The cost of vehicle ownership can be expensive, and weekly fill-ups at the gas station can make a huge dent in your wallet. Although the cost of fuel fluctuates at the pump, this is an expense that you will always need to pay if you’re using your vehicle. There are steps that you can take to get the most out of the fuel you pay for to help ease the pain at the pump.
Fuel efficiency depends on the following factors:
- Whether the engine receives sufficient air
- The correct operation of the ignition system
- The friction within the engine and with the road
- The quality of fuel supplied to the motor
- The usage of the car and how you drive it
- The weather conditions and the climate in which you operate it
Some of those factors are controllable, while others are not. While you may not be able to manipulate some variables to fuel consumption, you can be mindful of their impact on your car’s fuel efficiency.
Follow these methods to make sure that you get the best fuel mileage on your car.
Method 1 of 3: Perform regular maintenance services on time
Step 1: Change the air filter when it is due. A dirty air filter restricts the airflow to the engine, suffocating the combustion process that requires fuel and air to burn properly.
Your engine needs to breathe clean air in proper quantities. The engine will deliver less fuel if the air filter passes less air and you will have to push on the throttle more to get the same power output and this will use more fuel. With less air in the engine, the injection system will inject less fuel to match the air coming in to keep the air/fuel ratio correct.
A dirty filter will cause lower power conditions unless it is replaced. The air filter is an inexpensive maintenance item, and you can have it replaced easily by a certified technician.
Step 2: Change the engine oil when it is dirty. Dirty engine oil can plug oil galleries and cause damaging oil starvation and excessive engine heat due to the increase in friction between moving parts.
This means that the engine will require more energy to operate, and more fuel will need to be used to run the engine.
Tip: Your owner’s manual recommends checking the engine oil level at every fuel fill. If you notice that the engine oil is dirty, change your engine oil even if it is not due due for its maintenance schedule.
Tip: Dirty engine oil is black or brown in color. You can check this by wiping the oil dipstick on a paper towel and checking the color of the oil.
Step 3: Check your tire pressure. If your tire pressure is low, there is increased tread contact with the road surface. This means increased friction and rolling resistance for your car.
Higher friction and rolling resistance require more energy to move the vehicle at the same speed than if your tires were properly inflated. This results in increased fuel consumption.
Tip: Tire pressures that are just 5 PSI (pounds per square inch) lower than their recommended inflation pressure can reduce your fuel efficiency by up to 10%.
Tip: Check your tire pressures every week to ensure proper inflation. The proper tire pressure level is about 35 PSI on most vehicles, but check your vehicle's operation manual for the proper pressures for your tires.
Method 2 of 3: Address your Check Engine Light promptly
When the Check Engine Light is on, your vehicle is not operating in its proper manner. That could be due to a lot of various issues like transmission problems, a wiring issue, emissions-related problems, or fuel-related issues.
The most common Check Engine Light issues are emissions related or tune-up related items.
Step 1: Check the spark plugs. If your engine is running rough, it can indicate problematic spark plugs or bad fuel, among other things.
An engine that isn’t running smoothly typically burns more fuel than if it is running efficiently.
When an engine is burning too much fuel, black carbon deposits are left on the spark plugs in the offending cylinder. This can cause the engine to misfire.
Remove all of the spark plugs, one at a time, and check them for carbon buildup on the contacts. If carbon buildup is found on one or more spark plugs, have a mechanic check and replace the plug to help the system run more efficiently.
Step 2: Check your fuel system. If your vehicle is equipped with an inline fuel filter, you will need to change the fuel filter periodically.
Drain the old filter and check if there is water or debris that comes out.
If you find that there are many contaminants such as water, dirt, or rust, have a professional mechanic drain your fuel tank and clean it of all contaminants.
Step 3: Check for emissions-related codes. The engine control module, or ECM, stores fault codes if a problem is detected in the emissions system.
Codes can range from an engine misfire to oxygen sensor heater failure or catalytic converter efficiency codes.
- Tip: It is difficult to diagnose emissions-related codes or faults on your own. You can, however, have the fault codes checked by a certified technician during your next service. If an emissions-related code is found, it may indicate a sensor is not operating correctly, but that isn’t necessarily the faulty part.
Step 4: Check for misfire codes. A diagnostic check by a professional with a scan tool can let you know if there are any engine misfiring codes.
If the codes are misfire-related, such as a code P0301 for a misfire on cylinder number one, this may indicate an ignition coil, spark plug, or ignition wire problem for that cylinder.
Switch the individual ignition parts for the offending cylinder with another cylinder that does not have a misfire code. If the code changes to another cylinder, you will know which piece caused the Check Engine Light.
A failed part may cause damage to the other components connected to it. A bad coil or wire can foul out a spark plug.
Method 3 of 3: Drive your vehicle responsibly
Step 1: Accelerate the car. Accelerate in a controlled and smooth manner to avoid wasting fuel.
- Tip: Accelerating hard from a stop can burn as much as three times the amount of fuel as a light to moderate acceleration.
Not only will you burn more fuel when you accelerate hard but your tires will wear out faster, requiring replacement sooner than necessary.
Step 2: Reduce your idling time. If you need to wait in your vehicle for a time period of more than 60 seconds, turn the engine off to conserve fuel.
Step 3: Warm up your engine just before you leave. In cold weather, the engine burns more fuel than in warm weather because the car will use more energy to keep the car warm.
Warming up the engine will also start to produce heat inside the car. The engine produces the most heat at higher RPMs such as when you are driving. Warm your engine for only 1-2 minutes to ensure the fluids are circulating well, then drive your cold car to begin producing heat faster.
- Tip: The momentary discomfort in the cold while warming it up can mean savings at the pump instead of having the car work harder to keep the vehicle warm.
Step 4: Avoid quick stops. When you see that you will have to stop up ahead then raise your foot off the accelerator and let your vehicle coast to a stop. This will help save fuel and reduce wear on your brakes.
Tip: If you coast up to a stop light slowly, it may change for you and you do not even need to stop. This saves even more fuel since you do not need to start driving again from a complete stop.
Tip: If you are driving a hybrid vehicle this is when your car recharges the batteries the most and if you just lightly touch the brakes the batteries get even more charge.
Step 5: Avoid excessive speeds. Try to keep a constant speed and keep pace with the rest of the traffic on the highway.
Tip: Going 60 mph instead of 70 mph will save about 2 miles per gallon of fuel.
Tip: Excessive speed above the flow of traffic prevents you from keeping a constant speed and may burn more fuel. You may save yourself 2 miles per gallon by not driving like this. Do not forget how much speeding tickets cost nowadays. The money that you may need to pay for the ticket could purchase a lot of fuel.
All in all, the hefty cost of filling up your fuel can easily add up over time. If you take care of your car and drive wisely, you can optimize the amount of fuel mileage that you are getting for your car.
If you still feel that you are not getting the best possible fuel mileage from your car, get a certified mechanic to conduct an inspection. If you need any help taking care of your vehicle, certified mechanics from YourMechanic can come to your home or office to perform services such as oil changes, air filter replacements, and Check Engine Light diagnostics. These services will prevent future car issues, ensure that your car is running in great shape, and help you get the best fuel mileage possible for your car.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as How to Get the Best Fuel Mileage For Your Car and was authored by Jason Unrau.