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Fuel/Vehicle Efficiency Tips

      Written By Archie Varone from A and J Auto Maintenance Center

          Today we all think about how far our dollar will go.  We all wonder what the economy will do and what’s it gonna cost us!  Like most things, worrying about it won’t fix it.  Only the actions we take ourselves will lend some benefit in the long run.

          When making decisions on what to do, I generally recommend to consider the long run.  How much money we have left at the end of the week, month or year, will be directly related to the decisions we make.  The best way to save some green is to do the deeds!  (The homework – the math – the shopping).  A wise car owner will learn all he can from multiple sources and make an educated decision on what to do next.

          Like getting rich, there are no quick fixes.  Only a good plan, backed up by good knowledge will get you the extra green you’re looking for.  (All the economy ratings cited in this article were from U.S. government testing –


(1)            DRIVE SENSIBLY

          This may sound easy, but unless you actually pay attention to how you’re driving, you’re probably throwing money out the window.  Speeding can cost you 7-23% efficiency, not speeding can save you 14-44¢ per gallon.  Rapid starts and stops can cost you up to 30% of your car’s fuel efficiency or up to 60¢ a gallon.

          Start off with smooth, low RPM accelerations when possible.  Stop by coasting up to the light or sign, instead of braking at the last second.  Use your cruise control on the highway whenever possible.

          Most gasoline engines make their usable horsepower and torque between 1500-2500 RPMs.  After that, excessive RPM will get you to move faster, but will cost you dearly in fuel mileage.  Practice driving around with the least amount of RPMs without bogging down your engine.  After a while you’ll learn the sweet spot that will save you some green.  Remember, if you’re always in a hurry, don’t cry about gas mileage.


(2)            GET THE LEAD OUT!

          A clean, empty car gets the best gas mileage.  If you car resembles your daughter’s closet or your husband’s garage, you’re wasting money.  Roof racks and those goofy wings eat cash for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Keep your car clean, waxed and free of excess weight and your fuel mileage will improve 1-2% saving you 2-4¢ per gallon.


(3)            WARM ‘ER UP!

          Hopping into a cold car and taking off is bad.  Bad for the car, bad for your wallet.  The computer in your car can’t help you save fuel until the car reaches 180°.  That’s when all the info from all the engine sensors are allowed by the computer to put in their 2¢ worth.  With all that info, the computer adjusts the fuel delivery to create the most efficient air to fuel ratio.  (Stoichiometric ratio) of 14.7 to 1.  That is where the engine is delivered the most fuel efficient amount of fuel that could be burned; in turn giving you the best gas mileage.  Letting the car warm up past that point is also bad.  At idle, you are getting 0 miles to the gallon.  So excessive idling will also cost you.


(4)            TUNE ‘ER UP!

          Just because it starts and runs, doesn’t mean it’s tuned up!  If you think there’s a problem with engine performance, it means you waited way too long for a tune up.  With today’s computers and electronics, cars can force themselves to run.  They will sacrifice fuel efficiency for power.  If the engine is choking from a clogged air filter, old plugs or exhaust, it will dump more fuel to keep the car going.

          So even if your car dealer tells you that your plugs and wires will last for 100,000 miles, don’t fall for it.  They don’t have to pay your fuel bill.  So change your filters often, change plugs every 30-40,000 miles.  Replace your oxygen sensors every 60,000 miles and have your exhaust checked regularly.  The cost of replacement of those parts will come back to you and then some in fuel savings.  The average saving is about 8¢ per gallon.


(5)            OIL ‘ER UP!

          Oil is one of those mysterious things.  People only pretend to know about it.  If your dad or gramps told you to use a certain brand of oil, find out why.  If they say it’s because it’s a synthetic or synthetic blend and it’s API rating is what your car calls for, listen to them.  If they say it’s because that’s what Rusty Wallace uses, hit them with their can of Budweiser and run.

          A good name brand synthetic or synthetic blend oil will reduce friction better than conventional oil.  Full synthetic and synthetic blends have additives that will prevent dry starts and have a greater ability to resist breakdown and sludging. And yes most LUCAS and AMZOIL products are worth the extra money   Sorry about sounding like an oil commercial!  Just read your owner’s manual, find the API rating (SL-SM, etc) and proper weight blend, (5W30 – 5W20, etc) and try to match that oil to a synthetic blend (most cost effective) or full synthetic (twice the price) and use it.  Be wary of places that use bulk oil, if they can’t take you in the back and show you the label on the drum and show you that it matches your needs, don’t fall for it.  Some places will buy what’s cheapest for them to keep their profits up. The wrong oil can kill your engine. The right oil could increase your fuel efficiency by up to 12% .


(6)            AIR ‘ER UP!

          Today’s tires could be a super hero or villain when it comes to saving fuel.  Certain tread designs lend themselves to smooth efficient travel.  Others may cause the engine to work harder in order to keep them rolling.  If you choose a tire for the right reasons (traction, handling, weather) or maybe that’s what came with your car, there is one thing you could do to get the best fuel efficiency out of them.  Check the air pressure OFTEN! Most tires will lose about 1psi per month and 1 psi per 10° drop in temperature.  Properly inflated tires will give you a 3-4% increase in gas mileage compared to under inflated tires.  That’s like getting 6¢ a gallon discount off every gallon.

          Check your tires when they are cold (a hot tire will give you false reading).  On the car door jamb or door or owner’s manual, there will be an air pressure recommendation.  If it’s a range – go with the highest number (I usually use 2-3 lbs more than that).  A fully aired-up tire will roll easier and save you cash.  Never exceed the pressure rating on the tire itself.  It is a maximum pressure rating only to be used when the car is loaded to the max (passengers, luggage, etc.) and usually not necessary.  The average car will be fine at 30-35 psi.  Pick-up trucks and SUVs will vary depending on how they are used.


(7)            TRADE ‘ER UP!

          Sometimes our best efforts go unrewarded.  If your car is a mess or your best driving behavior got you a measly 10 mpg, well maybe it’s time to retire the old horse and look for a replacement.  There are many fuel efficient cars out there that can be your hero.  But do your homework!  Trading one mule for another just because it’s pretty may not save you any green.  Research used diesels, hybrids and alternative fuel vehicles.  But even if you want to stick to good old gas cars, look for models that can net you 30 mpg.  That car with good driving habits and fuel smarts at the right price can save you some green.  Remember that you still need a vehicle that suits your needs.  Gas mileage won’t make you feel better if you can’t fit all the kids or pick up that load of mulch when you need to.  I drive a Dodge ¾ ton turbo diesel that gets 24-26 mpg highway and 22 city, and is a blast to drive.  Your perfect car/truck is out there!  You just need to look for it, and when you get it, take good care of it.  The longer you have it, the more green you’ll save.


Well, if you were wondering where your gas mileage went, maybe this article helped.  If you weren’t all that concerned, maybe think about how much oil could be saved if everyone practiced good driving skills with proper maintenance.  The numbers are mind-boggling.

In this article, government testing showed a total savings of about 1.26¢ a gallon used.  If you’re an average driver that puts on 15,000 miles a year and your car averages 20 mpg, you would use 750 gallons each year, times that by 1.26¢ that would equal a savings of $945 per year.  I don’t know about you, but I could have some fun with that kind of spare change.  So do your homework, shop around, make good driving decisions.  Think about how you’re driving and you just may find some spare coin in your pocket each week.  Throw it in the cookie jar and at the end of the year, take the car (and your family) out for a little fun!