Fuel costs can represent a significant expense for drivers. According to a 2017 study published by the American Automobile Association, the average owner of a new vehicle spends about $1,500 each year on fuel.
There are things you can do reduce this cost. Driving habits can impact fuel economy. If there’s a red light ahead, gradually ease off the gas pedal instead of accelerating until the last moment and then hitting the brakes. If you drive a car with a manual transmission, keep in mind that since less fuel is consumed at higher gears, it makes sense to upshift as soon as possible.
Most drivers know that the vehicles they choose can have a big impact on fuel bills. Manufacturers have faced governmental pressure to produce vehicles that are more fuel-efficient, and today’s cars are more frugal than those from 10 or 15 years ago. But even with this industrywide move toward greater fuel efficiency, there is still a wide margin between the mileage achieved by the most frugal and least frugal new models on the market.
One point that many shoppers aren’t aware of is the impact maintenance can have on a car’s fuel economy. If a car isn’t properly maintained, it likely will fail to achieve the mileage promised by its EPA rating.
With this in mind, here are some maintenance tips designed to help you optimize your car’s fuel economy.
1. Use the grade of motor oil recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer. Motor oil gives your car’s engine the lubrication it needs to function, and it is typically graded in terms of its viscosity. According to the EPA, failing to use the grade of motor oil recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer can reduce your car’s fuel efficiency by 1 to 2 percent.
Before adding motor oil, check your car’s owner’s manual to see which grade is recommended.
2. Get regular engine tune-ups. An engine that is in need of a tune-up likely will fall short of delivering optimal fuel economy. Tune-up intervals vary. If your car has a non-electronic ignition, it’s a good idea to get a tune-up every 10,000 to 12,000 miles. More recent models come with electronic ignitions and fuel injection systems that allow you to go for 25,000 miles or more between tune-ups. Your car’s owner’s manual will give you specific guidelines regarding tune-up intervals.
Keep in mind that in some cases, it may be advisable to get tune-ups more frequently than the owner’s manual recommends. If your car is hard to start or if it sounds unusually coarse when idling, it’s likely that the engine could use some adjustments. And these adjustments could positively impact both performance and fuel economy.
According to the EPA, getting maintenance done on an engine that is noticeably out of tune could improve your car’s fuel economy by as much as 4 percent. And if the engine has a severe problem, getting it fixed could boost fuel efficiency by as much as 40 percent, according to the EPA.
3. Follow manufacturer recommendations when it comes to tire inflation. Your car’s tires keep your vehicle safely connected to the road, and they also can impact fuel economy. Over time, tires lose air and become underinflated, and this can diminish your car’s fuel economy. Keeping your tires inflated according to the manufacturer’s recommendations will help your vehicle optimize its gas mileage.
You’ll find the tire pressure guidelines in your vehicle’s owner’s manual or on a sticker on the driver’s side door jamb. According to the EPA, under-inflated tires can reduce fuel economy by roughly 0.2 percent for every 1 psi drop in the pressure of all of the tires. Keeping your car’s tires properly inflated also will improve your vehicle safety and performance.
Most automotive stores sell tire pressure gauges. Purchase one, and use it to check the pressure of your tires each month. If tire pressure is lower than the guidelines set forth by the manufacturer, use a gas station’s air pump to achieve the recommended level of inflation.
Mindful Maintenance Brings Many Benefits
Regular maintenance can benefit your car in myriad ways. If you’re attentive when it comes to this kind of care, you’ll enjoy a vehicle that provides optimum safety, performance and fuel efficiency.
The tips discussed above can help make sure you don’t spend more money than you should at the gas pump.