10 Easy Ways to Save at the Gas Pump

  1. Replace the oxygen sensor every 60,000 miles. The oxygen sensor monitors the exhaust stream to help the computer determine the proper ratio of gasoline to air going into the engine. These sensors are potentiometers: they rarely fail completely, but they tend to get sluggish over time. When the sensor slows down, the on-board computer can’t respond as quickly to changes in engine load, impacting the car’s overall performance and hurting gas mileage.
  1. Have the timing belt checked at 60,000 miles, and replace it if necessary. Over time, the cogs on the belt get rounded off, so the belt can shift when the engine advances and retards timing. Timing out of adjustment reduces gas mileage. If the timing belt breaks, be prepared to be stuck on the side of the road. In some cases a broken timing belt can cause the engine valves to play tag with the pistons: the result, a blown engine.
  1. Service the air conditioner every couple of years on a newer car; annually on an older one. Believe it or not, using the air conditioner at highway speeds is more fuel efficient than driving with the windows down, because it reduces aerodymanic drag. Check a noisy compressor as well: if the bearings inside freeze up, it will wear out the compressor belt and put additional load on the engine. 
  1. Service the cooling system every two years: The term, “cooling system,” is deceptive, because the system also helps the engine to reach operating temperature in cold weather. The period before a car reaches operating temperature is called “open loop.” During those couple of minutes (or more on older cars) the computer doesn’t monitor the gasoline and air going into the engine. The longer it takes a car to reach operating temperature, the more fuel economy suffers. Antifreeze loses its cooling and lubricating properties over time, so it needs to be flushed out and refilled.
  1. Wash your car regularly. Engineers spend hours in the wind tunnel trying to minimize a new vehicle’s coefficient of drag. They don’t test dirty cars, because dirt increases aerodymanic drag. Washing and waxing the car on a regular basis stretches gas mileage, and protects the paint from sun damage, road salt, and acid rain.

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