Is my car compatible with E10 fuel?

Is my car compatible with E10 fuel?

In the last year, you may have heard some rumblings about E10 fuel and its introduction in the UK. The government is saying it’s a great new fuel that will save the planet, but newspapers are saying it’s going to break your engine and we should all run for our lives.

We’re here to take a calmer look at E10 fuel and what it might mean for you and your car. We’ve laid out the key things you need to know about E10 fuel compatibility in this blog.

What is E10 fuel?

So what actually is E10 fuel? E10 is a new type of petrol that was introduced to the UK in September 2021. E10 is actually widely used in Europe and the US already, so it’s not that new, but it’s still nice to think we’re a bit special. E10 contains 10% ethanol (basically, alcohol), hence the name. Up to the change, the UK had been using E5 petrol which, as you may have guessed, contains just 5% ethanol.

If you’re curious about how other parts of your car work, you can check out our blog ‘How long should a car battery last in the UK?’

E10 was introduced as an environmental initiative, as it produces less CO2 than E5. In fact, it’s estimated that E10 fuel could reduce CO2 emissions by 750,000 tonnes per year, the equivalent of taking up to 350,000 cars off the road. On top of this, ethanol is produced from the fermentation of a range of plants, including sugarcane and grains, along with their by-products. Growing these plants also absorbs some of the CO2 that will be released when they are burned and helps to partially offset the greenhouse gas emissions produced by their production and use, but just how much is still an active topic of debate.

How do I know if my car is compatible with E10 fuel?

Around 95% of petrol cars are compatible with E10 fuel, and all petrol cars built since 2011 should be compatible, with a few exceptions. Mostly these exceptions are cars that use fuel injections, as the ethanol in the fuel is not so kind on a carburettor, but we’ll get to that later.

It’s estimated that there around 600,000 cars on the road in the UK that are not compatible with E10 fuel, most of them falling into these two main groups:

  • Classic cars
  • Some specific models of car, with most being manufactured from the early 2000s

If you want to check if your car is compatible with E10 fuel, the government has a handy online checker to help you out.

It’s also worth noting that E10 is a new type of petrol. If you’re driving a diesel (or electric) car you don’t need to worry about E10 fuel, as you definitely don’t want to be putting it in your car.

If you’re wondering whether it’s worth switching to diesel, you can check out our blog ‘Should I buy a diesel car?

If you find out your car isn’t compatible with E10 fuel, don’t worry. E5 fuel will still be available in most places, in the form of Super Unleaded or Premium petrol. The Government has said that these fuels will continue to be available and should provide better performance. You will pay more for these fuels though, but you will still be able to run your car.

E10 is expected to be around for the long run so, if you are relying on an older car that isn’t compatible with E10 fuel and you can’t afford to use premium petrol, it might be time to start looking at changing your car.

Are there any problems with E10 fuel?

The higher percentage of ethanol in E10 fuel makes it less energy dense. This means your car has to burn more E10 fuel to get the same amount of power. It doesn’t mean you’ll lose power, just that you’re more likely to burn more fuel. So, while your car will pump out less CO2, you will get through your petrol faster.

Cars that are compatible with E10 fuel should run without any problems, but if your car is not compatible and you continually use E10, you may see some of these issues:

  • If left in a fuel tank for a long time, fuels with higher ethanol like E10 can become corrosive, due to their tendency to absorb water from the air around them
  • The extra solvents in the fuel can cause damage to the fuel pumps, lines and carburettors, especially in the long term
  • Ethanol can make cars less likely to start in cold weather, as they won’t use the right fuel mix to achieve proper combustion

If you do put E10 fuel in a car that isn’t compatible, it’s not the end of the world. Most people wouldn’t recommend that you keep doing it, though. You shouldn’t need to drain the tank if you put E10 in a car that prefers E5 petrol, it’s not like putting diesel in a petrol engine. The RAC recommends that if you accidentally fill your car with E10 you should top it up with E5 after using a quarter of a tank to dilute any potential negative effects.

If you’re worried about putting the wrong fuel in your car, you can check out our blog ‘Can you put diesel in a petrol car?

Can I use fuel additives with E10 fuel?

There has been some fear-mongering in the news about the potential problems of E10 fuel, which has led to some companies starting to release fuel additives for cars that are not compatible with E10 fuel.

The companies that suggest using additives recommend that you add them to your fuel tank to stop the E10 fuel from corroding your gaskets and seals, as well as helping your car to burn the fuel more effectively. If your car is compatible with E10 fuel, there’s no evidence to suggest you’ll need to use a fuel additive. But, if your car isn’t compatible, it’s possible that the fuel additives could help you avoid potential corrosion from accidentally filling up with E10 fuel.

If you are considering buying petrol additives, it might be a good idea to talk to a mechanic who specialises in your make or model of car to see what they think. If you get the all-clear, it’s generally a good idea to only put things in your car that you’ve bought from reputable companies and sellers. Particularly with classic cars, you may find it’s better to be on the safe side and stick with premium E5 petrol.

A few final tips...

E10 fuel is here to stay in the UK so, if you’re worried, it might be worth looking into your car’s compatibility and what your solutions might be. Here’s a few things to remember:

  • The vast majority of cars built since 2011 are compatible with E10 fuel, and you should have no issue with using it as your only fuel.
  • If you’re worried your car might not be compatible with E10 fuel, the government has a handy checking tool to help you make sure.
  • If your car is not compatible with E10 fuel, you can still fill your tank with Premium E5 petrol.
  • Occasionally putting E10 in a car that isn’t compatible is very unlikely to break your car.

Urban Jungle is not a financial advisor and information in this article should not be taken as advice or recommendation.