Don't Let Vehicle Neglect Take the Fun Out of Your Holiday Travel
Is your car ready for a holiday road trip? The period between Thanksgiving and New Years is one of the most heavily traveled seasons of the year and if you'll be taking a long road trip to visit loved ones, these holiday travel tips can help you improve your gas mileage just by checking a few basic items on the car:
- Start with the tires and make sure they are inflated properly. When they aren't, it is similar to driving with the parking brake on and can cost a mile or two per gallon. Tire pressure should be checked at least once a month and don't forget the spare.
- Air filters should not be clogged with dirt, dust or bugs. A dirty filter will choke off the air and create a "rich" mixture - too much gas being burned for the amount of air - that wastes gas and causes the engine to lose power. A rule of thumb is to have the air filter inspected at each oil change and replaced when dirty, torn, water or oil soaked, or when showing other signs of wear. Replacing a clogged air filter will improve gas mileage by as much as 10 percent.
- Spark plugs are an often-neglected maintenance item because of their long-life expectancy. They are one of the hardest working parts of the engine and when functioning properly, they improve reliability and maximize engine performance and fuel economy. Plugs that are worn or fouled can cause the engine to lose power or misfire, which wastes fuel. The replacement interval for spark plugs can range from 30,000 to 100,000 miles. A check of the spark plugs is usually part of a routine tune-up during which your automotive technician makes sure other ignition system and /or emission system parts, as well as the onboard computer control system, are working properly. A well-tuned engine delivers the best balance of power and fuel economy and produces the lowest level of emissions.
- Gas caps should not be damaged, loose, or missing. Make sure you have snugged it tightly enough that you hear three clicks. About 17 percent of the vehicles on the road have loose, damaged, or missing gas caps, causing 147 million gallons of gas to vaporize every year.
In addition to proper vehicle maintenance, motorists can also get better gas mileage by avoiding aggressive driving, which can lower gas mileage by as much as 33 percent on the highway and five percent on city streets, and avoiding excessive idling as a vehicle gets zero miles per gallon when sitting idle. Letting the vehicle warm up for one to two minutes is sufficient.
Motorists should observe the speed limit as gas mileage decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 mph. Each mph driven over 60 will result in an additional 10 cents per gallon. Cruise control helps maintain a constant speed on the highway.
Combining errands into one trip will also save gas and time. Several short trips taken from a cold start can use twice as much fuel as a longer multi-purpose trip covering the same distance.
Motorists should avoid carrying unneeded heavy items in the trunk as an extra 100 pounds can cut fuel efficiency by a percent or two.
The Car Care Council is the source of information for the "Be Car Care Aware" consumer education campaign promoting the benefits of regular vehicle care, maintenance, and repair to consumers. For a copy of the council's Car Care Guide or for more information, visit www.carcare.org.
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