Getting better gas mileage from your car

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Gas is expensive. It never seems to go down in price very much and when it does go down it seems to doubly rise the next week. Fuel economy is on everyone’s mind these days. Who wants to drive a gas guzzler that gets 6 to 8 miles per gallon? When gas prices suddenly rose a few years ago to stellar heights the once popular SUV’s such as the Cadillac Escalade suddenly became less popular and their value declined rapidly. Some car dealers were even offering a free used car to anyone willing to buy one of those thirsty SUV’s just to try and sell them. Once thought of as a passing fad gas sipping hybrids, electric cars, and small economy cars have become mainstream. But what if you can’t afford a new car that sips gas like a lady at the Kentucky Derby lightly sipping her tea with her pinky finger in the air? Trade in your car for another used car that gets better fuel economy? I am a firm believer that if your current vehicle is reliable maintaining it and keeping it running for years is the most economical option. Unless of course your wife is having quintuplets then that is a whole other conversation.

Regular maintenance is the key to not only keeping your current vehicle in a safe and reliable operating condition but to also get good fuel economy. Neglecting basic routine maintenance will not only shorten the life of your vehicle and possibly cause major and costly repairs down the road but it reduces your fuel economy as well.

Let use one of the most popular model trucks on the road a 2009 Ford F-150 2 wheel drive with a 4.6 liter V8 and a 6 speed automatic transmission as an example. This truck is one of the best selling trucks in the United States and very popular as not only a work truck but a personal vehicle. The F-150 fuel mileage rating† was reported as 15 mpg in the city, and 20 mpg on the highway for a combined fuel rating of 17 mpg on avg†. Keep in mind these numbers were for a brand new right off the showroom floor truck. Over time as the vehicle ages the fuel economy goes down. At about 60,000 to 100,000 mile you would really see a decrease in fuel economy. A truck that when new was getting an avg of 17 mpg at higher mileage may now be getting 13 to 15 avg mpg. The reason is that the engine is no longer running at peak efficiency and your vehicle is in need of routine maintenance. Lets look at some numbers so you can better understand my point.

Lets say regular gasoline is an average of $3.50 per gallon:

  • If you drive 100 miles at an average of 17 mpg it would cost you an average of $20.58 per 100 miles driven.
  • If you drive 100 miles at an average of 13 mpg it would cost you an average of $26.92 per 100 miles driven.
  • For just 100 miles the difference could cost you an extra $6.34. Some people drive that many miles in a day or two. For 1000 miles were are talking $60.34. Multiply the difference by the miles driven in a year and you will see how much money you are losing to poor fuel economy. This is something that can be controlled.How you ask can I get back the fuel economy my new vehicle once had? In truth you will never be able to get it back 100% but realistically you should be able to get it close to about 90-95%. The internal (and normal) wear on your engine reduces fuel economy somewhat but what really reduces fuel mileage is to neglect routine maintenance. Modern fuel systems need cleaning and vehicles have routine maintenance items that should be changed as per the manufacturers recommendations. Some of the things you should change to help maintain good fuel economy are your fuel filter, spark plugs, spark plug wires, oil, antifreeze, transmission fluid, and your engine air filter, etc. Tire condition and proper inflation also plays an important role as well. I strongly suggest to follow your recommended intervals listed in your owners manual but based on my experience as a mechanic I also have a few extra suggestions to add to the recommendations by the manufacturer.

Here are my recommendations:

  • Change oil when required by the manufacturer. On most modern cars these days it it suggested around 5,000 miles or every six months. When changing your oil check all your fluids. Check your owners manual for your suggested interval. Use a good quality oil. Saving a couple dollars on the oil will only wind up costing you more in the long run.
  • When changing your oil add a high quality fuel system cleaner to your fuel to help keep the injectors clean. I suggest this for every oil change but at minimum do it every other oil change.
  • Check your engine air filter every time you change your oil and if it looks clogged replace it.
  • Change your transmission fluid at the recommended interval. Check your owners manual for your suggested interval.
  • Replace your fuel filter at the recommended interval. I suggest no mater the mileage to replace it at least every 12 months. Check your owners manual for your suggested interval.
  • Replace your spark plugs at the recommended interval. Depending on the vehicle the interval could be every 30,000, 50,000, or 100,000 miles but if you fuel economy is poor it is a good idea to go ahead and change them. Check your owners manual for your suggested interval.
  • For spark plug wires I suggest to change them every time you change the plugs. If you vehicle has what they call coil on plug then change the boots.
  • Change your antifreeze at the recommended interval. Check your owners manual for your suggested interval.
  • Rotate your tires every oil change and make sure they are properly inflated. Check your owners manual for the suggested tire pressure setting. There may also be a sticker in one of the front door jambs of your car that gives the proper inflation rating.The bottom line is that keeping your vehicle running in tip top shape will not only save you gas but it saves you money. Routine maintenance is not only affordable but it is an easy thing to do and it will help keep more money in your pocket and your keep your vehicle reliable. Doing the maintenance yourself is also very simple and will save you money as well. At Downtown Auto Parts the friendly and knowledgeable staff can help by answering all your questions and give you advice on how to properly maintain your vehicle and get the best fuel economy possible. The staff at Downtown Auto Parts has years of experience in auto repair and they are pros at helping you find the right part for your vehicle. They have the best selection anywhere in the Fort Lauderdale and South Florida areas in new and used auto parts. If they do not have it they will get it. From oil and filters to owners manuals and even complete engines they have it all. They can help you with every aspect of your vehicle care.Stop in at Downtown Auto Parts even if you just have a question. There is no one else in South Florida that knows your vehicle better than these guys. Downtown Auto Parts has the largest selection hands down for new and used car parts in Fort Lauderdale Florida and they are there to help. Open 6 days a week for your convenience you will always be treated with the professionalism and integrity your expect and deserve.

    Downtown Auto Parts is located at 746 NW 9th Ave
    Fort Lauderdale, FL 33311
    (954) 463-7770

† This information was obtained from the www.fueleconomy.gov website

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