To understand how small low cost vehicle maintenance can optimize a vehicle's fuel economy.

The student will learn how to identify:

1. Driving habits which unnecessarily consume fuel.

2. The need to perform low or no cost maintenance that will help optimize fuel economy easily.

Answer this self check list using Yes or No to determine how many energy eaters you avoid.

______1. Is there any excess weight in vehicle? (for example; trunk, back seat, truck bed)

______2. Is there an unneeded luggage carrier on the roof or other items breaking contour?

______3. Am I usually the first away from the signal light?

______4. Do I anticipate traffic slow-downs, stop signs, and signal lights slowing down gradually?

______5. When possible, do I plan my trips at times other than peak traffic hours (early morning 7-9 a.m., noon hour, or 5-6:30 p.m.)?

______6. Do I start the engine and proceed immediately?

______7. Do I "gun" the accelerator prior to turning off the key?

______8. Do I maintain a steady driving speed?

______9. If my vehicle has cruise control, do I use it when driving on the open road?

______10. Am I a "smart" driver? (For example, when attempting a left turn, do I use left turn signal lights to my advantage?)

______11. Do I keep the engine running over 30 seconds when waiting in the drive-thru line at restaurants, banks, or when waiting for a passing train?

______12. Am I one who regularly drives 5 miles or more above the posted speed limit?

______13. Have I checked or changed my air filter in the last six months or 6,000 miles?

______14. Have I changed my engine oil in the last six months or 6,000 miles?

______15. Do I check my engine oil at least every other fuel stop?

______16. Do I specify and use oil that is an "energy saving formula?"

______17. Do I use the manufacturer's recommended viscosity oil?

______18. Have I had a tune-up in less than one year or 15,000 miles?

______19. On a smooth level road, does my vehicle pull or lead to one side (indicating signs of tire wear)?

______20. On a smooth road, does my vehicle vibrate, bounce, or shimmy (indicating low tire inflation)?

Today's cars and light trucks are the most fuel efficient ever built. Public demand and government regulations have pushed manufacturers to develop and market fuel efficient vehicles. Many of these fuel efficient vehicles do not deliver near their optimum fuel economy since driver variables and operational conditions may change a vehicle's inherent fuel economy.

Small operational changes and poor vehicle maintenance account for the widely varying average MPG delivery for similar vehicles. These "energy eaters," though some may seem insignificant, have a cumulative effect - lowering the vehicle's MPG. Common operational "energy eaters" are:

Some corrections to these "energy eaters" may cost the driver little or nothing. For instance, removing the unused luggage rack could restore the vehicle's aerodynamics; removing the bowling ball and the tool box from the trunk will reduce the vehicle's weight by 50 or more pounds. These two measures may improve a typical vehicle's MPG by 0.1.

Poor driving techniques can significantly alter a vehicle's actual MPG. Rapid acceleration and procrastinating applying the brake for the upcoming stop sign or red signal light may reduce MPG from one to two tenths mile per gallon to one MPG or more. Many drivers fail to plan their daily trips. Proper planning can save fuel dollars. By avoiding unnecessary trips during peak traffic hours, not attempting left turns during heavy traffic, and driving at or below the posted speed limit, many drivers could increase their vehicle's MPG. Heavy traffic and long turning delays increase idle time. When a vehicle is not moving and the engine is running, the vehicle gets ZERO MPG. Those "ZERO's" negatively impact MPG. By driving above the posted maximum speed limit, the vehicle not only uses more fuel, but the driver is more likely to brake more frequently. Each time the brakes are applied, the laws of physics tell us that the vehicle's energy is being burned up. The more rapid the stop, the more quickly energy is being wasted. Gradual acceleration, driving at a moderate speed, and smooth stopping can help a vehicle deliver its optimum fuel economy.

Drivers acquire other energy eating habits. Warming up the engine in the driveway and gunning the engine before shutting off the engine consumes unnecessary fuel, lowering the MPG. Manufacturers no longer recommend the 10-15 second engine warm-up. They do recommend no hard acceleration, heavy pulling, or steep hill climbing for the first mile or so.

Poor vehicle maintenance unnecessarily eats energy. Dirty air cleaners restrict engine intake air flow and result in an excessively rich (more gasoline) mixture. Old spent oil loses important engine protecting, friction reducing, fuel saving additives. Old thick oil causes the engine to waste energy. Ignition tune-ups include checking, adjusting and replacing critical components such as the spark plugs, spark plug wires, distributor cap and rotor, vacuum lines, ignition timing and critical emissions control devices. These components must deliver the ignition spark at the precise instant to burn the gasoline effectively and efficiently. Ignition timing that is off by as little as 3 or 4 milliseconds (that's 3 or 4 millionths of a second!) can significantly reduce fuel economy. Each component must operate optimally for a vehicle to retain its designed fuel economy. Tire balance and wheel alignment are important for optimizing fuel economy. However, low tire inflation is the most cited tire related fuel eater. Tires as little as two pounds underinflated can reduce fuel economy by 2, 5, or even 10%. Underinflation promotes rapid tire wear and could be unsafe.

Some corrections require that the driver/owner describe the problem to the repair shop so that the lowest cost, most effective repairs can be made. Each item listed may increase fuel consumption by 0.1 mpg; others may increase consumption by as much as 10%. Drivers should use the manufacturer's suggested interval maintenance as a guide to performing needed maintenance. At every other fuel fill-up, tire pressure, oil levels, and coolant levels should be checked. If below standard, they should be brought up to their proper operating level. Keep an accurate record of the vehicle's MPG. This information can be used to determine the required professional engine diagnosis for needed maintenance. See the Transportation Activity Guide titled "Fuel Milage Calculation" to learn about this technique.

You should have answered the questions as follows:

No: 1, 2, 3, 7, 11, 12, 19, and 20

Yes: 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, and 18

For each correct answer, give yourself 5 points.
If you scored:

90 or above: Congratulations, you are an energy saving driver!

80-85: There is room for improvement but basically you passed the test.

70-75: Come on now, you can save some bucks and energy, too! See the other guides, and get with the program.

65 & Under: You need to seriously look at your driving and energy attitudes. You need to seriously evaluate and do something about your wasteful driving habits. Think of this; if each of the items lowered your mpg by .2 mpg and you don't do 10 of these 20, then your mpg is reduced 2 mpg. If you currently get fifteen mpg and you drive 15,000 miles a year, you would save 117 gallons of fuel! At $1.20 per gallon, that would save you $212.00 per year or it would be like driving 3,610 miles "free!"

This is a good attention getter. Most people like taking a rating test. All of us get into sloppy maintenance and driving habits. This should impress many students and cause them to save many gallons of fuel and reduce emissions.

This quiz can be used as a pre-test to get the student's attention. Other generic guides deal with many of the detailed specifics for each of these energy eaters.

Comments or questions to: TechAsmt@LA.GOV

Return to Automotive Menu