Use of Sta-Bil and/or Seafoam gas stabilizers/cleaners

coasterayNovember 5, 2008

I have looked online for website information on these two products and then on many forums, both here and elsewhere, including those for lawnmowers, cars, motorcycles, and boating.

There is almost 100% universal support for Sta-Bil and Seafoam, but you have people who like one or the other better, maybe a few who like both. It depends on their experience and which product they came by first.

1) One poster said his mechanic advised him not to use Sta-Bil in cold weather since it doesn't mix well with the gas. The poster has a new Ariens 11528DLE that was experiencing starting/operating problems. He was told the Sta-Bil was the problem since it didn't mix well with the gas and was causing gumming in the carburetor. He was advised to use Seafoam. The guy then drained the gas from his snow blower and put new gas in with Seafoam. He said that did the trick. That was the only comment out of probably nearly 200 I have read saying anything bad about Sta-Bil. Is there any truth to this comment that Sta-Bil doesn't do well in cold weather? By the way, the Sta-Bil MSDS sheet says it is 95% natpha (you know, white gas/starter fluid/mineral spirits, etc. type of fuel distillate), and 5% "proprietary ingredients".

2) One of the ingredients in Seafoam (according to their MSDS sheet) is IPA (isopropyl alcohol) to help suspend water. A few posts say that Seafoam actually contains a small portion of water, not mentioned in the MSDS since its just water. What would Seafoam be accomplishing by having water in their formula, just to turn around and put in IPA to counteract it? Crazy. Is this even true that Seafoam has water in it? Seafoam's MSDS sheet says it is 40-60% "pale oil", 25-35% natpha, and 10-20% IPA. So what's the real deal with Seafoam? Better than Sta-Bil, or is this just an endless debate of who likes what? What is "pale oil?"

3) Some posters say follow your machine's manual by running the gas out of your machine and draining the carburetor. Some say to not do that as you may encourage moisture condensation. Others say go ahead and use your fuel stabilizer, run the machine for a few minutes to get the mixture into the carburetor and the rest of the system, and then just leave the mix in the tank during storage. What is the best way?

4) I'd like to hear some reliable opinions from some mechanics out there who can give me some factual opinions about these two products that everyone, it seems, thinks are the greatest things to use.

Thanks for the help.

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I've used Stabil in everything from my ariens snowblower, lawn equipment, my cub tractor, to my 96 RS camaro and 69 camaro. Never had any problems using it. In the spring I still drain the tank in my snow blower. It sits for about 7months. It also will prevent a leak while in storage. When I buy new gas, as soon as I get it home, I put stabil in it. I never worry about bad gas. I've used sea foam as well. While it is a stablizer, seafoam also cleans the engine. If your just storing your equipment use stabil. If you want to clean the inside of your engine use the sea foam. Plenty of folks have used seafoam in their gas tanks to clean injectors, jets etc. If you put a little in through a vaccum line on your car, it will clean the valves etc. It will smoke pretty good until it burns off, but everyone I know who has done this said their cars ran better. Others put it in their oil and change it after about 20 miles or so. Cleans the sludge etc inside the engine. Both are good products and I don't think you can go wrong with either.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2008 at 7:52AM
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jimtnc(7b Raleigh tttf)

I use Stabil also in all of my lawn/outdoor equipment with no problems that I used to have (carb gunked up, etc). I do practice starting up the equip that I don't use often and let them run for 10-15 minutes or so, but they all have a least a half of tank or more of Stabil-type fuel. Eah to their own, I guess, but so far I'm happy.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2008 at 8:29AM
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masiman(z7 VA)

I have not heard anything about the performance of Stabil in cold weather, that's not to say there are no cold weather performance issues, I just don't know about them.

The only thing I have read about Stabil is that if you use too much it gums or gels the gas. Only what I have read, not experienced.

In the end, I would not worry about it too much for either product. I would say you should use either one. They are cheap insurance for a real problem, especially with newer gas formulations.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2008 at 10:02AM
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Been reported on this site that sta-bil turns to white chunks after prolonged storage ( I would think it would take it close to a year to start turning sour. I used it and never had a problem, but I don't leave it in storage very long (less than 6 months). I wouldn't preserve any longer than 6 months using the stablilizers, but that's just me.

IMO complete drainage is the best to reduce the slacking or gumming up of passages. Even then it hard to get ALL the gas out. IMO (others disagree with MMO, but IMO lack the longivity or knowledge to back up their statements of snake oils) MMO has been an old time favorite for long term storage due to it has never chunked up which from my experience will not clog passages or dry out.

