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posted: 9/2/2012 6:14 AM

After driver retires, car gets worse fuel milage

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Q. I have a 1994 Dodge Spirit and for years I got 20 to 22 miles per gallon. I retired in June last year, and since then the mileage keeps going down.

I know no longer driving 28 miles a day to work will drop the fuel mileage a little, but it is now down to 17 mpg.

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I have taken my car to my place of service many times, for checkups, oil changes, etc. Each time they check everything they can think of.

Do you have any ideas? I know she is old, and maybe should be retired herself. But I have had no major problems with her in 18 years, and I'd like to keep her around for awhile.

A. It seems you have done all you can maintenance-wise to get the best mileage, but some simple things can make a big difference, such as the condition of your tires and proper air pressure. You should also make sure the car is in proper alignment; all these items can work together to negatively impact your fuel economy.

You will also want to be sure that the proper oil is being used and that all the computer data is correct, especially the oxygen sensor. If the car has a lot of miles on it you may benefit from a fuel injection cleaning and a decarbonization.

Finally, your change in driving habits may have more to do with it than you think. If you went from primarily highway driving when you worked, to quick trips for local shopping now, your mileage is going to go down no matter how perfectly the car is maintained. If you never get the car fully warmed up, it is not going to get very good mileage.

The next time your car is in your shop, have the items I mentioned checked and if all is well you have done all you can.

• Douglas Automotive is at 312 S. Hager Ave., Barrington, (847) 381-0454, and 123 Virginia Road, Crystal Lake, (815) 356-0440. For information, visit douglasautomotive.com. Send questions to underthehood@dailyherald.com.

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