Today’s vehicles are pretty easy to take care of and maintain. Put some air in the tires, get regular oil changes and tune ups and you’re good to go. Both of those tasks also go pretty far in creating a more fuel efficient car. But if you really want to maximize your dollars at the gas pump, here are three lesser-known maintenance tips that people tend to overlook:
1. Use the right oil. Whether you take your car for an oil change, or you change it yourself, be sure it’s getting the grade of motor oil recommended in your owner’s manual. For example, using 10W-30 motor oil in an engine designed to use 5W-30 can lower your gas mileage by one to two percent. Choosing a motor oil with additives that reduce friction also creates a more fuel efficient car. Just look for the American Petroleum Institute’s ( API) "Energy Conserving" symbol on the bottle.
2. Let your car breathe. A recent study conducted for the U.S. Department of Energy found that a clogged air filter can reduce gas mileage in older cars with carbureted engines by as much as 14 percent. While replacing clogged air filters on newer cars doesn’t necessarily improve MPG significantly, it can improve acceleration time.
3. Don’t scrimp on parts. When it comes to your engine, something as simple as spark plugs make a big difference. A dirty, worn out or inferior spark plug can cause inconsistent firing, which may result in reduced performance and a less fuel efficient car. Choose parts designed specifically for your vehicle’s engine that are approved by the manufacturer.
But having the most fuel efficient car isn’t all about the maintenance. Your driving habits can also help. Planning ahead and combining trips can go a long way in saving you money at the pump. Also, be sure to avoid aggressive tactics like speeding and stop-and-go driving, which reduce fuel efficiency.