Poor fuel mileage in your automobile doesn’t just hit you in the wallet. It’s also bad for the environment because of the excess pollutants released due to fuel inefficiency. Understanding why your car is guzzling gas is the first step toward solving the issue. Here, we’ll explore the common causes and practical fixes to improve your car's fuel mileage.
Understanding the Factors Behind Poor Fuel Mileage
Several factors contribute to the fuel efficiency of a car, ranging from mechanical issues to driving habits. Identifying the exact cause can sometimes be a process of elimination.
1. Incorrect Tire Pressure
Low tire pressure means more surface area of the tire is making contact with the road, increasing resistance and making the engine work harder.
- Fix: Regularly check your tire pressures with a gauge; maintain them at the recommended PSI found in your vehicle’s manual.
2. Using the Wrong Motor Oil
Not all motor oils are created equal. Some create more friction in the engine, which can reduce fuel efficiency.
- Fix: Use the motor oil recommended by your car’s manufacturer. Look for “energy conserving” on the API performance symbol to ensure it contains friction-reducing additives.
3. Inefficient Driving Habits
Aggressive driving, including rapid acceleration, speeding, and braking, can lower your gas mileage significantly.
- Fix: Drive more smoothly. Accelerate gradually, adhere to speed limits, and avoid coming to quick stops. Using cruise control on highways can also help maintain a constant speed.
4. Poor Maintenance
Over time, a car’s engine accumulates deposits, and aging spark plugs or dirty air filters can significantly reduce fuel efficiency.
- Fix: Follow your vehicle’s maintenance schedule. Regular tune-ups, oil changes, and replacing the air filters can improve fuel efficiency.
5. Excess Weight
Carrying unnecessary weight makes your engine work harder, thus consuming more fuel.
- Fix: Remove heavy items from your vehicle. Only carry what’s necessary, especially on long trips.
Idling gets 0 miles per gallon. Cars with larger engines typically waste more gas at idle than those with smaller engines.
- Fix: Turn off your engine when your vehicle is parked for more than just a couple of minutes.
7. Defective Oxygen Sensor
A malfunctioning oxygen sensor can misinterpret engine performance data, compromising the car’s fuel injection and emission systems.
- Fix: Get a diagnostic test. If the oxygen sensor is at fault, it will need to be replaced.
8. Dragging Brakes
Brakes sticking or not fully releasing will create resistance, making the engine work harder.
- Fix: Listen for abnormal sounds and pay attention to unusual smells or a feeling that the car is dragging. These could indicate a need for brake repairs.
9. Worn Fuel Injectors
Dirty or clogged fuel injectors affect the fuel/air mix, hurting performance and economy.
- Fix: Regular cleaning or, if necessary, replacing worn fuel injectors, can help maintain proper engine function and fuel efficiency.
Conclusion: Monitor, Maintain, and Modify for Mileage
Improving your car’s fuel mileage is often about the little things: regular maintenance, driving habits, and being aware of the factors affecting fuel efficiency. By taking these steps, you can maximize fuel efficiency, saving money, and reducing environmental impact. Always consult with a professional mechanic if you’re unsure about the right course of action.