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A case of bad gas?

Brown fuel plagues high-performance sleds

Jennifer McPhee
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (Jan 21/02) - Yamaha mechanic Marco Blanchette holds up a rag soaked in brown gunk.

He's just finished cleaning the inside of a snowmobile engine. "I've never seen anything like this," he says. "I don't know what kind of gas this is, but it's not healthy."

Blanchette predicts he'll be busier than usual this winter as more and more drivers start having gas-related problems.

Snowmobilers say their vehicles are breaking down more frequently. When mechanics check their machines, they notice a brown gummy buildup in the engine. They blame the problem on a bad batch of gas.

"It couldn't be for any other reason," says Blanchette.

George King just picked up some "octane booster" for his snowmobile, which isn't igniting properly. He hopes it will help the fuel burn easier. "I'm hoping it works better," he says. "It's running a little rough."

Cluney Pearce, auto-technician at R.L. Hanson Construction Ltd., says cars could be affected too.

Recently, he fixed one vehicle with a gas problem. Fuel in the vehicle was brown instead of its usual clear colour.

He says anything in the engine that gas runs through can be affected. "Bad gas will cause a car to run like crap or not run at all."

Dallas Letemplier, manager of Baffin Gas Bar, has yet to receive any complaints. But he did say gasoline these days is a little darker in colour than usual.

"People are complaining, but they're not complaining to the right people," he suggests.

Letemplier adds that, from what he's heard, most of the problems are confined to newer snowmobiles.

Blanchette says the gas causes high-performance models to break down more easily.

"They've got so much horsepower on the engine that they need to run with good gas," he says.