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Looking for Better Gas Mileage
Preventative Car Maintenenace Maximizes Fuel Efficiency

by Dr. Fran Lockwood

Fred Flintstone's car might have been the most fuel-efficient vehicle ever developed — powered solely by Fred's two feet. And while it likely didn't have modern features air-conditioning, windows, or even a floor for that matter, it also didn't cost Fred multiple fill-ups at the gas station every week.  Advancement has definitely come with a price tag, and these days, it's worth it to go the extra mile to maximize your car's mpg.

Although the surest way to save gas is to drive less, carpool, and walk whenever possible, often this is about as practical as pushing your car along with your feet. However, with proper maintenance, you can maximize your miles per gallon while you drive. An out-of-tune vehicle has to work harder, using more fuel and prematurely wearing the engine and other components. By following a few basic tips, you can lighten your vehicle's workload and improve your gas mileage by as much as 20 percent.   

Lighten Up, Leadfoot
Speeding may seem like the best way to get from Point A to Point B, but it's not a very fuel-efficient solution. At speeds above 55 mph, fuel economy decreases rapidly, so just slowing down from 65 mph to 55 mph can increase your mpg by as much as 15 percent. According to the Department of Energy, driving an extra hour instead of speeding saves $5 to $10. When you factor in a possible traffic stop for a speeding ticket and the detour to re-fill your gas tank, the benefit of speeding is minimal at best. 

You can also improve gas mileage another 5 percent or more by avoiding "jackrabbit" (sudden) starts and anticipating stops to avoid sudden braking. Making quick stops and starts ensures that you'll be back at the pump sooner than needed.

Inflate and Align
Since his tires were made of rock, maintaining proper air pressure might not have been a big concern for Fred Flintstone, but the rubber tires on your vehicle are another story. Under-inflated tires can reduce your gas mileage by up to one mile per gallon. To improve mpg, it's a good idea to check tires monthly and keep them inflated to the maximum recommended pressure. 

Also, make sure your wheels are properly aligned. A car with poor wheel alignment will have increased road resistance which will waste gas. Regular wheel alignment and tire rotations can help maximize your miles per gallon.

Consider Oil Options
Gas mileage can also be improved as much as 3 percent by using the right motor oil.  Multi-grade motor oils are the best, use a 5W-30 or 10W-30 for most vehicles and for new model Fords, a 5W-20 motor oil. For vehicles with higher mileage, an oil designed for mature engines, such as Valvoline MaxLife in the 5W-30 and 10W-30 viscosity grades is formulated to enhance engine performance by lowering oil vaporization and consumption, condition seals, and while providing fuel economy.

It's also important to make sure the oil level is within the "safe" range during regular oil changes. Too little oil can overtax your engine, causing premature wear and reduced gas mileage.

Clear the Air 
Dirty air filters cut off the engine's air supply. This causes a higher fuel-to-air ratio and increases gas consumption. A good rule of thumb is to have the air filter checked each time you change your oil and replace it per your manual's recommendation.

Engine De-Stress
There are also a few easy, everyday habits you can adopt to improve your engine's performance and encourage better gas mileage. One good idea is to opt for overdrive. If your car is equipped with overdrive gearing (on five-speed manual transmissions and four-speed automatic transmissions), make use of it as soon as you reach cruising speed. This puts less stress on your engine and helps boost fuel economy. Also avoid letting your engine idle for too long. Idling engines actually burn more gas than restarting the engine.

Try to keep an eye on your vehicle's fuel consumption — a sudden increase can indicate a need for a tune-up or repair.  Also note that weather, road conditions, and terrain can all add stress to your vehicle. Whether you're driving through the mountains or cruising the town of Bedrock, proper maintenance can help you maximize your miles per gallon  — not to mention help you save a few "yabba dabba" dollars along the way. 

For more information, visit Valvoline.