Admit it, every time you have to fill up the gas tank you cringe looking at gas prices. Will it be $2.45 a gallon or will it be a staggering $3.15? Prices change from week to week, even day to day. You might be like many of us driving the streets aimlessly just to find the cheapest gas. However, that doesn't always work when you are out in the middle of nowhere. The bottom line is that we are at the mercy of the oil companies. As long as there is a demand for oil there will always be a supplier determining the price for it. So what is a person who loves to drive supposed to do, not drive? We don't think so.
In order not to go to that extreme, performing simple modifications to your vehicle can make it more fuel efficient. Increasing a vehicle's miles per gallon (mpg) from 22 to 24 mpg might not seem like a lot if you are talking about one gallon but if you are talking about 100 gallons that small increase in efficiency will result in an increase of traveling 200 extra miles without needing any extra fuel. Considering the fact most Americans use about 10 gallons of fuel each week, a two mpg increase in fuel efficiency will save the average driver $254.80 a year if gas costs $2.45 a gallon. An extra $250 bucks should be incentive enough to get on any and all of these tips right away
Tip #1 - Adjust The Air Pressure In Your TiresMost of us don't check the air pressure in our tires often enough and the only time we do check is when we see a low or sagging tire. An under-inflated tire will cause more rolling resistance since more of the tire is in contact with the road. Not only will this decrease the vehicle's fuel efficiency but it will also cause premature wear of the tires, which can lead to a whole other set of problems. The recommended tire pressure is imprinted, in relief, on the sidewall the tire. Depending on the width, diameter and sidewall, tire pressures will vary. Do not exceed the recommended pressure. Tire pressure should be checked about once a month.
Tip #2 - Use The Correct Oil ViscosityMany folks incorrectly believe that higher viscosity engine oil will result in better engine protection. Using an oil that is too viscous (too thick) will increase fluid friction, which in turn increases operating temperatures. Thicker viscosity oils will also increase drag and produce extra loads on the oil pump, resulting in reduced fuel economy. The vehicle's owner manual will have the recommended viscosity for your particular engine. Often the manufacturers will state two different viscosities (i.e., 5W30 or 10W30.) In these instances the type of viscosity to use will be determined by the climate the vehicle spends most of its time in. If the vehicle is predominately used in a climate where the temperature rarely peaks above 50 degrees the lower of the two weights should be used; vice versa if climate temperature is generally warmer. The same information can be used for transmission and rear end fluids.
Tip #3 - Get An AlignmentDo you own a lowered car that pulls to one side of the road and the only way to get the car to go straight is to hold the steering wheel in the opposite direction? Besides diminishing your tires' life span you are also increasing rolling resistance by scrubbing off speed. The engine is not only burning fuel to move the car forward it is also now having to work against increased resistance from the tires because they are not pointing in the correct direction. Getting an alignment will not only save your tires but also increase the fuel economy of your vehicle.
Tip #4 - Change Your Spark PlugsIf you can't remember the last time you changed your spark plugs it is probably time to change them. We recommend changing the plugs about every 30,000 miles or so. Do it earlier if you are running an upgraded ignition box. We are not suggesting you buy a set of $25-apiece spark plugs, just go to your local auto parts store and purchase a set of off-the-shelf NGK, Champion, Denso or Bosch spark plugs that cost about $2.00 each.
Before you swap them in make sure the spark plug is gapped properly. Some plugs come pre-gapped and can be installed right out of the box but some will require gapping. Just ask the person at the parts counter what the gap should be and he/she should be able to help you out. Or just read the vehicle's owners manual. All the information you will need should be in there.
Tip #5 -Change Or Clean The Air FilterThe vehicle's air filter is a crucial element in the engine's powertrain. Its main objective is to filter dirt particles from the incoming air before it is consumed by the engine. As with any filtration component the filter element will eventually become embedded with dirt particles, and once clogged, will impede airflow. A clogged filter will cause the engine to work harder in order to pull the air through the intake tract.
Most factory panel filters are easy to remove and can be inspected for dirt buildup. If the filter is still new, a good tap against the sidewalk will release any loose dirt from the filter. If you have an air compressor, use an air nozzle to blow from the clean side of the filter. If the filter is old and degraded it might be time to change it. If you have a reusable filter it should be cleaned, following the manufacturer's recommended procedure.
Tip #6 - Inspect The Cap And Rotor For BuildupThis obviously only applies to vehicles utilizing a distributor. If there is a large temperature change between daytime and nighttime, condensation can occur inside the cap and on the rotor of the distributor. Over an extended period of time condensation can cause rust to build up on the electrodes of the cap and rotor tip.
Condensation can be a major problem if the engine has ever been steamed cleaned. The steam can easily make its way into the distributor cap and cause buildup on the electrodes. Excessive buildup can lead to a decrease in spark energy being transferred from the cap to the spark plug tip. If the spark plugs are not firing at their full potential the air/fuel mixture in the combustion chamber might not get burned completely, resulting in fuel being wasted.
If the cap and rotor are still fairly new they might just need some maintenance. This can be done using a 400-grit sandpaper to remove the buildup. The key here is to just remove the buildup and not remove the metal electrode tip or rotor material. The buildup will either look like a white calcium deposit or rust.
Tip #7 - Remove Extra WeightWe are not suggesting the driver to go on a diet, we are telling you to empty the car of stuff that doesn't need to be there. If you have any unnecessary materials in the car they should be removed. That case of water or golf clubs in the trunk increases the car's overall weight and the engine has to burn more fuel to move it.
Tip #8 - Take Care Of That Check-Engine Lamp(MIL - Malfunction Indicator Lamp)Besides being an eyesore each and every time you start your car, the MIL is really trying to tell you there is something wrong and you need to get it fixed. Most factory engine management systems have several fuel and ignition maps programmed into the ECU. Depending on the type of malfunction occurring the ECU might resort to a different fuel or ignition map that can result in lower fuel economy. Some auto parts store will diagnose 1996 and newer vehicles for free using an OBD-II scanner.
Tip #9 - Keep Those Injectors CleanWe have always been firm believers that a clean engine is a happy engine. The better you take care of your engine the better it will take care of you. Over time, oil and gunk can build up on the injector nozzle inhibiting proper fuel atomization. Worse yet, dirt in the nozzle can cause the injector to leak and waste fuel. Cleaning the injectors can be as easy as adding a fuel injection cleaner additive at your next fill up at the gas station. If the injectors are beyond just adding additives they need to be cleaned and blueprinted by a professional. If this is the case, the injectors will have to be removed and sent in for a professional cleaning.
Tip #10 - Change Your Driving StyleFrankly, many of us drive with a heavy right foot. Easing into the throttle as you accelerate and letting off and coasting up to a red light can substantially increase the vehicle's fuel economy. If you are performing a long cross-country drive use cruise control. Even though you might think you are holding the accelerator steady the car's electronics will do a better job.
Hopefully you have taken away from this top ten list some ideas to improve your vehicle's fuel efficiency by an extra two to three miles per gallon. If you follow all ten steps, some cars may see a gain of up to five or six additional miles per gallon. Unlike like many other modifications we make on our rides, most of these are little to no cost. You can't beat that with a bat.