As far as seafoam haven't seen or tried that product so can't comment on that.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2008 at 2:32PM
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lonewoof(z7 SC)

I put some Seafoam in my lawnmower and in the boat gas, about 2 years ago. Had problems with both getting gum, etc in the carb. Every time I'd start the mower, it would run for a while, then sputter to a stop. I'd remove the float bowl, remove small chunks of (?), clean out the jets, and it would be good to go -- 'til next time! Eventually all of the gum or whatever worked itself out. Now I add Stabil to each can of gas, whenever I fill up.
Boat engine appeared to do about the same thing, except I had to have the marina rebuild the carb. I'm still adding Stabil whenever I gas it up, too.
I suspect that the Seafoam cleaned out whatever deposits had been accumulating in the tanks/gas lines, and (unfortunately) fed them into the carbs. Once they were cleaned out, everybody seems to be fat & happy. Both engines start & run better than ever. (Boat & mower are both '98 models).

    Bookmark   November 6, 2008 at 11:49AM
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Leason learn is use Seafoam from day one when the stuff is new and keep up. I use it 100% of time on my new stuffs and no problem. I even use Deep Creep to clean carbon deposit periodically to keep clean....from day one. It is just common sense if you have an oooooold engine and put the Seafoam in, first thing it did is to clean the tank, then the line........ and everything become your punishment!!!!(just kidding)

    Bookmark   November 6, 2008 at 9:51PM
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Use AVGAS in your OPE and you won't have to worry about all these snake oil concoctions. New Ethanol formulations in car gas can be the kiss of death in OPE.

Besides that most 2 cycle equipment loves the higher octane in AVGAS.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2008 at 10:55PM
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davefr, That's bad advice. The higher octane of avgas can overheat engines not designed for it. Using avgas wastes money and gains absolutely nothing.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2008 at 11:49PM
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Speaking of alcohol content in gas. Anyone notice some gas smells more alcohol than the other. I notice Chevron 91 smell a lot of alcohol and Shell smell more like good old gas. I since change to Shell with all my stuff. Anyone do the same?

    Bookmark   November 13, 2008 at 12:38AM
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AVGAS does not cause overheating and it actually saves money because you don't need to discard it after a couple months or use all these silly additives.

Since it has superior shelf life it'll provide protection against gummed up carbs from long term fuel storage. In addition ethanol formulated gas is very hard on 2 cycle engines. The reduced repairs will pay for the extra cost many times over.

And like I mentioned earlier, high performance 2 cycle engines love the octane.

Read all the positive feedback over at AS.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2008 at 11:30AM
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In response to the original question, many old boat mechanics will (very) slowly pour 100% water into the carbs to "decarb" (decarbonate) the motor. The water turns into pure hydrogen and oxygen in the heat and pressure of the combustion chambers, which as you might imagine becomes very volatile and burns off the carbon therein.

I'm not sure if Seafoam has water in it, but this sounds like a myth that comes from the decades of using water instead of Seafoam or some product to decarb your motor. Seafoam is advertised as "100% petroleum"... I doubt they'd get away with that lie. Even if they did, when did water mix with petroleum? Sounds like BS to me.

There are a few (very few) detractors of this concept of decarbing. Some say that if something (whether water turning to H2 and O2 or a petroleum product or whatever) has enough strength to burn carbon deposits off your cylinders and valves, that it must then have enough to burn through your engine seals too. The argument is that your engine seals are far more expensive to fix than suffering the poor performance of rough idling or lack of power output that is often associated with carbed motors. The counter argument is that eventually, your carbed rings will break, and aside from "decarbing" you will not be able to fix the performance issues without a complete rebuild. I honestly have far too little experience to tell you what the best answer is here. I would recommend going to the factory engineers and asking them what the best approach would be.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2009 at 11:37PM
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I dose all my OPE fuel with Marvel Mystery Oil and use Stabil in the off seasons to store them. Duuring the season, I dont use Stabil. Since i started using MMO on a regular basis, I have had a lot less carb and starting troubles. Every so often, I will give the gas a dose of carb cleaner too.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2009 at 12:00AM
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Interesting!!! So which one is better, Seafoam or Marvel Mistery Oil?

