It’s been a long time since the days of ninety-nine cent per gallon gasoline. Prices have been on the climb for years, reaching as high as five dollars per gallon at times. It’s also no secret that money is stretched tight for millions of people everywhere. Finding a way to shave a nickel here and there is important to a great many people. If you are one the vastly growing majority of people experiencing the need to pinch pennies, we’ve put together a three-part process for getting the most out of every drop of fuel you need to buy. The first step we’re going to cover is the routine maintenance of your vehicle.

Spending Money to Make Money

It’s the age-old adage – you have to spend money to make money. This isn’t true in every facet but, unfortunately, in this one it is. It’s one of the most common reasons given for avoiding maintenance repairs: “I just don’t have the money right now.” Well, like it or not, the money for the routine maintenance that your vehicle requires is going to leave your wallet one way or the other. It’s either going to leave all at once via the cost of the maintenance, or it’s going to slowly trickle out of your pocket at the gas pump. We’re not going to lie and say that the maintenance items will end up saving you hundreds of dollars at the pump. As a matter of fact, the savings you notice will be minimal, if noticed at all, but it is most definitely there.

Ok, So Where Is It?

In reality, the savings you’ll experience in fuel economy from performing routine maintenance items can be measured in coins instead of dollars. However, that’s the short-term savings. If you broaden the spectrum a bit and see the big picture, the savings does indeed equal quite a few greenbacks. The lack of replacing common maintenance items can lead to a breakdown of your exhaust system, fuel system, emissions system, or even your engine itself. The $50 or $100 that it would take to replace these maintenance items could turn into hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in costly repairs down the road if they are ignored. Not to mention, the entire time you’re ignoring these items, your fuel efficiency is slowly dropping before your eyes.

What Are All of These Items?

The most common of the maintenance items that can affect your fuel efficiency is your filters; air, fuel, and oil. Restricting the air your engine receives makes it work harder. When your engine works harder, it consumes fuel at a faster rate. It also causes your vehicle to run rich, which can cause serious damage to your catalytic converter and oxygen sensors. Dirty engine oil can have the same effect. Your vehicle’s computer is designed to keep your car running under certain parameters. Your air/fuel mixture is one of the parameters it is constantly monitoring. What it cannot monitor is how clean your filters are. If one of these filters is causing a lack of fuel or air to get through, your vehicle’s computer will try to compensate by adjusting the ratio itself with the amount of gas it’s pumping through your injectors. This can burn through a lot of your fuel in a little bit of time.

The second big item on the maintenance list is spark plugs and spark plug wires. Spark plugs are gapped to a specific distance to allow for the best possible spark to provide fuel ignition. Over an extended period of use, this gap can increase, or the plugs themselves can become caked with carbon and deposits from the repeated burning of fuel and engine oil. Having your plugs cleaned, re-gapped, and replaced if necessary, can add a major boost to your mpg.

How Bad Can It Really Get?

If you’re a gambling person, you may want to stick to lottery tickets and the race track; leave your car out of this wager. Automobiles are mechanical instruments. All mechanical instruments will eventually break if not properly taken care of. The “when” part is always the gamble. As much as people rely on their vehicles nowadays, gambling in this facet of life isn’t a very safe bet. Best-case scenario, you lose a few pennies in fuel efficiency and your vehicle remains a steadfast trooper until the point you part ways; the worst-case scenario is that one or more problems arise in any of the systems we previously mentioned, and it arises when you’re on a long road trip, late for an important appointment, or carrying your family down a stretch of road in the dead of winter. Do yourself a favor and don’t roll the dice with your routine maintenance.

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