Even If You're Used To Driving Cars With Good MPG

They're simple, inexpensive, and they're guaranteed to increase your engine's performance!

Like the rest of us, you're probably feeling the pinch of higher gas prices.  There doesn't seem to be any relief in sight, at least not until we require automobile manufacturers to improve the fuel efficiency of the vehicles they produce.  There are some easy tips you can follow to improve the fuel efficiency of your own vehicle, however, regardless the price of a gallon of gasoline.

I've worked on cars for over twenty years, and still work on my own as a hobby even though it's no longer my profession.  Along the way, I learned several things that EVERY vehicle owner should do to save money in the shop and at the pump.

For Cleaner Air Intake...

Install a new air filter

Like a furnace filter on your house, the air filter prevents larger objects from entering your vehicle's combustion chamber.  The cleaner your air filter, the more air flows through to your engine, providing for a richer and stronger combustion.  

Most filters are made of paper, which can see great reductions in performance in higher humidity and rainy weather, especially if they're dirty.  This is because the moisture iK&N Air FilterCredit: knfilters.comn the air dampens the paper, making it harder for air to flow through, which in turn suffocates your engine.

No matter what climate you live in, you can replace your regular, disposable paper mesh air filter with a high-quality, reusable air filter from K&N.  This filter comes with an oil charging solution, and traps dust and harmful particles while allowing for improved air flow to your engine's combustion chamber.  According to the website,

K&N air filters provide an increase in responsiveness and horsepower, and the Million-Mile Limited Warranty will save you money on filters, too!

Even if you don't opt for the more expensive K&N air filter, changing out your air filter on a twice-yearly basis will benefit your pocketbook on DIY and gas expenses, too. This is just one of the many ways my family saved money while getting out of debt.

K&N 33-2129 High Performance Replacement Air Filter
Amazon Price: $74.44 $47.95 Buy Now
(price as of Sep 13, 2015)

For Cleaner Gas...

Replace your fuel filter

If gas is the lifeblood of your engine's performance, then cleaner gas improves performance. Dirt and contaminants in your fuel can also affect your engine's oil, requiring for more frequent oil changes. You should always follow your car manufacturer's recommendations for oil change intervals.  These contaminants can also damage your engine and require expensive repairs.

Most modern fuel filters are can-shaped metal containers, with an inlet and an outlet port for attachment to the fuel lines. Most are inline filters, meaning the gas flows straight through. Usually found just outside the fuel tank or just before the engine, fuel filters are easy to change yourself, and most cost around $10-$20 at your local auto parts store. Having your fuel filter replaced at a local shop can average $50-$60, so you save a ton of money upfront by doing it yourself.

Often the only tools you need you already have: a screwdriver. However, many late-model Fords have a retainer clip, which requires a three-dollar tool to remove while others have a small push-clip that you can release with a small screwdriver and a gentle prying action. Changing your own fuel filter can take anywhere from ten minutes to an hour, depending on your vehicle and your own level of expertise. Working with fuel is dangerous, so be certain to ask for help if you are trying this for the first time. 


Fire It UP!

Put some new spark in your old engine

With old and dirty spark plugs, your engine will feel like it's running through mud every time you step on the gas.  New spark plugs are relatively easy to change, and even though there are literally dozens of choices for every car ever made, the real choice is clear: New spark plugs are better than old ones, regardless of what you replace them with.

Spark plugs provide ignition spark for the fuel/air mix inside your engine's combustion chamber.  When your spark plugs are dirty, the actual spark is clouded by the corrosion and buildup, providing for a less explosive ignition and resulting in a loss of horsepower.  For improved horsepower and the best performance, replace your spark plugs once a year.  This will reduce unburned fuel from passing through your exhaust and onto the streets, protecting the environment as well.  

Keep Your Tires Properly Inflated

Carry a tire gauge in your glove box.

Your vehicle's main source of resistance in moving forward is where the rubber meets the road. Literally, your engine produces power for the transmission and in turn for the wheels to move your vehicle forward, and this is where most energy is lost.  Having your tires properly inflated will reduce the friction at this critical point of contact, improving fuel efficiency and extending the life of your tires.  You'll also feel a noticeable improvement in handling if you've been driving around on improperly inflated tires.  

Tire Inflation for Improved Fuel EfficiencyCredit: Flickr user Pieter MusterdYou can find the proper inflation for your tires either inside the driver's door panel on the frame or in the specifications section of your Owner's Manual.  This often-overlooked setting is critical to your vehicle's handling and steering performance, and is even more important during inclement weather.  

Stop by your local automotive shop for a tire inflation check and expert advice. If these guys are worth their grease, they'll be happy to talk with you and help you out.  Or just stop by your nearest convenience gas station, they usually provide air pumping stations for customers.  

Windows Down? Windows Up?

How to know when it's best to use your air conditioning.

If you live in a climate where it gets hot enough to have use the air conditioning (and who doesn't?) you may often be tempted to use it at all times.  Or you may have heard that you shouldn't use your air conditioning in the city in order to reduce emissions and the greenhouse effect. Here's the truth on how and when to use your air conditioner for the best fuel efficiency.

When you're driving at highway speeds, increased drag will require more power (fuel) to move your vehicle forward.  It's best to have the windows completely closed during highway driving to reduce drag and allow the air to flow freely over your vehicle.  You can also cycle your A/C on and off to reduce further drag on your engine itself.Air Conditioning for Fuel EfficiencyCredit: Flickr user jam343

City driving requires a different strategy. While it's running, the A/C draws power from the engine to run the compressor. When you step on the accelerator, a large portion of the engine's energy goes to powering the air conditioner.  At lower speeds, the drag on your vehicle is easy to overcome, and the light breeze flowing through your vehicle will be pleasant (provided it's not TOO hot out!) and comfortable.  When driving in the city, keep your windows down and the air conditioner off to improve fuel economy for your vehicle without sacrificing comfort.

These simple tips should help improve your vehicle's fuel economy, and are easy enough that anyone can do them.  If some of them are more challenging than you're comfortable tackling yourself, ask a neighbor for a hand.  Not only will you save money by doing the repairs yourself and save gas in the immediate and long-term, but you'll also strengthen your ties to your community, increasing your own happiness and extending your lifespan, too.