What Is ‘Flex Fuel’ and Does It Cost More To Fix A Car That Has It?
If you already own a flex fuel Ford, or if you’re looking to purchase one, you’ll be happy to know that the technology isn’t complicated and owning one isn’t any more expensive. Here’s what you need to know about flex fuel vehicles and what it means to own one.
What Does “Flex Fuel” Mean?
Flex fuel basically means that your Ford can run on different mixtures of fuel. This includes the standard pump gasoline blend of 10-15% ethanol and 85-90% regular gasoline or the increasingly common E85, which is an 85% ethanol blend.
E85 is rapidly becoming easier to find, but so is ethanol-free gasoline as the cost of oil has begun to decrease. This is particularly true in more urban areas, and places where large amounts of corn are grown (since corn is the primary source of ethanol).
Since your Ford can run on either blend, it has a few differences throughout the areas fuel touches to accommodate the blend. This includes:
- Flex fuel vehicles have larger fuel pumps and injectors due to the lower energy density qualities of high ethanol mixtures
- Corrosion/deterioration resistant fuel pumps, fuel lines, fuel injectors, and the fuel tank
- Cylinders, pistons, valves, and other internal engine components are coated in a special material to resist the corrosive properties of ethanol
- A flex fuel engine has been tuned/setup differently to detect ethanol mixtures in fuel and adjust combustion accordingly
Also know that E85 is extremely detrimental to vehicles not equipped with flex fuel features. Using a high ethanol blend will quickly damage the fuel system, and even the engine. Never put E85 in a vehicle unless you’re completely certain it is a flex fuel model.
Differences in Driving a Flex Fuel Vehicle
This may seem a little silly to some, but a lot of people don’t know they own a flex fuel vehicle. Other than badging, owning one is so inconsequential that it can often go overlooked. To get a better idea, the Nebraska Corn Board says that 60% of their residents don’t even know if they’re driving a flex fuel vehicle or not. The best way to tell if your vehicle is flex fuel is to check the cap; it will be yellow (appropriately) if it is flex fuel capable.
Obviously, if so few people even know they’re driving a flex fuel vehicle, they’re pretty easy to operate and own. What does this mean for repair cost?
There are no special repairs or maintenance concerns when you own a flex fuel vehicle. For the most part, the flex fuel system parts even cost the same to repair or replace.
Bottom line, if you are on the fence about buying a Ford with flex fuel capabilities, don’t be. There’s no real downside and you can keep using the same blend fuel as you have been for years if you choose. All in all, these vehicles are simply more versatile, which may come in handy at some point during the time you own one.