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posted: 9/29/2013 12:10 AM

Improve your fuel economy in minutes

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Some of the simplest maintenance items can save you the most amount of gas.

•Underinflated or bald tires can cause you to use a lot more fuel than you would with good, properly inflated tires. For every pound of air pressure a tire is underinflated, .3 percent of fuel economy is lost. Additional dollars are lost because of the excessive tire wear caused by the low pressure.

•A car that is out of alignment will also cause excessive drag and cost you money at the gas pump. The percentage of economy loss will vary based on how badly out of alignment the car is. Once again, poor alignment creates premature wear on the tires.

•Changing your oil and using the correct oil can also make a big difference in fuel economy. For example, if your car calls for 5w20 motor oil and you put in 5w30, you could lower your fuel economy by 1 to 1.5 percent. The engines in today's cars are very fuel efficient but it is critical that the correct oil be used. More and more of the cars manufactured today are using very low viscosity oil to give you the very best fuel economy. These engines are designed to function properly with that oil. Oil levels and correct viscosity are even more critical in a hybrid vehicle.

•If you are driving around with a "check engine light" on or a poorly running vehicle, you could be costing yourself as much as 40 percent in fuel economy. Keeping the ignition components tuned and in good operating condition and replacing bad sensors can save you some serious money at the pump.

•The last simple item would be the air filter. While on newer fuel-injected cars you may not be killing your fuel economy, but driving with a dirty air filter could seriously impact your performance and acceleration. It's a simple thing and can easily get forgotten about. If you are driving an older carbureted vehicle, a dirty air filter could affect fuel economy and performance.

This is not an exhaustive list but these are some of the simple and obvious fuel-mileage killers that can sometimes be corrected in minutes.

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

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