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By Don Patten

Don Patten is a leading expert in automotive education. His text book Automotive Service Basics published by Prentice Hall is used in automotive instruction courses world wide.

There is only so much conservation built into a vehicle. The weight of the vehicle, whether it is a 2 or 4 wheel drive, the size of the tires, the engine size, and even how much you weigh all affect the miles per gallon equation. What we need to concentrate on in this article is how to get all the miles per gallon your vehicle is capable of producing. Trying to go further than this is like trying to change a pig into a poodle. Here are ten rules which will give you a start in reducing fuel consumption?

== 1. Make sure a clean air filter is in place at all times. A dirty filter reduces the amount of air that can enter the engine and makes the fuel mixture richer (more fuel to air) than it needs to be.

== 2. Be sure all the computer sensors are working properly. There are a lot of sensors on the engine and many of them are there to help the computer determine the fuel needs of the engine. If they have stopped working or are working poorly, then the wrong message gets to the computer and it may hold the injectors on longer than they should be. If this happens you will see a large increase in gasoline consumption. How do you check the sensors? Have a qualified technician put his hand held computer into your computer system and get a complete readout of what is working right and what needs attention.

== 3. Tune up the engine when either mileage or time determines that it should be necessary. Change: bad spark plug wires, distributor caps, coils, injectors, fuel filters, fuel pressure regulators, vacuum lines, PCV (positive crankcase ventilation) valves. Some engines have more than one coil. A six cylinder engine of this kind will have three coils, one for every two cylinders. One bad coil can shut down two cylinders. Imagine how your fuel consumption will increase if two cylinders are not pulling their load!

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== 4. Service all the things that roll or cause the wheels to roll or stop. Inflate your tires to the correct pressure. Soft tires increase resistance to movement and reduce gas mileage. Dragging brakes do the same thing. Misaligned tires can be a real economy buster. Have the wheels checked and aligned at least once a year. If the caster, camber, and toe adjustments are not right, your tires will wear out faster and it will take more gasoline to run your car down the road.

== 5. Use the correct lubrication products in every part of your automobile and adjust these for weather conditions. Use multi viscosity oils and those marked "energy saving." Use lighter oils like a 5W-20 in the winter. Grease the suspension system. It takes more power from the power steering system to turn a steering system that has not been serviced. Dirty fluids in transmissions and differentials cause sticking servos and worn friction plates. This means the transmission may not shift up when it should or slip. A dirty automatic transmission filter can cause the bands and clutches to starve for hydraulic fluid and cause slipping and internal wear. Don't forget to replace the oil filter on a regular schedule.

== 6. Keep the entire fuel system in good working order. Look for gasoline leaks and repair them immediately. A leaking gasoline tank or fuel line will surely reduce your miles per gallon as the gasoline drips out. Replace the gasoline filter on a regular schedule. Be sure the gasoline cap seals properly. If the gasoline tank has a rubber coupling between the filler neck and the tank be sure it is not rotten or the clamps loose. Tighten all fittings. Consider getting a locking gasoline cap or putting a device in the filler neck to prevent gasoline theft.

== 7. Use the air conditioner less. It takes about five horsepower to run the air conditioner full time. At night it is not as critical to use the air conditioner as it would be on at 95 degrees in the middle of the day.

== 8. Replace vacuum lines and keep the engine cooling system in good working order. An engine that is running hot will consume more gasoline and bad vacuum lines will cause the engine to run rough at idle.

== 9. How you leave a stop light, how fast you drive, how many times you have to stop and go will all effect fuel economy. Drive like you have an egg under your foot. Back off the throttle sooner at lights. Set the cruise control at a lower speed. The further you have to press the throttle, the more fuel will be used.

== 10. Reduce the weight. Find ways to travel lighter. Carry less tools and baggage. It is simple. The more weight in the vehicle, the more fuel it will take to get where you are going. Less gasoline in the tank means less weight going down the road. Let the gasoline get lower before a refill and go to 3/4 a tank rather than a full tank. Some people never let the tank get below 1/2 which means they always have to transport more weight than those who let the tank get down to 1/4.

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