Common Maintenance & Repair Issues That Can Impact Your Gas Mileage

With gas prices averaging over $5.00 a gallon across the Bay Area, it’s little wonder that many drivers are looking for ways to save some money at the pump. Although gas mileage is dependent on many factors, including the type of vehicle you drive, one of the simplest ways to make sure you’re getting the most mileage for your money is to make sure your car is up to date on its regular maintenance. Here are some of the most common issues that can impact your fuel efficiency—and your wallet.

Under-Inflated Tires

Tire pressure plays a significant role in fuel economy, as well as your safety on the road. Several studies, including one conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy, found that for every 1-psi drop in tire pressure, gas mileage decreases by 0.4%. That might not sound like a lot, but it does add up over time.

Tires can lose pressure from regular driving as well as cold temperatures—so it’s important to monitor your tire pressure regularly. A good rule of thumb is to check it one to two times a month (or every other time you fill up your gas tank). If your tire pressure is low, fill it to the recommended pressure listed in your owner’s manual or on the sticker near the driver’s side door jam.

A Dirty Engine Air Filter

In order to run efficiently, engines need to receive massive amounts of oxygen—up to 10,000 gallons for every gallon of fuel burned. If the air filter becomes too dirty, it prevents the engine from essentially being able to “breathe” properly. A clogged air filter can also allow dirt, dust, and other debris to make its way into the engine, which can cause performance issues. By replacing your engine air filters regularly, you can potentially improve your fuel efficiency by up to 10%.

Faulty Oxygen Sensors

Oxygen sensors (O2) monitor the engine’s combustion efficiency by measuring the oxygen levels in the exhaust. If the O2 sensors are faulty, they can impact fuel economy, increase emissions, and potentially damage other components—like the catalytic converter. You might also experience issues with stalling or sluggish acceleration.

Faulty Ignition System Components

The ignition system’s coils, spark plugs, and wires work together to ignite the air-fuel mixture in the engine. If any of these parts are faulty, particularly the spark plugs, it can lead to engine misfires that waste fuel and energy. Changing out old spark plugs on a schedule is one of the easiest ways to keep your ignition system in good shape.

A Faulty or Dirty Fuel System

Clogged fuel injectors or dirty fuel filters can disrupt the flow of gasoline to the engine, which affects its overall fuel efficiency and performance. As the car's computer tries to compensate for the issue, it can cause an imbalance and greater fuel consumption. The longer this goes on, the worse the problem will get, as it creates a cycle of the vehicle’s computer constantly making adjustments by using more fuel.

Going Too Long Between Oil Changes

Old, dirty motor oil reduces engine performance, lowers horsepower, and reduces fuel economy. If it’s left in the engine for too long, it can potentially turn into sludge—which can clog up the engine and cause permanent damage. Regular oil changes using the correct oil type and weight are essential for keeping your engine in top condition.

A Well-Maintained Car is a Fuel Efficient Car

If you've noticed a decline in gas mileage without any changes to your driving habits, there's a good chance that your car may have an underlying issue that needs attention, especially if it's due (or overdue) for some routine maintenance.

It may seem unnecessary to get an oil change or to change out the air filter if your vehicle has been driving well, but beyond helping your car run optimally, these maintenance items allow us to keep an eye on any issues that might be developing. In the long run, it’s much less expensive to keep your vehicle maintained than it would be to have it repaired, especially when you factor in things like poor fuel economy or additional damage to other components.

Keep your vehicle running its best and ensure you’re getting the most out of your gas mileage—schedule an appointment at RPM Automotive Services! Family-owned and operated for over 40 years, we offer reliable, high-quality repair and maintenance services for domestic and foreign vehicles. Our entire staff is ASE-certified, so whether you need a simple oil change or a major engine repair, you can rest assured your vehicle is in expert hands. Contact us today at (707) 800-4586 or request an appointment online.

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