66% of classic car owners finding it difficult to access E5 fuel in the UK

Information, News

Since its introduction in September 2021, E10 has replaced E5 fuel as the standard petrol grade in the UK. E5 fuel is now considered ‘super’ grade, and although all major petrol stations still stock it, it’s more difficult to come by at rural or remote stations, who may only stock E10.

We conducted a survey of 41 classic car owners asking them about their experiences finding E5 fuel. In the results, 66% told us they have had trouble finding E5 fuel since E10 was introduced last September, while the remaining 34% told us they had no problem accessing it. While the survey may be small, it could be indicative of a wider problem across the UK; being able to access E5 fuel is a big deal for those who drive classic cars, as E10 fuel is not compatible with most cars produced before 2002.

Where can classic owners find E5 fuel?

According to the government website, E5 ‘will remain available at filling stations that sell 2 grades of petrol.’ This is good news for those who live in metropolitan or well-populated areas, as most major filling stations will stock both types of fuel. However, it does mean that those who live in remote areas may find it trickier to locate E5 for their classic.

Plus, there’s the concern about long-term availability. The Petrol Retailers Association stated that ‘E5 will still be available in five years’ time, but only as the protection grade in ‘super’. It will be reviewed in five years’ time.’

The Federation of British Historic Vehicles Clubs has put together a list of major fuel suppliers who stock E5 fuel, which is a handy list for any classic owners in the UK.

List of suppliers of E5 fuel as shown by the FBHVC (2)
Suppliers of E5 fuel as shown by the FBHVC

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Why can’t I put E10 fuel in my classic car?

The majority of classic cars are unable to run on E10 for prolonged periods of time, as it can cause damage to seals, plastics and metals if the fuel is left sitting in the tank.

RAC spokesman Simon Williams said, ‘Owners of classic cars need to be particularly careful not to accidentally fill up with E10 and then leave it sat in the tank for long periods, as this will likely lead to expensive damaged seals, plastics and metals. But people who fill up a non-compliant car with E10 don’t need to panic. They shouldn’t suffer any lasting damage to their vehicle as long as they put the correct fuel in as soon as possible – when around a third to half the tank is used. While using up the fuel they may, however, experience a little poor cold starting and rough running.’

Experts from Autocar also advised that E10 in classics ‘should only be used with expert advice, which means pretty much never’, due to the higher bioethanol content which is corrosive to rubber parts, gaskets, seals, metals and plastics. Engine damage could be caused by old deposits being dislodged in the fuel system, they said.

In all, it’s advisable to check with your manufacturer before attempting to put E10 in your classic. According to the government website, E10 fuel is compatible with all cars built since 2011, with many vehicles built from the late 1990s also able to run on the new standard grade. However, it’s important for owners to check before filling up with E10, as it can be damaging to the car if used regularly.

You can check to see whether your car can run on E10 fuel using the government checker here.

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