Leaded gasoline was once the fuel that powered Detroit’s gas-guzzling V-8 engines.
As of Monday, it will go the way of rumble seats as the federal government outlaws the sale of leaded fuel to protect the nation’s health.
Most drivers won’t notice the change. Gas stations stopped selling leaded brands months ago, and the vast majority of vehicles on the road today are designed to run on unleaded.
Still, some automobile buffs mourn the passing of leaded gas.
“That was part of America,” said Larry Lund, owner of Lund’s Automotive shop in Spokane and a big fan of vintage V-8s.
“I love the older vehicles and I hate to see them go down the tubes,” he said. “I think it’s sad.”
Lead was added to gasoline to slow combustion and increase the thrust on moving pistons. V-8 engines were designed to run on leaded gasoline because it gave them the extra power they needed to run properly.
Leaded gas also had the lubricating benefit of protecting the older style valves and valve seats from the heat building up inside the cylinder.
But lead is toxic to humans, especially children, and it damages catalytic converters, the heart of modern anti-pollution systems.
During the heyday of leaded fuel, gasoline contained an average of 4 grams of lead per gallon.
The federal government’s Clean Air Act mandated a phase-out of leaded gasoline starting a decade ago. By 1986, the amount of lead was dropped to 0.1 grams per gallon.
Most retailers switched exclusively to unleaded gasoline months ago. Texaco made the move in November 1994, said Bob Dompier, owner of Dompier Oil Co.
“One by one the different brands have been changing,” he said.
Experts say older engines can be damaged by unleaded gasoline because it burns hotter and faster than leaded fuels. The extra heat can cause valves to burn out in older engines.
The Inland Automobile Association recommends the use of a lead substitute additive, which is sold in auto parts stores and many gas stations.
The substitute should be added to the gasoline to protect the engine from damage, said Ed Sharman, communications manager for the association.
If the engine is undergoing an overhaul, most mechanics recommend changing to titanium valves and valve seats that are not damaged by the hotter temperatures of unleaded gasoline. Lund said the switch costs an extra $100.
Many of the older cars will continue to run on unleaded gasoline, but they may need an overhaul sooner because of the damage unleaded fuel can cause to the valves, he said.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: ADVICE: The Inland Automobile Association recommends the use of a lead substitute additive