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Automotive Maintenance on a Budget
The following simple and inexpensive preventive inspections may extend the life of your vehicle, ensure safer operation and even benefit the environment.
- Even though your vehicle may still be under warranty you are not required to return to a dealership for scheduled maintenance. You may have the service facility of your choice maintain your vehicle and not void your warranty.
- Always refer to the manufacturer’s specifications in your vehicle owner’s manual, but a good rule of thumb is to have the oil and filter changed regularly, every 3,000 to 4,000 miles when using conventional engine oil and every 5,000 to 6,000 miles when using synthetic engine oil.
- Have all fluids inspected, including brake, power steering, transmission/transaxle, windshield washer solvent and antifreeze/coolant. These fluids play a vital role in the safety and performance of the vehicle.
- Inspect tires and inflation once a month. Under-inflated tires can result in a loss of fuel efficiency and premature tire wear. This is the least expensive form of preventive and safety maintenance.
- Keep your engine tuned. A fouled spark plug can reduce fuel efficiency as much as 30 percent.
- Have the chassis lubricated frequently. This step extends the life of the moving components of the vehicle’s suspension system.
- Inspect battery, cables and posts for corrosion and clean as needed.
- Have the lighting system inspected frequently, including headlights, turn signals, brake lights and tail lights.
- Inspect windshield wiper blades for cracks, tears and windshield contact. Replace them at least once a year or sooner if streaking begins.
- Inspect engine belts and hoses regularly. Look for wear, cracks and missing sections or segments. Worn belts and hoses can affect the safe operation of your vehicle.
- Have the air filtration system inspected frequently. The air filter should be inspected approximately every other oil change for clogging or damage.
- Inspect and replace your vehicle’s cabin air filter regularly. The cabin air filter cleans the air to the heater and A/C system and affects the air you breathe while driving your vehicle.
Always consult your vehicle owner’s manual for individual service schedules as manufacturer maintenance requirements may vary greatly.
The Car Care Council provides an excellent recommended Service Interval Schedule pamphlet (pdf document which requires Adobe Reader. If not already installed on your system, you can get Adobe Reader here.)
An In-Depth Look At Fuel Efficiency Tips
- Loose or missing gas caps
- Underinflated tires
- Faulty thermostats
- Worn spark plugs
- Malfunctioning engine controls
- Poor wheel alignment
Underinflated tires and incorrect wheel alignment can lead to conditions which increase rolling resistance. This is like driving with the parking brake not fully released, it can cost a mile or two per gallon on a car that normally delivers 20 miles per gallon. Correct tire inflation pressure is critical for good fuel economy, safety, maximum tire life and proper vehicle handling performance.
Keeping up with regular vehicle maintenance can improve gas mileage by an average of 4.1 percent. Results may vary depending on the kind of repair and how well it is performed. Fixing a serious maintenance problem, such as a faulty oxygen sensor, can improve your mileage by as much as 40 percent.
An air filter clogged with dirt, dust and bugs chokes off the air and creates what is called a “rich” mixture – too much gas being burned for the amount of air, which both wastes gas and causes the engine to lose power. Replacing a clogged air filter can improve gas mileage by as much as 10 percent.
A vehicle can have either four, six or eight spark plugs, which fire as many as 3 million times every l,000 miles, resulting in a lot of heat, electrical and chemical erosion. A dirty spark plug causes misfiring and that wastes fuel, up to two miles per gallon. They need to be replaced as recommended by the manufacturer.Other gas guzzlers include:
- Dirty or substandard oil = 1 mile per gallon
- Slipping automatic transmission = 1 mile per gallon
- Cooling system thermostat that causes the engine to run too cold = 2 miles per gallon
- Worn O2 sensor = 3 miles per gallon
- Avoid quick or ‘jackrabbit” starts and stops.
- Aggressive driving wastes gas. It can lower your gas mileage by 33 percent on the highway and 5 percent in the city.
- Observe the speed limit. Gas mileage decreases rapidly above 60 miles per hour.
- Avoid excessive idling. Idling gets 0 miles per gallon.
- Use cruise control because it helps you maintain a constant speed limit.
- Use overdrive gears because the engine speed goes down saving gas and reducing engine wear.
- Avoid carrying unneeded heavy items in your trunk. An extra 100 pounds in the trunk reduces a typical car’s fuel economy by 1-2 percent.
- Use air vents to circulate air instead of air conditioning.
- Combine errands into one trip and get good directions before you head out to minimize driving unnecessary miles. Several short trips taken from a cold start can use twice as much fuel as a longer multi-purpose trip covering the same distance.
Simple preventative maintenance steps that you can do to conserve energy, protect your investment, improve highway safety and benefit the environment include:
- Regularly changing your oil
- Inflating your tires properly
- Taking your vehicle for annual brake inspections
- Changing the windshield wipers
- Electrical and ignition
- Emission control
- Heating and cooling
- Steering and suspension
The service technician can also evaluate:
- Engine performance
- Windshield wipers
- Seat belts
- Vehicle’s body
Courtesy: The Car Care Council