Questions To Ask When Buying A Car For The First-Time Car Maintenance – Will it Really Help Gas Mileage?

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Car Maintenance – Will it Really Help Gas Mileage?

As gas prices continue to rise, the auto industry is in full force touting the benefits of car maintenance. Many repair shops even have a custom “fuel saver” service. Although maintaining one’s car is important, does it really save fuel? Before we answer this, let’s take a step back and look at the auto maintenance of today’s cars.

The first question we need to ask is – what does my car need (according to the manufacturer) for it to be considered “maintainable.” Today’s cars don’t have distributor caps, rotors, points, and various ignition components – so they don’t need maintenance. Many vehicles today come with service features such as 100,000-mile platinum spark plugs and lifetime fuel filters. Oil change intervals have been extended to 5,000 miles or more. 3,000 mile oil changes are ancient history. Coolant flushes and transmission services are not required until 100,000 miles if applicable. However, even if we do all the above services, will they increase fuel efficiency? Apparently not. Unless your car is misfiring (ie, not running on all cylinders), your gas mileage is probably good.

So what part of car maintenance has a bad effect on gas mileage for the average driver of a late model car? Three things: tire pressure, air filters, and excess carbon.

Tire pressure: Setting your tire pressure is free, and it’s the best maintenance service you can do to maintain maximum fuel efficiency. It’s that simple.

Air filters: Air filters can actually become plugged after a considerable amount of driving and can restrict air flow, preventing your fuel from burning properly. It can also cause excessive carbon build-up, which reduces miles per gallon. The good news: air filters are cheap ($15 to $30), easy to install, and usually only need to be replaced every 30,000 miles.

Excess Carbon: There is another car maintenance service that “helps” with gas mileage. This is called a fuel system cleaning service. Some repair centers call this fuel injector auto maintenance, or fuel injection service. Simply put, chemicals are added to your fuel system through various orifices to clean excess carbon deposits from your valves, pistons and intake manifold. This natural carbon formation (excess) is not good for gas mileage. Excess carbon absorbs fuel, which can be used to power your car. However, before you run out and spend $150 + to have this service done, there is one important consideration – the service is only available for cars that need it. In other words, yes the stuff is working, but your vehicle may not have any excess carbon build-up. You don’t wash clean clothes – do you?

If you see “fuel saver” services for $100 to $300, they will likely include an air filter, tire pressure check, and fuel system cleaning service. If you’re wondering if your car needs it, ask yourself the following:

1) Am I always using quality fuel? 2) Do I change my air filter at least every 30,000 miles? 3) Have I checked my tire pressure recently?

If you can answer these questions affirmatively, you are probably ok. Buying cheap, no-name gas once in a while is ok. Changing the air filter and setting your tire pressure is common sense. Also, if you drive like a grandma, get off the highway and keep the vertical pedal with your right foot “all the way to the floor” until your car accelerates to a speed that’s not too comfortable. Then repeat a few times. It helps clean up excess carbon – FREE – less fuel costs. Be careful. Watch out for the police.

In summary, follow your manufacturer’s guidelines for maintaining your car – not those designed to benefit the masses. Use brand-name fuel, set your tire pressure from time to time, put the air filter, according to the recommended interval for your car, and don’t be afraid to drop the hammer a few times.

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