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Methanol Safety

Methanol Safety

Methanol is not highly toxic, a mere 30 to 100 cc. can be lethal if ingested. It is less dangerous than gasoline if inhaled,** and far less toxic than the two popular household cleaning fluids, trichloroethylene and carbon tetrachloride. If it came into general use, its chief hazards would be controlled by label warnings (not mentioning the word alcohol) and not siphoning fuel by mouth, as is sometimes done in emergencies with gasoline.
** It is not known exactly how much, or at what concentrations, methanol can be inhaled without harm. In any case, methanol should only be handled by an Adult and only in well ventilated areas. Another unsuspected hazard is that of carrying a leaking can in an automobile. Being odorless, the leaking vapor might not be detected in time to avoid considerable inhalation and to avert tragedy. Methanol fuel for RC cars is usually pink in color.

Methanol Advantage

There are several advantages to using methanol. A car operated with unleaded gasoline sometimes knocks badly on acceleration. But when a gallon of methanol is added to nine gallons of gasoline in the tank, the knocking disappears. That means increased power, which usually translates into increased mileage. Whether mileage increases 2 percent or 5 percent is not so significant as the 10 percent reduction in petroleum consumption. ( does not suggest you add Methanol to any fuel tank, at any time). Tests with Volkswagens indicate that methanol-gasoline blends lowered exhaust emissions significantly. With 100 percent methanol, gradual additions of water brought reductions in nitrogen oxides and up to 40 percent fewer aldehydes, another potential pollutant.

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Corrosion Problems

One possible complaint against methanol as a blender that arose in the 1930's, was that methanol was corrosive to certain materials in a car's fuel system. At the same time, carburetor floats made of cork, and gaskets sealed with shellac, were easy game for alcohol. Present metal floats and synthetic cements resist the solvent action of alcohol. Carburetor parts are made of zinc die castings, sometimes aluminum. The impurities in those early day metals were conducive to "inter-granular crystallization" as a result of aging. This crumbing destruction could be accelerated by the presence of alcohol and water, but the problem no longer exists in todays version of those metals. Lead, tin and magnesium are attacked by methanol, but there should be no opportunity of exposure to these metals in the combustion zones of an engine. Iron and steel are quite immune, as are brass and bronze.

Users of pure methanol found an unsuspected cause of trouble in the gasoline tank, which traditionally has been made of "terne plate," a favorite roofing material of Victorian architects. It is steel sheet coated with lead, making it ideal for resisting rust from water in gas tanks. Methanol reacts with lead, slowly but surely, forming a flaky sludge that plugs filters in the fuel system. The easiest solution is to inspect and clean the filters every few days while using methanol fuel. The lead should all be eliminated within a couple of weeks of usage.

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