For decades, reduction in the overall dependence on fossil fuels and increasing use of alternative fuels, both in vehicles and other energy consumption have been constant messages in the media; the damage to the environment cannot be denied. What can you,as an energy consumer, do to reduce your personal consumption of fossil fuels, especially during the winter, when the colder weather contributes to a decrease in fuel economy of your vehicles?
Maintenance level of your vehicle has a direct impact on your fuel economy. According to George, an ASE-certified mechanic just outside Detroit, the top 5 things that cause poorer gas economy at any time of year are:
- Incorrect timing
- Fouled spark plugs
- Wrong grade of engine oil
- Misaligned wheels
- Underinflated tires.
All of these are simple, inexpensive fixes that can have a big impact on how much gasoline you use; as a matter of fact, taken together, they can decrease your fuel economy by as much as 20%! It’s only smart, then to keep these things on your list of items to track with your vehicle maintenance, checking these at least 4 times a year, with each change of season:
- Find an auto mechanic/shop you can rely on. Having a regular mechanic, other than your friend’s friend, familiar with your car will help you keep track of where your car is on the maintenance scale and can help improve your fuel economy. Finding the right mechanic can be a hit-and-miss affair, though; one key is finding a shop whose mechanics have stayed for more than six months … you may pay a little more and it may take time, but it’s well worth the effort.
- Have a regular tune-up, at least twice a year, with each change of major season, summer and winter. This will help keep the timing correct and avoid fouled spark plugs.
- Check your oil levels every other fill-up and add as needed. Have regular oil changes every 3000 to 5000 miles, depending on your manufacturer’s recommendations. Winter and summer engine oils have different density or viscosity; using viscosity that is too high or too low can hurt fuel efficiency. If your engine typically runs low on oil, have it checked by your mechanic to make sure you don’t have a small leak.
- Have your tires rotated regularly and keep them in good condition. Alignment and inflation are key because under or over-inflated tires, combined with misalignment can impact fuel economy more than just about any other maintenance item. Remember that winter tire pressure is typically lower than summer tire pressure, so check to make sure you’re not running low on air.
- Battery check! Cold weather can drain your battery pretty quickly, especially if it isn’t in the best shape to begin with. If your car is sluggish when starting, it might be time for a new battery.
Keeping your vehicle maintained regularly will not only help with your fuel economy, but will also keep you safer on the road; you’ll run less risk of a roadside breakdown if your car is properly maintained.