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How To Lower Your Fuel Bill – Part 1 – Take Care of Your Car

January 15, 2009

After the mortgage meltdown and fall in housing prices, the biggest economic concern for almost all of us is how to lower our gas bills for our cars. Each week, we will be focusing on a different area of how you can reduce your gas bill. We will do so by covering the following:

1) Taking care of your car
2) Driving less
3) Finding the best price
4) Buying smarter
5) Looking into a new car
6) Misc tips and things to avoid

Today we’ll focus on Taking Care of Your Car:

Change the oil regularly. Use synthetic oil instead of mineral oil. This will cause your engine to run better and give you better mileage.

Give your car a tune up. Proper maintenance of your car will keep your car running as efficiently as possible.

Upgrade your air filter. An air filter that is clogged with dirt, dust and bugs chokes off the air and creates a "rich" mixture – too much gas being burned for the amount of air, which wastes gas and causes the engine to lose power. Replacing a clogged air filter can improve gas mileage by as much as 10 percent, saving about 15 cents a gallon. There are new more efficient brands of air filters, which while costing a little more will pay for themselves in most vehicles in fuel savings. Check it every oil change and change it regularly. Clogged air filters make engines work harder which requires more fuel.

Use a fuel injector cleaner or complete fuel system treatment occasionally. Not only will you see a boost in gas mileage, but in your car’s overall performance. Fouled injectors vaporize fuel poorly, affecting how completely the fuel is burned.

Get low rolling resistance tires. Low resistance tires, according to Consumer Reports makes a big difference on your mileage.

Check tire air pressure weekly. Underinflated tires – When tires aren’t inflated properly it’s like driving with the parking brake on and can cost a mile or two per gallon. Buy an inexpensive air pump and an accurate tire gauge. Keep all tires inflated to the pressure as recommended for your car.

Remove unneeded racks. If you have a bicycle or ski rack, remove it when you’re not using it. It causes drag and lowers mileage.

Clean out any unneeded items in your car. If there are heavy objects in your car (or trunk) that you don’t need, remove them. If your car is lighter, it will use less fuel to get where you’re going.

Vehicle gas caps - About 17 percent of the vehicles on the roads have gas caps that are either damaged, loose or are missing altogether, causing 147 million gallons of gas to vaporize every year. So check your cap and replace it if it is damaged.

Worn spark plugs – A vehicle can have either four, six or eight spark plugs, which fire as many as 3 million times every 1,000 miles, resulting in a lot of heat and electrical and chemical erosion. A dirty spark plus causes misfiring, which wastes fuel. Spark plugs need to be replaced regularly.


The Bottom Line

Unless you like throwing money away, these are all pretty simple, and inexpensive or free ways to make a serious dent in your weekly gas bill. So this Sunday, hit the driveway and take a good look how you can fix your car to improve your mileage. Stay tuned for our weekly series on lowering your gas bill.

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