I admit it. I used to drive a few miles out of my way to save a few cents a gallon. But now that gas is more than $3 a gallon, those pennies don’t seem to matter as much. Nonetheless, before you go hunting for cheap gas deals, consider these surefire ways to stop these common problems that can reduce your gas mileage by as much as 25 percent:
- Check your tire pressure monthly. Underinflated tires especially can rob you of as much as 10% of your fuel economy, cause serious safety issues and lead to excess wear on tires, meaning they will need to be replaced much quicker than normal.
- Have your alignment checked every six months, or more frequently if you’ve been driving on rough terrain or have hit any potholes or curbs lately. Just like incorrectly inflated tires, bad alignment will affect fuel economy as well as cause abnormal wear on your tires.
- Every two years, take your car to your trusted repair facility to see if your engine needs tuning up. A badly running engine is inefficient and bad for the environment as well. You may not need a tune-up every two years, but it certainly is worth having it checked out to make sure.
- Change your air filter every 12,000 miles. Do not have the dust and dirt blow out of an old filter. The high-pressure air from typical air blowers will actually create larger holes in the filter, which allow more dirt into your engine, creating a worse situation than before! Air filters are cheap, so don’t be penny-wise and pound-foolish.
- Have your fuel injectors cleaned annually or every 12,000 miles. Your fuel injectors get clogged up from dirt in the fuel, which creates energy-robbing deposit buildups in the injectors and combustion chamber. A complete injector cleaning will keep your engine running smoothly and only costs about $120.
You might not think a 25-percent reduction in fuel economy would be substantial, but if you put a pencil to it—based on $3 gas, driving 15,000 miles a year in a vehicle that’s supposed to get 20 mpg—it represents a difference of $750 every year.
And if your car normally gets 16 mpg, the difference is $925! For every car you have. Think about that the next time you’re out hunting for the cheapest gas in your neighborhood.
Steve Takamatsu, CPA, resides in Austin, Texas, with his wife and two children and is the owner of three automotive repair businesses: Epps Body & Paint, Lawson Tire & Automotive and Fastbrake Mobile Brake Repair.