Spring Car Care: Under-inflated tires, speed, can reduce gas mileage

Published on Wed, Apr 13, 2011
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With gas prices exceeding four dollars a gallon in many parts of the country, drivers need gas-saving maintenance and driving tips that really work.

“Millions of dollars worth of gasoline is wasted every day by motorists, because simple and inexpensive vehicle maintenance is neglected,” said Rich White, executive director of the Car Care Council. “Loose or missing gas caps, under-inflated tires, worn spark plugs and dirty air filters all contribute to poor fuel economy.”

Fuel-saving mechanical tips

• Check your gas caps. About 17 percent of the vehicles on the road have gas caps that are either damaged, loose or are missing altogether, causing 147 million gallons of gas to vaporize every year.

• Make sure your tires are properly inflated. When tires aren’t inflated properly, it’s like driving with the parking brake on and can cost a mile or two per gallon.

• Replace spark plugs regularly. A vehicle can have either four, six or eight spark plugs, which fire as many as three million times every 1,000 miles. That results in heat, electrical and chemical erosion. A dirty spark plug can also cause misfiring, which is a waste of fuel. Spark plugs need to be replaced regularly.

• Replace dirty air filters. An air filter that is clogged with dirt, dust and bugs chokes off the air and creates a rich mixture—too much gas being burned for the amount of air—which wastes gas and causes the engine to lose power. Replacing a clogged air filter can improve gas mileage by as much as 10 percent, saving about 15 cents a gallon.

Fuel-saving driving tips

• Don’t be an aggressive driver. Aggressive driving can lower gas mileage by as much as 33 percent on the highway and 5 percent on city streets.

• Avoid excessive idling. Sitting idle gets zero miles per gallon. Letting the vehicle warm up for one to two minutes is sufficient.

• Observe the speed limit. Gas mileage decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 mph. Each mile driven over 60 will result in an additional 10 to 34 cents per gallon. On the highway, use cruise control.