Vehicle Maintenance

The Gateway Vehicle Inspection Program offers the following tips to help motorists get better gas mileage, save money at the pump and keep their vehicles performing well.

Get regular engine tune-ups and car maintenance checks.
Tune-ups improve performance as well as gas mileage. Check your owner’s manual for recommended maintenance schedules. Check your vehicle’s oil, transmission and power steering fluids on a regular basis, and be sure to follow recommended schedules for fluid changes. By following the manufacturer’s recommendations, you should avoid fuel economy problems due to worn spark plugs, dragging brakes, low transmission fluid or the transmission not going into high gear.

Stay cool.
An engine that runs hot emits higher levels of harmful pollutants. Check your vehicle’s cooling system on a regular basis, including the coolant level, thermostat, engine belts, hoses and cooling fan. Because your vehicle’s cooling system is subjected to extreme temperatures and operating conditions during the summer, it is important to make sure the system is working properly.

Light on? Take action!
If your vehicle’s malfunction indicator light (MIL), also known as the check engine or service engine soon light is on, consult a trained repair technician. The MIL is an important part of your vehicle’s early-warning system. Having your vehicle checked as soon as this light comes on may save you from additional costly repairs and can prevent increased emissions that pollute the environment.

Pump it up.
Check your vehicle’s tires for proper inflation; rotate the tires and have the wheel alignment checked. Proper wheel alignment increases the lifespan of your tires, improves fuel economy and, in turn, saves you money.

Use overdrive.
If your car is equipped with overdrive gearing (on 5-speed manual transmissions and 4-speed automatic transmissions), be sure to make use of the overdrive gear as soon as your speed is high enough. If you have a manual transmission, the lower the shift speed, the better the fuel economy.

Go easy on the brakes and gas pedal.
Avoid “jackrabbit” starts by accelerating gradually whenever possible. Also, anticipate stops to avoid sudden braking.

Avoid long idles.
Turn off the engine if you anticipate a lengthy wait. Instead of idling at a drive-up window, park the car and go in. Idling burns more gas than restarting the engine.

Avoid carrying unneeded items in the trunk.
Extra weight decreases gas mileage. Also, reduce drag by placing items inside the car or trunk rather than on roof racks.

Avoid high speeds.
You can improve your gas mileage by 15 percent when driving at speeds of 55 mph rather than 65 mph.

Use your air conditioning only when necessary.
Roll down the windows or open the air vents to keep your car comfortable on not-so-hot days.

Additional Preventive Maintenance Tips 6/07 PDF