The last time I wrote about fuel economy gas prices were nudging a $1.30 per litre. It is approximately five years later and gas is closing in on a $1.50 per litre. I was perusing the Nissan website looking at the price of a Nissan Leaf (cheap electric car).
I guess buying a new super fuel efficient vehicle would feel good. Plugging in to charge up your new electric or far fewer trips to the gas station with your new hybrid would lower your fuel expenses but that is far from the only expense of owning a car. The new monthly payment, depreciation and new car insurance buy a lot of gas or electricity.
How about taking the vehicle you already own to the fuel economy spa (so to speak). You can improve your fuel mileage spending very little money. Start with a major cleaning. A wash and wax will make your vehicle slip through the air more gracefully and thus save some fuel. But I would first suggest removing the sandbags in the trunk and any other weighty items you are carrying around for no good reason. Extra weight uses extra fuel to get and keep you moving.
Correct tire pressure is also a fuel saver. Low pressure causes more friction between the tire and the road. It also wears out your tires quicker. Remember all tires slowly lose pressure over time. Regular checking is required.
Another fuel economy enhancement that comes for free is simply changing your driving habits. When you do drive drive smoothly. Read the road ahead. Accelerate gradually. Slow down gradually. Smooth driving not only saves fuel it saves wear and tear and your vehicle. Everything will last longer.
Instead of slapping on the summers, and a quick oil and filter change have your service centre of choice spend a little more quality time with your vehicle. A good brake inspection and service will find dragging brake pads, shoes, or calipers reducing the rolling friction of your vehicle. A wheel alignment (you know you hit one of those mammoth potholes a little hard) will also make your vehicle roll down the road more freely.
If you are driving around with a check engine light on you are very likely wasting fuel. Get that problem diagnosed. Sure your vehicle seemingly runs great but an engine that is not grossly using extra fuel provides no apparent symptoms. Your mechanic can use his scan tool to observe the running parameters of your vehicle and determine any abnormalities that require attention.
When the obvious reasons for that check engine light are determined and corrected your vehicle will probably also benefit from an air intake and fuel injection system cleaning. Deposits on the back of intake valves, on fuel injector tips and in the cylinders reduce your engine’s efficiency. Regular professional cleaning will keep these deposits to a minimum and maintain your vehicle’s peak efficiency.
Lastly most of us could just drive less. Walk all the way or even part of the way to the gym and skip the treadmill. I hate treadmills. Ride your bike. Take the bus.
Trail’s Ron Nutini is a licensed automotive technician and graduate of mechanical engineering from UBC. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org