With fuel prices hovering near all-time highs throughout much of this year and everyone looking for ways to save money in their budgets, there are some simple and low-cost ways to make trips to the pump less frequent. Whether your car has 20,000 or 200,000 kilometres behind it, keeping it properly maintained will always help it perform better and use less fuel.
The heart of any car is the engine, and if it doesn’t pump effectively, it will have to work harder and be thirstier. The sophisticated computer control systems on newer engines are able to automatically compensate for current conditions by blending the ideal amount of gasoline with the incoming air and firing sparkplugs at the best time for clean, efficient operation. Unlike older vehicles with carburetors and distributor ignition systems, modern engines don’t need frequent timing adjustments or sparkplug replacement, but they only work properly when all of the sensors work properly. Fortunately, the electronic systems are smart enough to detect failed sensors and let the driver know through the “Check Engine” warning lamp.
When a failure has been detected, the control system switches over to a pre-programmed factory default setting, which can lead to increased fuel consumption of up to 40 percent. This factory default is intended to allow the vehicle to continue operating. However, you should visit the nearest Honda or Acura dealership as soon as possible. While that warning light you’ve been ignoring for three months might not mean disaster, it could be costing you quite a bit of money.
With all of the moving parts in an engine, proper lubrication is critical for both efficiency and durability. Oil and filters should be replaced regularly according to the manufacturer’s recommendations in the owner’s manual or the Maintenance Minder System, if the car or truck has one. It’s also important to use the grade of oil recommended in the owners’ manual. Using oil with too high or low a viscosity can lead to increased friction, lower mileage and premature wear. Proper oil level is also key to improved fuel economy and decreased engine wear. Ensure you frequently check your oil level as specified in your owners’ manual. A common misconception is that The Maintenance Minder System calculates engine oil level when in fact it measures oil life.
Another easy and inexpensive way to improve mileage is to replace clogged air intake filters. Experts say that swapping out a clogged filter may “improve fuel economy 2 to 6 percent under normal replacement conditions or up to 14 percent if the filter is so clogged that it significantly affects drivability.” Drivers that live in dusty environments should have their filters checked more frequently and replaced as needed.
Many cars and trucks today are equipped with lower rolling resistance tires to help fuel economy. Unfortunately, these are only beneficial when the tires are properly inflated. Many new cars and trucks sold today are equipped with tire pressure monitoring systems that warn the driver if a tire is getting low, and all drivers should carry a pressure gauge in the glove box along with registration and insurance. Every vehicle has a recommended tire pressure on a sticker that can usually be found on the driver’s doorjamb and drivers should check their pressures at least once a month during warmer temperatures and bi-weekly during cooler temperatures.
All tires leak some amount of air over time, and cold temperatures can cause the pressure to drop even more. This is why it is important to take a proactive approach and ensure that your tires are always properly inflated. According to several automotive experts, under-inflated tires can lower gas mileage by 0.3 percent for every drop of one psi in pressure of all four tires. This means that a single tire running at more than 10 psi lower than normal can reduce mileage by three percent. Low-pressure tires also wear out faster and degrade vehicle handling, leading to safety problems.
The designers of modern cars and trucks spend thousands of hours tweaking the shape of those vehicles in wind tunnels so they slip through the air with less resistance. While sports fans often love to show support for their teams by adding flags to their windows and roofs, these ornaments work against the aerodynamic shape, especially at highway speeds where up to one-third of fuel is used just to overcome wind resistance. Replacing those flags with magnets or stickers inside the windows can save you money at the pump.
Finally, few things affect fuel economy as much as driver behaviour. Avoiding jackrabbit starts and excessive highway speeds can help to save money. When combined with proper maintenance, these measures can keep your ride running reliably for many years to come.