With gas prices fluctuating from week to week, it is more important than ever to be conscious of ways you can better improve the gas mileage your vehicle is getting.
It is not feasible for everyone to trade in their sports utility vehicles or trucks for compact cars, especially for large families or people needing towing and cargo capabilities.
Fortunately, there are many ways that you can improve the fuel efficiency of your vehicle without having to compromise the space or power you love in your bigger ride.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Jim Jones of Brookfield, a mechanic at Champion Auto Center, check the air pressure in a customer’s tires. Maintaining proper air pressure in your tires can improve gas mileage.
"Getting the proper maintenance is very important to maintain the best efficiency of your car," said Rich Pirtz, proprietor of Champion Auto Center.
According to Pirtz, there are a few simple ways to improve the gas mileage of your vehicle.
The first thing to do is to be aware of tire maintenance. The most important thing to consider with tire maintenance to improve fuel efficiency is to be sure that all four tires are properly inflated, Pirtz said.
Tips to keep gas costs down:
. . . Keep your tires properly inflated
. . . Clean air filter and fuel injector
. . . Accelerate slower
. . . Use synthetic motor oil instead of conventional
. . . Plan your route ahead of time
. . . Don't brake as much
Source: Champion Auto Center
Proper tire pressure is different for every vehicle depending on both the size of your vehicle and the size of the tire. Carowners should be able to find the proper tire pressure for your vehicle in the drivers' manual. When checking tire pressure, Pirtz warns car owners to be sure the tires are cool and have not been driven on for at least three hours.
The alignment of tires is also important in keeping a vehicle fuel efficient. Poor alignment causes tires to wear faster and makes your car shake or pull to one side. Pirtz said it is good to have alignment checked annually.
Another very simple way to lower fuel costs is to make sure you are keeping a clean air filter under the hood. Generally it is recommended that car owners should change the air filter every 10,000 miles. Have a clean air filter will keep less air out of your engine and allow your car run smoother. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, replacing a clogged air filter can increase your gas mileage by 10 percent.
Pirtz also recommends that everyone have their fuel injection cleaned twice a year to maintain the fuel efficiency of your vehicle. He says there are a couple of ways to do this, the simplest being to just purchase a can of fuel injection cleaner twice a year and pour it into your gas tank. Fuel injection cleaner usually costs around $10 per can, so if you use it twice a year as recommended it is just $20 a year to improve your gas mileage. An even more effective way to raise fuel efficiency is to have a full fuel injection service which usually runs between $69 and $99. It may cost you a bit more initially for a fuel injection service, but the savings in the long run will be worth it as it significantly increases your vehicles fuel efficiency over a longer period of time than simply adding cleaner.
Having the vehicle oil changed every 3,000 miles is always recommended, no matter if you're concerned with bettering your fuel economy or not. However, the type of oil you choose to put in your vehicle can determine whether you get better gas mileage during the next 3,000 miles. Pirtz recommends that you use synthetic motor oil when you get your oil changed to improve your fuel efficiency. According to Pirtz, synthetic motor oil is "slippier" than conventional motor oil and significantly reduces how hard your engine has to work, therefore raising your gas mileage. Although synthetic motor oil is slightly more expensive than conventional oil, in the long run it pays for itself and then some with the money it saves you in gasoline. A full service oil change costs $24.99 at Champion Auto Center and includes a check of all your fluids, as well as inflating tires if needed and a check of the cleanliness of your air filter.
Keep in mind the next time you get you vehicle serviced, there are some minor maintenance issues that you can get done to your vehicle for a little extra money that will ultimately save you big bucks.
Having maintenance work done is not the only way to improve the gas mileage of a vehicle. The actions of the motorist on the street also contributes to not having to fill up the tank as often. Pirtz recommends not to run your air conditioning all the time as it works the engine harder than necessary.
''Also, drive with the windows down and enjoy the fresh air when you drive,'' Pirtz said.
Another way to improve your fuel economy is to simply drive slower than you normally do.
"Driving at a speed of 55 miles per hour is recommended as the most fuel efficient speed," said Shawn Crank, owner of C.O.P.S Driving Academy in Champion. ''For every five miles per hour over 55, your fuel efficiency is reduced by one and a half miles per gallon."
Crank also recommends not accelerating too quickly to your desired speed. By easing up to the speed limit, you are saving the amount of gas you use to accelerate. Most gas is used when you are accelerating, not when you're at your constant speed. It is also a good idea to try to time traffic lights so you don't have to come to a complete stop and then have to start moving again from a dead stop.