How to Build an Alcohol Engine

by Allison Boyer

Gas prices are perpetually on the rise, leaving today's leaders in the automotive industry searching for green solutions. You don't have to purchase an expensive hybrid or wait for the electric car, though. With the right tools, you can build an alcohol engine in your existing vehicle, and since most of today's cars, trucks and SUVs are already built using ethanol-compatible parts, the process is also relatively inexpensive for most people.

Step 1

Test your parts to ensure they can work with alcohol-based fuel. Clean your fuel pump, carburetor, fuel filter and fuel hose, and soak them in at least 180-proof alcohol for about a month. You'll need to replace anything that shows softening or other damage due to the alcohol.

Step 2

Remove and disassemble the carburetor. You'll need a carburetor overhaul kit specifically made for your model carburetor to modify it for use with alcohol.

Step 3

Enlarge the fuel-metering jets of the carburetor carefully using a drill press or hand drill. Typically, you want to increase the size by about 40 percent, but this varies depending on the purity of the alcohol you use.

Step 4

Adjust the float setting or purchase a heavier float. Alcohol is up to 8 percent heavier than gasoline, so you need to bend the float up slightly or use a new float to maintain the proper fuel level.

Step 5

Reassemble the carburetor and fit it back into the engine. You should be able to connect it just as it came out, with no extra or leftover parts.

Step 6

Advance the timing of the ignition system, since alcohol burns at a higher rate and takes more time to ignite and vaporize. To do this, loosen the distributor by turning it in the direction opposite of the turning rotor inside.

Step 7

Test drive your car. Engines vary from vehicle to vehicle, and you'll likely need to make some adjustments to prevent the engine from cutting out or to stop pinging due to poor timing.

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