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Car care advice for consumers facing tough economy

November 4, 2009

Courtesy of ARA Content

The average car and light truck on American roads has reached a record age of 9.4 years, according to a recent survey by R.L. Polk & Co. With new car sales down, consumers across the country are looking to get the most out of their existing cars and to save money whenever possible.

However, spending a little more today on the right maintenance routine with quality products and trusted service technicians can help save money over the long run. Alan Taylor, host of the nationally-syndicated show Car & Driver Radio, offers the following simple checklist of tips motorists should perform to help keep their vehicles running longer, safer and more cost-effectively:

Motor oil really does matter

Beyond regular, specified oil changes, automobile manufacturers recommend the use of high-quality motor oils that meet the latest American Petroleum Institute (API) specifications in their particular grade. Consumers should ask for quality motor oils by name because they are formulated to meet the demands of today’s engines. Using a quality motor oil in the right grade can help maximize fuel economy, and help save money by preventing costly engine damage. A new, informative Web site—www.MotorOilMatters.org—answers many motor oil questions and dispels many common myths.

Regular preventive maintenance pays off

Most vehicle manufacturers have two classifications for driving conditions, “normal” and “severe,” which they use to recommend how often drivers should have services such as oil changes performed on their vehicle. A driving habits survey conducted for Jiffy Lube found that more than 92 percent of motorists drive in what vehicle manufacturers consider “severe” conditions.

Regardless of the driving conditions, it’s important people follow their vehicle manufacturer’s maintenance recommendations. Keeping a vehicle on its proper preventive maintenance schedule will help keep it running smoothly. For instance, the minimal investment of an oil change (generally $25-$35 for a Jiffy Lube Signature Service Oil Change with conventional oil) can help drivers avoid potentially more costly repairs down the road.

Driving style can make a big difference

Aggressive driving wastes gas and can reduce gas mileage by 33 percent on the highway and 5 percent in the city, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Avoid quick or “jackrabbit” starts and stops, and observe the posted speed limits as gas mileage decreases rapidly above 60 mph.

Motorists should plan their route in advance and combine as many errands as possible to minimize time on the road. Especially on longer trips, drivers should take advantage of the cruise control feature if they have it—an Edmunds.com study revealed that using cruise control at highway speeds offered an average fuel economy savings of 7percent.

Use a high-quality gasoline

All gasolines are not the same, and no matter what grade of fuel a vehicle requires, it’s important to use a high-quality gasoline. Industry research confirms that a clean engine can result in better fuel efficiency, reduced emissions and overall optimal engine performance. Fortunately, keeping the engine clean of performance-robbing “gunk” helps it perform better and is as easy as choosing the right gasoline. For example, Shell Nitrogen Enriched Gasolines contain a patented cleaning system that seeks and destroys engine gunk left behind by lower-quality gasoline.

Don’t lose your grip

Tires are a car’s only connection to the road, so making sure they are in good shape and properly inflated is essential for automotive safety, optimum driving performance and potential cost savings, including better fuel mileage. Tires should be inflated to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations printed on the vehicle door placard or in the owner’s manual. Properly-inflated tires can improve gas mileage by around 3.3 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Watch the weight

If it’s not needed, don’t take it. Check the vehicle on a regular basis and remove all unnecessary items. Every additional 100 pounds in the trunk could reduce the typical car’s fuel economy by up to 2 percent, the Department of Energy reports.

Let the car breathe free

Check that the air filter isn’t clogged. Replacing a clogged air filter can improve a car’s gas mileage by as much as 10 percent. And it won’t just save money; it will also help protect the engine by keeping harmful impurities out.

Regular tune-ups pay off over the long term

Before taking that long trip, motorists should visit a trusted professional and make sure their car is properly tuned. Depending on the kind of repair and how well it is performed, regular vehicle maintenance can improve gas mileage by an average of 4 percent, according to the Department of Energy.

For more information as well as helpful tips and advice, visit www.MotorOilMatters.org or www.fueleconomy.gov.

From the November 4-10, 2009 issue

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