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Converting a 2001 Ford Explorer Sport

To Run on E85 Ethanol Fuel




Converting a NON Flex Fuel vehicle  to run on E85 ethanol can be accomplished by nearly anyone for under $400 and under $600 including additional high performance parts to increase MPG . This article demonstrates the steps I took to convert my 2001 Ford Explorer Sport to run on E85 .

.The basic issue with running E85 on non flex fuel vehicle  is that Ethanol contains slightly less energy than gasoline.. you need about 10%-30% more fuel running through your injectors for the vehicle to run on E85 . If you just try and run E85 in a vehicle not designed to run e85 what happens is your Check Engine light will come on , your cars computer is telling you that the vehicle is running lean ( not enough fuel- and that is what will cause engine problems). That is the single largest problem to over come and backyard mechanics do everything from drilling out their carburetors to changing fuel injectors sizes but there is a far easier way using a product that is used and Government approved in Brazil (which has more Flex Fuel vehicles on the road than any other Nation)

It's called FlexTek and FlexTek is simply a computer component that changes the pulse width of your injectors , leaving the injectors open slightly longer thereby delivering slightly more fuel that you need into the combustion chamber for your vehicle to run correctly on e85.  you remove the Injector plugs on your Fuel Injectors and plug them into the  FlexTek plugs and then insert the FlexTek plug on your fuel Injectors . On most Vehicles this is a do it yourself project ...on the Explorer it was difficult to reach the injectors on one side so I ran it over to my local mechanic ..cost $90   

And that folks is how simple it was to convert my Ford Explorer to run on E85 , Gasoline or a combination . The FlexTek unit has 2 switches  "A" or "G" and you simply place the switch to whatever fuel you want to run. Alcohol (E85)  or "G" Gasoline.

But there is much more you can do to complete the conversion to run as efficiently as possible to protect your engine as well as increasing your fuel efficiency.......with relatively minor associated cost

Corrosive properties of E85

Alcohol fuels can be more corrosive on some rubbers , plastic and some  metal parts and this is why  back in the 1970's when Alcohol fuels were first introduced in the United States that people would complain abut engine problems , corroded fuel lines etc. this is no longer an issue in most newer vehicles as most newer vehicles are already designed to resist the corrosive nature of  Alcohol fuels when Some states started requiring 10- 20 % Ethanol in all gasoline fuels sold .  After considerable research I came to the conclusion this simply wasn't a major concern as I entered into this project . But for added protection I chose to use a high quality synthetic oil .

Fuel Economy

This is an issue that many need to strongly consider , E85 contains less energy than gasoline , it has roughly 80% the energy as gasoline. You can lose anywhere from 2% to 30% in fuel economy. Now I have a home office and fuel economy isn't overly important to me as it is to the person that needs to commute 50 miles back and forth to work everyday . If it were critical for me I would have chosen a vehicle that gets better mpg than the SUV to start with . It is great to able to use an alternative fuel just for the sake of not having to send my $$ overseas to OPEC  , that said  fuel economy matters and if you need to travel daily then start your E85 vehicle project with a car that gets good gas mileage to begin with.

 I do care about fuel economy and want to squeeze every last mile I can get out of every gallon of E85 so I researched everything I could do to increase MPG and I'll list them here. Many are common sense processes you have heard before and others are things you may not have considered

Tire Pressure..the experts say you can recover an additional 2-3 MPG for having properly inflated tires. This was the first thing I did on the Explorer was check my tire pressure.

Changing your Oil   : The less friction the better your MPG , change at regular intervals and in the case of running E85 choose a good quality Synthetic Oil to offer maximum protection and help in mpg. $35

Spark Plugs :
E85 burns cooler than gasoline and while that is great for your engine it also means it may not burn completely which means you aren't getting all the energy available and are just wasting fuel , so I went looking for the best spark plugs I could find (within practical reason) and chose the Bosch Platinum 4

These spark plugs are claimed to spark and burn so efficiently that offer a 4.8% fuel savings !

Bosch also claims these plugs  will  "The tests found that the four ground electrode spark plugs (the Platinum 4) had up to 33% better cold restart reliability than conventional plugs."

That's is very important for running E85 fuel because of the cold starting issues with ethanol.

$6  piece x 6 = $32

High Flow Air Filter

When I went to pick up the Spark Plugs I explained what I was working on and asked if anything else they could recommend to help increase mileage and they strongly suggested a High Flow Air Filter . Now a regular Air Filter would run around $14 for the Explorer the K&N high flow air filter was nearly $55 .

I passed on the first trip to the auto store , I just couldn't bring myself to dish out $55 for an air filter, that is until I read up on them . A regular air filter is made of paper fibers a lot of paper fibers bound into many sheets that catch any possible particles from reaching your engine and causing problems , the problem with regular filters is that they restrict much needed air flow for your engine to run efficiently , and that's what we are trying to do ,run our engine as efficiently as possible to maximize our mileage running on E85.

The K&N high Flow air filter is made of very thin layers of a cotton gauze that allows far more air into your engine while still capturing any offending particles, they are rated  98% efficient . So second trip back I purchased one .. warranty is 10 years or 1 million miles ! now that's a warranty . Cost $55

Fuel Filter

This is something that needs to be changed after running 500 miles or so on E85. The ethanol will actually clean any sludge and particles in your gas tank and fuel lines and can clog your fuel filter decreasing fuel economy and cause hard starts , hesitation on acceleration and bad idle. So I am now at 800 Miles running E85 and this is something that is being changed .


So what's the Bottom Line with my mileage ?

The Explorer got 14 in city on Gas and 18 on the Highway before  the conversion .

After conversion and adding High performance spark plugs , High Flow Air Filter , New Fuel Filter and Synthetic Oil gas

Mileage is 14 In City and almost 20 on the Highway in a driving rain ! This was one a one day test (April 28th) over 150 Miles..

Discuss this article or Ethanol in our E85 Forum  Planet E85

E85 Vehicles

Disclaimer : This is an at risk project , If anything were to happen to my vehicle it would be my responsibility , if after reading this article you would like to experiment and convert a vehicle over E85 you agree that is your responsibility .



Converting 2000 Ford Explorer to run on E85