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Maintenance Tips for the Most Gas Efficient Cars

Even the most gas efficient cars could use extra help when it comes to running in top shape. Today's best vehicles are pretty easy to take care of and maintain. By following some basic maintenance tips for gas efficient cars, you may increase your fuel economy.

Have you ever asked yourself: Why is my car using so much fuel? Ever wondered how to reduce fuel consumption in your vehicle?

There are simple ways to help increase your car engine efficiency. These include maintaining correct air pressure in the tires and getting regular oil changes and tune-ups. These tasks can go pretty far in creating a more fuel-efficient car.

If you really want to maximize your dollars at the gas pump, there are a few lesser-known maintenance tips that people tend to overlook.

These tips may help increase car mileage and increase fuel efficiency for your vehicle. Most of these suggestions are simple checklist items you can do that may make a big difference over time.

Use the Right Oil

Do you know the type of oil your car uses? You can help increase car efficiency by using the right motor oil. Be sure your vehicle is getting the grade of motor oil recommended in your Owner's Manual. This is a good rule whether you take your car for an oil change or you change it yourself. There are a lot of types of motor oil on the market. Make sure you are buying the right one for your vehicle.

According to, 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.

Let Your Car Breathe

Don't forget to replace the engine air filters in your car to help increase fuel efficiency. If you live in a dusty area of the country, consider changing your air filter more frequently. Often, a quick visual check is enough to see if the air filter is dirty and needs changing or cleaning.

A recent study conducted for the U.S. Department of Energy looked into how to make a car more fuel efficient. The findings show a clogged air filter can reduce gas mileage in older cars with carburetor engines by as much as 14 percent. While replacing clogged air filters on newer cars doesn't necessarily improve miles per gallon significantly, it can improve acceleration time.

Don't Scrimp on Parts

How can you increase fuel efficiency? When it comes to your engine, something as simple as spark plugs makes 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. Basic car service can increase fuel efficiency.

Bad spark plugs can decrease gas efficiency by up to 30 percent, according to The National Institute for Automotive Services. If your car's gas mileage suddenly drops, it could be because of spark plugs that are misfiring. So, that would be a good first thing to check.

These parts are generally less than $20 and can make a big difference in how your vehicle runs and how your vehicle uses fuel. Choose parts designed specifically for your vehicle's engine that are approved by the manufacturer.

Check Your Tires

Car engine efficiency is often linked to the way the car rides on the tires. Be sure to check the air pressure in your tires. Your owner's manual should tell you the exact tire pressure reading to look for. If your tires are running in top shape, this can help you save on gas. While you are checking tire pressure in the main four tires, check the spare tire, too! You always want to make sure you have a solid tire to use in case of a flat or other emergency.

Don't wait until your tires look low. Underinflated tires could result in your engine using more fuel to help the car move. A good rule of thumb is to check your tire pressure each time you fill up your car with gasoline.

Lessen the Load

Believe it or not, carrying around extra cargo in your vehicle can really weigh your car down. More weight in your car means your car is working harder to drive around. You can increase the fuel efficiency of your vehicle by uncluttering the trunk and other storage spaces.

It may seem like a simple thing, but it could be one of the simplest ways to conserve fuel. Extra weight means your vehicle will work harder to move the car which could lower the gas mileage.

Inspect the Gas Cap

Something as simple as a gas cap can impact the fuel efficiency of your vehicle. The rubber seal on the gas cap can break down, making the cap not fit right. This might allow oxygen to leak into the gas tank. More air in the gas tank can pull gasoline from the tank which can make the engine burn more gasoline.

Even just replacing an old gas cap every few years with a new one can help fuel efficiency. Certain vehicles have warning systems that will let you know if the seal on your gas cap needs attention. You can get a new gas cap from your dealership for about $20 to $30.

Avoid Idling

Waiting for your friend at the airport? Sitting in a long line for school pickup? Roll down the windows and turn off your engine! If possible, avoid prolonged idling of your engine. Running your engine at idle is estimated to consume roughly half a gallon each hour. Simply turning off your engine while you are waiting instead of having the engine running can help conserve gasoline.

Another simple way to save fuel is to let your car warm up before driving off. Start your engine and let it run for about 20 seconds before taking off. You may see people start up their car and rev the engine up before taking off. This is a bad idea and can use more gasoline, especially if it is a daily habit.

Time Your Filling Up

When you decide to fill up your vehicle can also impact fuel efficiency. The early bird gets the worm – especially when it comes to saving money. If you fill your vehicle up with gasoline in the early morning, you can save money over time.

Why? Gas station storage tanks are buried deep in the earth. In the morning, the ground is cooler which makes the gasoline dense. When the ground warms up, the molecules of the gasoline expand. If you refuel later in the day when the gas has expanded, you may not get as much gas as you think. Sure, fuel pumps measure the gasoline going into your tank, but that is just measured by the flow rate. Sensors won't show the density; just the flow rate of the gasoline.

Studies show filling up your vehicle when it is cooler outside could mean you get about 2.5% more gasoline than refilling in the afternoon when the ground temperature heats up. You will get more gas for your money. It may seem like a small amount, but if you fill up your vehicle several times a week, it can really add up!

Driving Habits Help Car Efficiency

Having the most fuel-efficient car isn't just about 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. Try keeping your speed at a consistent level without speeding up and slowing down at various times. Other tips include:

Use your car's cruise control when possible.

Don't overuse the air conditioning unit.

Make sure you have the right tires for your vehicle.

Plan your trips and combine errands.

Use the right fuel type recommended for your vehicle.

In the end, keeping up with all scheduled maintenance is the best method for improving fuel efficiency. If you own a Toyota, register for a Toyota Owners account. Toyota will help keep track of scheduled services and all service records for your vehicle. You can also arrange to have service reminders and other scheduled maintenance planned out ahead of time.

When you own a Toyota, you become a member of the Toyota family. We want to help you keep your vehicle in top running condition, including any tips that can help boost fuel efficiency.