With fuel prices continuing to rise, NAPA AUTO PARTS recommends that consumers strategically invest in seven short-term maintenance tactics to achieve long-term savings from improved engine efficiency and fuel mileage. Specifically, replacing air filters, fuel filters, oxygen sensors and spark plugs will help boost fuel mileage. Further, using products such as octane boosters, fuel system cleaners and locking gas caps can reduce costs at the pump.
Octane boosters can act as a catalyst in the fuel that actually slows the burn rate of combustion, which allows fuel to burn more completely in the engine cylinder. Using octane boosters increases the engine’s efficiency, thus saving fuel.
Fuel system cleaners help keep the entire system in top operating condition by cleaning everything from the fuel tank to the combustion chamber inside the engine. A complete fuel system cleaner contains special solvents that help remove carbon build-up and keep internal components in the engine operating efficiently. This tactic also reduces fuel consumption. Properly cleaning, maintaining and replacing air filters when necessary will ensure better air flow through the entire engine system. This will improve engine efficiency and will result in more power and better fuel mileage.
"According to a recent EPA study, air filters can increase fuel mileage by as much as 10 percent," said Michael Lavoie, the 2006 NAPA Technician of the Year and owner of Lavoie’s NAPA AutoCare Center in Haverhill, NH. "The EPA estimates the payback for replacing a clogged air filter may amount to more than 22 cents per gallon based on current fuel prices."
When fuel filters become plugged, sensors signal a car’s computer to send more fuel into the engine, resulting in poor fuel economy, emission testing failure and engine system wear. Regular cleaning of fuel filters will help reduce consumption by not triggering the sensors.
Spark plugs are subjected to extreme conditions in the engine’s combustion chamber, which can result in the engine misfiring and fouling. Replacing spark plugs at regular intervals will help keep the engine operating at an optimum level, while improving fuel economy and reducing emissions.
Oxygen sensors that are properly functioning are good for the environment and can save hundreds of dollars in fuel costs over the life of the sensor. Replacement intervals for oxygen sensors are similar to those for spark plugs and range from 30,000 miles to 100,000 miles, depending upon the type of sensor.
"U.S. Department of Energy studies and others have shown that replacing worn oxygen sensors can increase fuel mileage by up to 40 percent," Lavoie said. "Almost all gasoline powered vehicles made after 1986 will have at least one oxygen sensor, with those manufactured in 1996 or later having at least two sensors."
Locking gas caps can contribute to fuel economy by preventing theft. Gas caps are available that include a dual breakaway feature and reinforcing ring that help deter thieves trying to steal fuel. If someone tries to pry off the cap, the top of the cap will break away, leaving the cap neck in the tank. This will deter even more determined thieves who are unlikely to take the time needed to pry the neck from the tank. Car owners can then retrieve the filler neck with pliers or a set of channel locks using a counterclockwise turning motion. Caps are also available that lock into the neck automatically, which save motorists time.
"With all of these products working together, motorists will be able to maintain efficiently operating vehicles, which can result in reduced fuel consumption and more money in their pockets," Lavoie said.