Key Maintenance to Improve Fuel Efficiency

June 29th, 2015 by

A mechanic is holding a wrench and giving a thumbs up.

Key Maintenance to Improve Fuel Efficiency

Unless you drive an electric vehicle, you’re probably concerned about the best way to boost your vehicle’s fuel efficiency so you can go longer without stops at the gas pump. While your fuel economy is largely based on the vehicle you own – in particular its size, the engine you have, the drive type you chose, and similar factors – you do still have some control over things after the fact. Some of the best ways to improve your fuel efficiency, or at least keep it as good as possible, are simple types of service like a quick oil change or an engine tune-up.

To be fair, a lot of these things have pretty minor improvements to your overall fuel economy, so don’t expect to suddenly get another 100 miles from a full tank of gas. That being said, they’re still improvements, and even a couple miles from each full tank will add up over the course of several years. Best of all, these aren’t things you’ll want to do only for the improvements they offer to your gas mileage – they’ll all make your vehicle more enjoyable to drive and help performance in a number of other ways. Plus, proper service and maintenance can help you avoid more serious problems down the road that can cost a lot more to fix.
Here are some of the simplest ways you can boost your fuel efficiency:

#1 – Change your Oil

The oil in your vehicle’s engine is incredibly important (so much so that it’s actually related to the first two points we’re going to look at). Your engine gets incredibly hot; after all, the power in your vehicle comes from small explosions taking place hundreds of times per minute while you’re driving. All of that heat can cause damage to your vehicle, and it gets much worse if there’s friction from the moving parts in your engine – the oil keeps things sliding smoothly, reducing friction and ensuring everything works properly.

Over time, the oil in your engine will get dirty – this is just a natural part of it doing its job, so there’s nothing you can do to avoid it. Changing your oil removes this dirty oil that no longer works well and replaces it with fresh oil that gets your engine running beautifully again. This boosts your vehicle’s overall performance and can help improve your fuel efficiency since your engine is more efficient overall. When you get your oil changed, it’s important to…

A mechanic is preforming a quick oil change.

#2 – Use the Proper Type of Oil

Changing your oil is vital – you should look in your owner’s manual to see how often you need to change it to keep your engine running beautifully. While you’re there, however, you should also check and see what type of oil is recommended for your vehicle. There are different types and different grades of motor oil available for use in your vehicle; the engine was designed and manufactured for use with a particular type of oil. Choosing the grade of motor oil recommended by the manufacturer will ensure you’re getting the best fuel economy possible.

While you’re at it, you should also consider whether you want to use conventional motor oil or synthetic oil. Synthetic oil costs more, but it runs smoother, can last longer, and has additives that can actually clean your engine while you’re driving. If you can’t spring for synthetic oil, then consider a blend that still gives you some of the benefits of synthetic, without costing quite as much. You can also swap each time you change your oil between synthetic and conventional in order to keep long-term costs down but still treat your engine well.

#3 – Keep Your Tires Inflated

One of the simplest things you can do to boost your fuel efficiency is to check your tire pressure regularly, both with a visual inspection and using a gauge if they seem low. When your tires aren’t inflated properly, not only will your vehicle not run as smoothly as you’d probably like, but the under-inflation can result in reduced gas mileage. You can check your owner’s manual or the sticker on your driver’s side door jamb or glove box to see what the proper tire pressure is for your vehicle. Even a single psi below the proper tire inflation can negatively impact your fuel economy, and multiple low-pressure tires can really add up.

#4 – Get Your Engine Tuned Up

In general, the single biggest thing you can do for your car to ensure optimal fuel economy is to have your vehicle and the engine checked on a routine, scheduled basis. Having your engine tuned will ensure it is running exactly how it was meant to be when it was designed. Over time, it’s only natural for any mechanical system to get slightly off. This is typically a quick process that will improve not only your car’s fuel economy but also its overall performance and help it run more smoothly. Plus, during routine tune-ups, it’s easy for your mechanic to notice other issues that need to be replaced or fixed before they become a much bigger problem.

#5 – Check Your Air Conditioning

This might not make much sense at first, but your vehicle’s air conditioning actually has a pretty big impact on your overall fuel economy. Your engine directly powers your air conditioning, so power going to it is being taken away from the rest of your vehicle’s performance. If your A/C system is not operating the way it should – due to dirty condensers, evaporators, or other issues – then more power might be going to it than it should be. So having your vehicle’s A/C checked out and fixed can help boost your car’s overall performance and your fuel efficiency.

A mechanic is checking a cars engine.

#6 – Check Your Engine Cooling Fan

Remember how we said that your engine is a hot place powered by fiery explosions? While your motor oil is important for keeping even more heat from entering the equation by reducing friction, some heat is unavoidable – it just comes with the territory. That’s why your engine has a cooling system in place to help it handle all of that heat.

Make sure your vehicle has the right amount of coolant in it, and have the cooling fan on the front of your vehicle checked out. A clean fan will more efficiently keep your engine cool – efficiency in every part of your vehicle is really the name of the game when it comes to boosting your fuel economy. This will help keep your gas mileage where it should be and ensure your engine runs properly while you’re driving.

#7 – Replace Your Engine’s Air Filter

Full disclosure: this last point won’t necessarily help improve your fuel economy, but it’s so important and worth considering that we had to toss it in here. The air filter helps ensure that the air entering your vehicle’s engine is clean, which helps prevent more dirt from entering your engine. This filter needs to be changed on a regular basis, however, or else airflow into your engine can be diminished. Replacing your air filter won’t necessarily boost your fuel economy if you have a newer vehicle, but it will definitely improve your car’s performance.

If you have an older vehicle, then it’s possible that replacing your air filter will actually improve your fuel economy. If you have a car from prior to the 1980s, there’s a good chance that this will help your fuel efficiency, but newer vehicles have systems that optimize fuel economy regardless of your air filter. That being said, it will ensure the best performance no matter what kind of vehicle you drive, so take care of it.