There are steps you can take to make an old car, truck or SUV perform better, go farther and perhaps save money on fuel
Major oil-producing countries led by Saudi Arabia and Russia have decided to slash the amount of oil they deliver to the global economy. And the law of supply and demand suggests that can only mean one thing: higher prices are on the way for gasoline.
Oil prices had fallen after a summer of highs. Now, after the OPEC+ decision, they are heading for their biggest weekly gain since March. Benchmark U.S. crude rose 3.2% on Friday, to $91.31 per barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, rose 2.8% to $97.09, though it’s still down 20% from mid-June, when it traded at over $123 per barrel.
Over the past week, the national average price for a gallon rose 9 cents, to $3.89, according to AAA.
That means the cost to pump 15 gallons into a vehicle is now a whopping $58.35. Four fill-ups per month would cost more than $233.40, a big chunk out of just about anyone’s budget.
With gas prices that high, owners may be thinking about replacing their older vehicles with something more efficient. But that may not be cost effective. The global shortage of computer chips and other parts has cut into production of new vehicles, driving prices up. That sent many people into the used car market, also pushing up prices.
The average used vehicle cost $28,061 in August. The average new one? $46,259, according to J.D. Power.
Generally, comparable electric vehicles are even more expensive than gasoline-fueled ones, though charging the battery is typically much cheaper.
All is not necessarily lost. There are steps you can take to make an old car, truck or SUV perform better, go farther and perhaps save some money on fuel:
Keeping Your Tires Properly Inflated
Make sure there’s enough air in the tires. Underinflated tires create more rolling resistance with the pavement, thereby reducing gas mileage. Inflate your tires to the pressure recommended on the inside of your driver’s side door. Check them periodically with a tire pressure gauge.
“Typically, your gas mileage is going to be impacted by about 5% to 10% if you don’t have proper inflation,” said David Bennett, manager of repair systems for AAA.
But don’t over-inflate. Doing so could cause tires to wear out more quickly.
Making Sure Fluids and Filters Are Changed
Properly maintain your vehicle. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for oil and other fluid changes and for replacing air and other filters. Replacing spark plugs at the proper intervals can help, too.
“The vehicle is going to operate at its peak efficiency” with good maintenance, Bennett said. It will cost between $235 and $289 for new spark plugs on, say, a 10-year-old Ford F-150 pickup with a 4.6-liter V8, according to Repairpal.com.
Watch Your Speed
AAA says fuel economy peaks around 50 miles per hour on most vehicles, then drops as speed rises. Reducing highway speeds by 5 mph (8 kilometers per hour) to 10 mph improves gas mileage by up to 14%.
Coasting to stop lights also helps. Time your travel to keep rolling and avoid unnecessary stops. Cars consume a lot of fuel to get moving from a dead stop.
Plan Your Trip in Advance
Try to minimize backtracking. Do multiple tasks on each trip. Avoid rush hours and other peak travel times.
Don’t Idle Too Much
An engine burns one-quarter to a half-gallon (1.9 liters) of gas per hour when idling, but a warm engine needs only around 10 seconds worth of fuel to restart, according to AAA.
So when safely possible, shut your engine off if you’ll be stopped for more than a minute. Many new vehicles do this on their own. Bennett says owners shouldn’t disable their new “stop-start” system.
“Top Tier” Gas
Fill up with gasoline designated as “Top Tier.” Oil companies put additives in Top Tier gas that cuts carbon deposits.
“As you start getting carbon buildup, the vehicle will not be running as efficiently,” Bennett said. Gasoline brands with the additives have stickers on the pumps. They can be found at here.