What is Ethanol Conversion?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ethanol conversion is a process which is used to modify a vehicle so that it can run on ethanol fuel or so that it can operate on a flex-fuel system which accommodates both regular gasoline and ethanol fuel. Many vehicles can run on gasoline which has been blended with a small amount of ethanol, but high concentrations of ethanol or pure ethanol fuel require some modifications for the vehicle to run successfully. Some car manufacturers make ethanol models, but in most cases, it is necessary to modify a vehicle so that it will run on ethanol.


Some companies offer ethanol conversion services to customers who want a car which can run on ethanol, but lack the mechanical knowledge to do the conversion themselves. These types of conversions may be offered by mechanics who specialize in fuel systems and are capable of modifying cars to run on other alternative fuels as well. People can also do their own ethanol conversion, using a kit or assembling the components they need and performing the modification in their own shops.

Ethanol is a form of alcohol which is famous for combusting very efficiently, reducing emissions and generating more power. It can be produced from a wide variety of plants, and it is utilized for a range of purposes. When used as a biofuel, ethanol can be used as pure form, but more commonly, it is used in gas mixtures. An ethanol mixture is usually labeled as En, with n being the maximum amount of ethanol in the fuel. E85, for example, is up to 85% ethanol.

Many gasoline engines can handle a small amount of ethanol when it is blended into gasoline. Higher concentrations, however, cannot work in a normal engine without some adjustments. During an ethanol conversion, fuel lines and fuel pumps are replaced, and adjustments may be made to engine timing, the carburetor if the vehicle has one, and the ignition system. In a flex-fuel car, the car can run on gas or ethanol, which provides the driver with more options.

Once an ethanol conversion is complete, people can use commercially blended ethanol fuel mixtures or they can make their own. Making your own fuel can be a complicated process which requires some care, but it can be less costly than purchasing fuel from a refinery or distributor. Community workshops which demonstrate the principles of making your own fuel are available in some areas, along with kits which can be used to get started with fuel production at home.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Making your own ethanol fuel sounds awesome! Imagine how much money you could save by doing this. I'm going to look into it, because I'm tired of paying the consistently rising price for fuel.


@cloudel – I found out firsthand what would happen if I put ethanol into my vehicle without having an ethanol fuel conversion. At first, it ran really rough, and after a couple of days, it would not run at all.

The ethanol destroyed my rubber fuel pump. The ones installed during conversion are made of something that ethanol cannot corrode.

I put the ethanol in by accident, because I would never experiment with something like this. However, this is one mistake I will never make again.


What happens if you put ethanol fuel in a car that hasn't undergone a conversion? Will it simply not crank, or will the ethanol destroy the car?

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