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High Gas Prices Hurting Your Pocket Book? Here Are 13 Ways To Save Money On Gasoline
World-class athletes keep their bodies and minds in great shape to reach their peak. Likewise, if you want your vehicle to get the best possible fuel economy, you need to keep the engine and all of its parts in top condition.
Here are 13 maintenance tips to help
Your vehicle is operating at an optimal level:
Tip no. 1: Maintain proper tire pressure
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about 30% of all vehicles had at least one tire with under-inflated pressure of 8 psi (pounds per square inch) or more (below the manufacturer’s recommended level). About 5% had all four tires severely underinflated. Only 4% of people surveyed said they checked their tire pressure as part of their regular maintenance. This means that the other 96% are not.
What about you? When was the last time you checked your vehicle’s tire pressure?
Before I started researching this book, I didn’t realize that over- or under-inflated tires can have such a drastic effect on fuel economy. When I found out, I immediately checked the tire pressure and was surprised to find that all four were underinflated by about 3 psi.
After driving my car for two weeks with the tires inflated to the recommended pressure, I saw my gas mileage increase by 6.1%, saving me seven cents per gallon.
While that may seem like a small amount since the national average price for a gallon of regular gasoline is close to $3, every improvement in mileage helps keep more money in our pockets.
Experts say underinflated tires can reduce gas mileage by as much as 2% per pound of pressure below the recommended level. In addition, underinflating tires wears out faster, making your vehicle less safe to drive. Although overinflated tires usually don’t affect gas mileage as much as underinflated tires, the former can cause handling problems and uneven wear.
If you haven’t checked your tire pressure in the last 30 days, I suggest you do so immediately after reading this chapter. Properly inflated tires not only improve fuel economy and extend tire life, they can also save your life. According to the Society of Automotive Engineers, low tire pressure is the cause of approximately 260,000 accidents annually.
Why do tires leak air?
Tires usually lose some air during daily use. This is normal tire wear and not a problem (unless they lose 3 psi or more per day) so you may need to add a few pounds of air from time to time.
To find out the recommended tire pressure for your vehicle, check the owner’s manual or the sticker located on the edge of the driver’s door or door jamb, glove box or trunk. The capacity must also be stamped on the sidewall of the tire. If you cannot find it in any of these places, contact the manufacturer (or the service department of the dealer where you purchased the vehicle).
Tip no. 2: Align the wheels
Uneven wear on your tires will reduce your vehicle’s fuel economy. Wheel alignment will save you fuel and extend the life of your tires.
Severely worn tires may need to be replaced. Your mechanic can tell you if you need new tires or just a wheel alignment.
Here’s another way to tell if your vehicle needs a wheel alignment: on a flat, level, non-trafficked stretch of road, put your hands lightly on the steering wheel and drive at a steady speed. If your vehicle pulls to one side, your wheels may be misaligned. Have them checked by a mechanic.
Tip no. 3: Use the right tires
Remove winter tires in good weather. Driving with deep tread tires makes your vehicle work harder and use more gas. Even when driving in winter, avoid putting chains on tires unless absolutely necessary.
Using radial tires will save you gas because there is less friction between the tire and the road. If your vehicle is not equipped with radial tires, consider getting them when old tires need to be replaced.
Tip no. 4: Replace the air filter
Your vehicle’s air filter prevents impurities in the air from damaging the internal parts of your engine. Because a dirty filter reduces airflow, it increases gas loss.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s website, fueleconomy.gov, replacing a clogged air filter can improve your gas mileage by as much as 10%, or about 15 cents per gallon in fuel savings, depending on current gas prices.
To inspect the air filter, lift it up to the light. If you can see through it, it’s clear. If you can’t, it’s dirty, so replace it.
Tip no. 5: Change the oil
Clean oil reduces wear caused by friction between moving parts and removes harmful dirt and grit from your engine. Changing the oil (as recommended by the manufacturer) can increase your fuel economy by 1 or 2 mpg.
Read the owner’s manual and follow the recommended oil change schedule.
Tip no. 6: Customize your engine
According to Fueconomy.gov, the tune-up can increase your vehicle’s gas mileage by an average of 4.1%. Check your owner’s manual for the recommended adjustment schedule for your vehicle.
Anytime the Malfunction Indicator Light (MIL) or Check Engine Light comes on in your dashboard, have the vehicle inspected immediately.
Here’s an interesting fact about engine tuning: Mechanics say there is no more “tuning”. It’s actually preventative maintenance that includes changing the spark plugs, air and fuel filters, the PCV valve (which recirculates partially burned gases from the crankcase to the combustion chamber), and checking the engine’s performance. The modifications are intended for older vehicles that use carburetors instead of fuel injection systems.
Since modern vehicles have computers to control everything from idle speed to ignition timing, there is nothing to “tune” in the traditional sense anymore, just basic engine maintenance. But since the public still associates the word “tune-up” with engine maintenance, most mechanics and service shops continue to use it in advertising and promotions.
Tip no. 7: Check and service the brakes
Most brakes drag, but if you think your brakes are dragging more than usual, have them checked by a mechanic. Many brake and tire shops inspect the brakes for free. Driving with traction brakes will increase drag, causing your vehicle to use more gas.
The two most common brake problems are: (1) calipers that do not fully retract because they need to be replaced or rebuilt, and (2) drum brakes that are improperly adjusted.
Not only will good brakes save you money on gas, they can also save your life.
To determine if one brake lining may be more worn than the other, do the following: On a flat, level, non-trafficked stretch of road, place your hands lightly on the steering wheel and drive at a steady speed. After about 10 seconds, brake gradually. If your vehicle drifts to one side, you may need to adjust your brakes.
Tip no. 8: Service your transmission
If your vehicle’s transmission is not working properly, such as not shifting into high gears, you will lose gas mileage. Have it checked by a mechanic immediately.
Tip no. 9: Check the oxygen sensor
If your vehicle is using much less fuel than usual, it may have a faulty or faulty oxygen sensor. Have it checked by a mechanic. Replacing a damaged or faulty sensor can increase your fuel economy by up to 40%. When an auto technician tunes up your vehicle, they must also inspect your oxygen sensor.
Tip no. 10: Inspect your exhaust system
Inspect your exhaust system regularly according to the instructions in your owner’s manual. A partially clogged exhaust system or catalytic converter can cause your vehicle to use more gas. In addition to noise and inefficient fuel consumption, leaks will release more harmful emissions into the atmosphere than a properly functioning exhaust system.
Tip #11: Check the fluid levels
Check the levels of these fluids: oil, coolant, power steering, brakes and transmission. If you don’t know how, check your owner’s manual for instructions or ask your mechanic (or a friend who knows how to do it).
Tip no. 12: Wax your vehicle
Airlines spend a lot of money waxing and polishing their large planes to reduce drag and increase fuel economy. Regular waxing and polishing of your vehicle will also reduce drag and save gas.
Tip #13: Repair Body Damage
If your vehicle has a crumpled front fender, get it fixed right away, or it will increase air resistance, resulting in higher fuel consumption.
Keeping your vehicle in good condition, in addition to saving fuel and driving safer, is likely to get you more money for it if you decide to sell it.
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