Coping Without Leaded Gas

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HC 89, Box50B, Eden, Texas 76837

If you own a gasoline engine manufactured before 1974, it probably was designed to use leaded gasoline.

Since 1986, EPA regulations have reduced the amount of lead that a refiner can add to gasoline by 91%, from 1.1 grams per gallon to 0.1 gpg. That leaves older and industrial-type engines, such as those used by many farmers, without protection against valve damage.

However, some gasoline engines made as early as 1971 were built with hardened valves and valve seats that are not affected by unleaded fuel. And most vehicle engines made after 1974 have hardened valves.

Engines designed to run on leaded gas have soft valve seats, specially designed for use with leaded fuel. These engines were designed to use leaded gas to lubricate exhaust valves. The lead is most important when an engine is running at high speed under a heavy load.

Even leaded fuel that meets the new requirements is getting harder to find. To avoid stiff penalties and fines for exceeding the EPA's standard, many refiners are keeping lead in gasoline blends well below the permitted level. In fact, only traces of lead are present in many 'leaded' fuels, making some companies' leaded and unleaded products virtually identical.

That's why several new lead additives have appeared on the market. One is Protek Lead, a 100% lead additive that boosts the amount of lead in low-lead gasoline. When added to 10 gallons of fuel, a 12-ounce container of Protek Lead produces the 0.2 gpg level recommended by many manufacturers. Protek officials say it also provides a 3-point octane boost. No federal law limits the lead concentration that consumers may add to gasoline, according to a Protek spokesman.

A product called Equal-Lead is one of many designed as substitutes for the lubricating properties of lead, without any lead or alcohol content. One fluid ounce of Equal-Lead treats two gallons of low-leaded fuel.

Check with your local parts retailer for other available lead and lead-substitute additives. A few dollars invested in a lead substitute could prevent costly damage to engines by low-lead or no-lead fuels.

Reprinted with permission, Progressive Farmer, copyright March 1992.