Tuning and Feeding Your Car

Submitted by SharpMan Editorial Team on Tuesday 12th October 2010
In this article
  • Tune-ups.
  • Clean ups.
  • How to use cheaper gas grades.

Sometimes SharpTravel brings you news and clues on exciting and exotic destinations, and sometimes we just tell you more about stuff you need to know every day. This article falls into the second category. Maybe you don’t usually consider the amount of fuel your car consumes, but with gas prices soaring, everyone could use a few pointers. So how can you minimize your trips to that money-grubbing pump? Read on:

The main points about maximizing your gas mileage involve keeping your car in shape on the inside and keeping yourself and your driving habits in check. In this week’s installment of SharpTravel’s series on Getting Better Gas Mileage, we’ll cover tips on what aspects of your car require attention and when to cut corners:

Keeping in tune with your car. Everyone needs an occasional check-up. Unlike most "disposable" machinery (toasters, can openers and some VCRs), most of us take our cars in for repairs rather than tossing them at the first sign of trouble. Costly repairs can be minimized and gas mileage maximized when routine maintenance checks are incorporated into your weekly fuel-up.

Spark Plugs. Take a moment to look at your spark plugs. Are they clean? Spark plug residue causes less efficient sparking and can effect engine performance and fuel consumption. The condition of your spark plugs can only be ascertained by pulling them out and taking a closer look. This should be done by a trained mechanic, since re-installing them requires some expertise. No time for a mechanic? Fill your tank with a premium fuel or use a can of fuel injector cleaner to remove deposits every now and again. Next time your spark plugs do need a change, consider "platinum" spark plugs, a higher-end product that only requires replacement every 100,000 miles.

Muffler and Exhaust Pipe. Both of these guys are your friends — make sure they remain hole and leak free. Particularly for SharpMen living in snow country, dirt, rocks and salt on the roads can cause corrosion and fractures. Any cracks in your muffler or holes in the exhaust pipe can bring down gas mileage and make your car smell like Pepe Le Pew. Snowbound SharpMen should get an undercarriage wash several times each winter, and particularly after snow plows and salt machines have come through. All SharpMen should check both the muffler and exhaust pipe once a month.

Air Filter. Clean air filters have a lot of say about whether your car performs at its best. Air filters should be kept clean and changed when they look dirty. How can you tell? When you can’t see light through the filter, it’s time to change it.

Timing. The timing of the pistons in your engine regulates how smoothly your car runs. When these guys are off, you can expect un-Sharp noises and lower fuel efficiency. Like a runner who hasn’t got a smooth stride down, a car with a timing that’s off just isn’t, well, smooth. Since every car has a specific timing, have a mechanic who is familiar with your type of car inspect and adjust the timing twice a year.

Can you use a lower-"rated" fuel? Assuming your car takes unleaded, most drivers are faced with three levels of octane-laden fuel at the pump: 87,89 and 92 (or small, medium and large). Sure your baby is used to the good stuff, but in these times of fuel-price-gluten, this may be the difference between food for your car and food for you. Take heart. Consider where you’ll be going and what you’ll be doing over the next week.

Fuel for the road trip. Fuel that is less pure than your car recommends can be damaging if allowed to sit in the engine for extended periods of time. On the other hand, if you’re on a road-trip or doing a great deal of driving in the next few days, your engine is likely to burn the fuel too quickly in order for the high-priced stuff to make a difference.

Choosing a daily fuel grade. What if your car requires "unleaded" but does not specify the grade? Car buffs suggest buying the lowest grade gasoline recommended by the manufacturer. If you car indicated only "unleaded," 87 will do. Then fuel with a premium grade gas every now and again to avoid knocks and pings.

This article last updated on Tuesday 12th October 2010
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