler alert!) and that alcohol mixes well with oils (like gasoline) and it bonds to water.

Alcohol has many forms and many purposes; it can disinfect wounds, clean oils and greases from surfaces, can produce cooling effects through evaporation, it burns at relatively low temperatures, can sedate the person drinking it and the list goes on. Alcohol and its many variations (ethanol, methanol, etc.) have also been used as a motor vehicle fuel and as a fuel additive for decades. Ethanol (Ethyl Alcohol) is one byproduct of a type of fermentation. Most grains, fruits, flowers and some wood will produce some form of ethanol as they decay, but to do so, yeast must be present. Ethanol is the type of alcohol that is commonly used as a fuel additive. We’ll focus on that aspect in this article. 

Throughout history there have been many who distilled alcohol for use as a fuel. It burns “cleanly” — meaning it produces little to no soot — and almost completely*. It’s been used to fuel furnaces, boilers, steam engines and almost from the time cars were mass produced, those too. Sometimes alcohol is blended with other things like when it’s used to propel rockets, for example. Top Fuel dragsters and funny cars use a blend of alcohol (Nitromethane) to produce well over 7,500 horsepower!

It doesn't matter how you retrieve your fuel sample.
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