Fuel Mileage

With the rising cost of fuel, there has been a great deal of conversation with our customers surrounding the issue of vehicle fuel mileage. The fuel mileage can have a direct effect on the operating cost of your vehicle. Since complete vehicle care is our focus at Suddeth Automotive Service, I want to share some basic fuel saving tips, in an effort to help our customers extend their fuel budget.

Many things can affect the fuel mileage on a vehicle. I would like to start with a warning. I am old enough to remember the fuel shortage of the early 1970's and saw or installed many fuel savings devices. I do not remember any one that worked or performed as it was advertised. We are starting to see this come back. Sometimes with a new twist. With every car manufacturer having to meet federal emission and fuel mileage standards, don't you think we would see some of these fuel saving devices on the vehicle from the factory? I would suggest you do your homework before you make the investment.

Below are some basic fuel saving tips:

Vehicle Tips

  • Keep your vehicle properly serviced: This includes the fuel and ignition systems. With the electronic controls on vehicles today, your vehicle can appear to be performing well and still not be getting the fuel mileage it should be getting. (Worn spark plugs and wires, dirty fuel filter, etc.)
  • Under inflated tires:  When tires are under inflated, it will cause the tire to have more road resistance and this will have a direct relationship to fuel mileage. In extreme cases one to two miles per gallon. It will also shorten tire life.
  • Keep that air filter clean: A dirty air filter can lower your fuel mileage as much as ten to fifteen percent. It will not allow enough air to enter the engine and will cause the engine to run a rich mixture (too much fuel being burned for the amount of air). This can have long-term affects on performance and engine life.
  • Vehicle gas caps: According to "carcare.org" about 17 percent of vehicles on the road today, have gas caps that are damaged, loose, or missing. It is estimated that this causes 147 million gallons of gas to vaporize every year. Be sure you tighten that gas cap and make sure it seals properly.
  • Vehicle Alignment:  A vehicle that is not properly aligned or has suspension wear will cause road drag. This resistance will affect fuel mileage, drivability, and tire life. This is very similar to the effect an under inflated tire would have.
  • Repair body damage: A damaged fender adds to the aerodynamic drag - Just watch any NASCAR race on Sunday.

Driving Tips

  • Excessive warm up times: Avoid extended warm up time. Today's vehicles do not require it; about 60 seconds should be more than ample in most cases.
  • Avoid jack- rabbit starts: When starting from a stop or while driving a slow, smooth acceleration will use less fuel than a hard, fast acceleration. In the fuel shortage of the 1970's it was stated as "Drive like there was an egg between the floor board of the vehicle and the accelerator pedal. "
  • Excessive Idle periods:  When the vehicle is stopped and the engine is idling, the fuel mileage is zero miles per gallon. However I do not recommend cutting your vehicle off while waiting at a stop light or while waiting at a traffic stoppage on the roadway. This could cause safety concerns. If you are going to be idling for more than a minute or two it is more economical to turn off the engine.
  • Keep windows closed:  With the aerodynamic designs in modern vehicles, it is better to roll up the windows and turn on the air conditioning while driving at highway speeds. This will reduce the wind drag on the vehicle and help increase fuel mileage. This applies to most vehicles on the road today. It will have the same affect at lower speeds, but it is more effective at interstate speeds.  (It is important to keep your AC and ventilation system working properly)
  • Anticipate merging traffic:  Decelerate and accelerate smoothly while stopping at a traffic light or merging into traffic. This is related to the jack - rabbit starts and sudden stops. Always keep safety in mind!
  • Using cruise control: Try to keep your speed constant. While on a long stretches of road, the cruise control will help. This will help increase fuel mileage.
  • Drive in high gear: While driving drive in a higher gear or use over drive. (without lugging the engine) The lower gears are used for starting out and building speed. A higher gear will lower the engine RPM's and increase fuel mileage. Most vehicles today with automatic transmissions will do this when placed in the proper gear, this is usually the over drive setting on the gear selector.
  • Plan your trips wisely:  While running errands, or planning a trip, plan your route. If you can complete your errands in one outing or that trip with the shortest route in mind, it will save fuel usage.
  • Empty that trunk: Carrying unnecessary items in the vehicle will weight down your vehicle and lower your fuel mileage. Please keep in mind safety and emergency items are not included in the unnecessary items. We cannot plan when an emergency will happen, but being prepared when it does is worth its weight in gold.
  • Car pool: When ever possible or practical, this can also save wear on your vehicle.
  • Use the proper fuel for your vehicle: Most vehicles on the road today call for the lower octane fuels, but not all vehicles. Your owner's manual will have this information. Some of the alcohol fuel blends will not work properly in all vehicles.
  • Observe speed limits: Fuel mileage decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 mph. This could be a 10 to 20 percent difference.

As I stated earlier I do remember the fuel lines and shortages of the early 1970's and believe because of that, the vehicle manufacturers build a better and more fuel-efficient vehicle today. Getting the best fuel mileage with your vehicle is no accident. As you can see from the list above, it involves vehicle maintenance, driving habits and knowledge of how your vehicle works. It is our goal to keep your vehicle performing at its best and for the entire life of that vehicle. I hope these tips help lower your fuel budget and take some of the pain out of your next visit to the gas station.

Mike Suddeth