    Bookmark   July 1, 2009 at 1:38AM
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jimtnc(7b Raleigh tttf)

Yeah! Which which one is better? Interested people want to know...or something like that. Stabil, Seafoam or Marvel Mistery Oil? :-)

andyma - you say that you dose all my OPE fuel with Marvel Mystery Oil. What do you consider a "dose" measurmeent. Just curious.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2009 at 6:11AM
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My vote goes to Stabil. Never had any problem with it, and all my equipment does just fine over the Winter. I add Stabil as soon as I buy the gasoline. That way I don't forget it later.

I've never used Seafoam, so I can't comment on it.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2009 at 5:55PM
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I don't think sea foam has water in it. The old timers also used automatic transmission fluid to decarbonized the comb chambers either by dumping it down the carb, adding it to the gas tank, and to the oil. Big daddy used it all the time back in the lat 60s and 70s in his tow truck, towing his race cars all over the US. Actually there was an water injection kit back in the early 80's. on hot days a fine miss of water actually increased hp due to the denity of the air with the cool charge, a side benifit was decarbonization of the comb chambers.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2009 at 11:27PM
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I used to pour water directly into the carb of car to decarbon the comb chamber!!! I was taught be a good mechanic. He told me whenever they pull the head off an engine that had blown head gasket, the cylinder that had water leaked into was always clean of carbon!!!

Water don't clean the crap in carb though!!!

    Bookmark   July 3, 2009 at 12:52AM
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When I worked as a mechanic at a Buick dealership, some of the old mechanics would pour water down the carburetor VERY SLOWLY. The water turns to steam and the shock knocks off the carbon.

When the old ladies would bring in those beautiful Buick Electras and Riverias because they idled rough,the Service Manager would take the car out on the freeway and really get after it. I went with him once and you could actually hear the carbon particles tinkling out the exhaust pipes. He would ask if they were burning Ethel as recommended in those 11:1 high compression engines. The customers jaw would jut out and they would say they will only burn regular. Idiots.

I think adding transmission fluid to your gas would only carbon up your engine even more, if it did anything.

Sorry off topic.

I use Stabil and fill the gas tank to the top to prevent condensation from forming when I park my GT for the winter. (I empty my weedwacker,leaf blower and chain saw whenever they won't be used for several weeks.)
Six months later the GT starts right up. I don't have any experience with SEaFoam.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2009 at 11:52PM
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Big Daddy always advocated ATF in the fuel. I used to put one cup of water into the carb of my '69 Mustang, slowly every once in awhile and during the first gas crisis in '73, water injection systems were popular and I had one. I think the mileage went up by about 1 MPG, from 16 to 17. I sold that car in 2003 with 260K miles on the engine.

I am well aware of the damage the ethanol is doing to the rubber parts of the carb. In this area, Gulf uses on ethanol.

As far as Sta-Bil or Seafoam, I have never used any to store anything. I've always run the engine until it ran out of gas, and the heat of the engine took care of the rest. Never had any problems with gummed carbs over the last 35 years.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2009 at 6:50AM
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I've had no fuel problems since using Stabil 10+ years ago....classic cars that sit 7 months, snowblowers that sit just as long, blowers, generators, just plain works. I dose the cans before I leave for the gas station.

As far as Seafoam goes, I think it works okay, but for what it costs, you may as well go with Chevron Techron. It's a more modern formula that has worked well for me.

I've tried Marvel Mystery Oil, and well...I couldn't tell any difference. I would think that as a "top lube," it is worth the reasonable cost. All I noticed was that the smell of my exhaust was a bit strange when using it.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2009 at 2:34PM
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I have always been one of the cautious folks who suggests using gas in a limited period of time, or adding Sta-bil if your not sure how soon it will be used up.

Anyway, my dad's GM truck sat in my garage for 8-1/2 years without being started. Last month I got a new battery, and the truck surprised me, it started. I would have bet 20-1 against it starting, but it did after fifteen seconds. The gas was 8-1/2 years old too.

The question that is driving me crazy is -- did I put some Sta-bil in it or not? I always have a bottle around. But even I did add the fuel stabilizer, I was shocked that the vehicle started.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2010 at 1:39PM
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fiddlewitch(z4 MN)

the tank on the car that's to rest over the winter is full of gas (poor planning) i have a bottle of seafoam to add. it's supposed to treat the 20 gal tank. how long do i let it run? thanks!

    Bookmark   October 18, 2011 at 5:13PM
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Fid: Pour the recommended amount into the tank and run the vehicle a few blocks to mix the additive within the tank , drive the vehicke back and store it . Ensure to remove your battery or at least have a trickle charger used to maintain the battery since the vehicle will not be used for a extended period.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2011 at 10:24AM
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