Tips to make your vehicle more fuel-efficient: Tires, air filters, spark plugs and gas caps can all make a difference

Rising fuel costs are on the minds of most Americans these days as gas prices are expected to top $3 per gallon in coming weeks. Sure, you can simply stop driving as much, but for many consumers, that’s not an option. But there are two ways all of us can stretch our precious gasoline dollars.

One strategy is to change how we drive, and the other is to perform simple and inexpensive vehicle maintenance. Taking these steps will not only save gas money, but will improve a vehicle’s safety and dependability.

National Car Care Month in April is an ideal time for motorists to review the factors that can impact fuel economy. According to the Car Care Council, the most common are under-inflated tires, dirty air filters, old spark plugs and something as simple as the gas cap.

Following are some tips to help improve your vehicle’s fuel economy:

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

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

A vehicle can have either four, six or eight spark plugs, which fire as many as 3 million times each 1,000 miles, resulting in a lot of heat, electrical and chemical erosion. A dirty spark plug causes misfiring, which wastes fuel. Spark plugs need to be replaced regularly.

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 on a gallon.

Aggressive driving can lower gas mileage by as much as 22 percent on the highway and 5 percent on city streets, which results in 7 to 49 cents per gallon.

Sitting idle gets zero miles per gallon. Letting the vehicle warm up for 1 to 2 minutes is sufficient.

Gas mileage decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 miles per hour. Each mile per hour driven above 60 results in an additional 10 cents per gallon. To maintain a constant speed on the highway, cruise control is recommended.

Last year, vehicle check-up events conducted throughout the country revealed that nearly nine out of 10 cars required some type of maintenance. This reinforces the need for the motoring public to become more aware of the maintenance needs of their vehicle to save money, conserve energy, improve highway safety and help protect the environment.

Every motorist can receive a free 56-page Car Care Guide that takes the guesswork out of vehicle maintenance by visiting the Car Care Council’s Web site at

from the March 28-April 3, 2007, issue

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