Eugene Auto Repair

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Everyday driver habits to save on fuel costs

Fuel costs are rising.   Following are ways to save money at the pump.   Check tire pressure at least monthly.   Tire pressures are found on the driver’s doorjamb or in the owner’s manual.   Pressures written on the tires are a maximum pressure, not the recommended pressure.   Low tire pressure can reduce fuel mileage by 5 percent and create a safety hazard.   Always check tire pressure when the tires are cold or cool, not after freeway driving.   It is best to have your own tire pressure gauge.   They cost less than $5.

   Drive smoothly, anticipate traffic lights, and refrain from quick starts.   Act as if there is an egg under your gas pedal, and accelerate slowly.

   Watch the traffic lights ahead so you don’t have to use your brakes.   Plan your route, and get to know the traffic lights.   Every time you use your brakes, you waste energy and your brake life.

   With a manual transmission, shift to a higher gear soon.   With an automatic transmission, keep it in overdrive, even in town.

   Maintain your vehicle.   Follow the services your vehicle needs.   If your check-engine light is on, get it diagnosed and repaired.   It means something is wrong.   Use proper oil.   Check your owner’s manual for the proper oil to use.   Low-viscosity (thinner) oil will result in better fuel mileage.   Use synthetic oil if your vehicles manufacturer calls for it.    

   Use your cruise control on the freeway.   A cruise control will keep an even throttle setting, saving fuel.   Do not use cruise control in poor weather, in busy traffic or on hills.

   Don’t warm up your vehicle.   Just drive easy until the temperature gauge is in the normal range.   A vehicle not moving gets 0 miles per gallon and is a waste of fuel.

   Empty your vehicle of unnecessary weight.   The more things in your trunk, the more energy it takes to get the vehicle moving, and even more to get it to  stop.

   Remove ski/bike racks and cargo carriers when not in use.   This is most important on freeway driving.   These wind drags will increase fuel consumption by up to 3 miles per gallon.

   Combine trips.   A cold engine gets poor fuel mileage.   Plan your trips for errands.   The easiest way to save fuel is not to drive.

   Buy non-aggressive tires.   Rolling resistance of tires can change mileage up to 3 miles per gallon, or even more with huge, oversized tires.

What not to do

   There is no reason to put premium fuel in a car that doesn’t call for it, unless it pings (crushing marble sound) going uphill or possibly when heavily loaded.

   Replacing an air filter if it’s a little dirty.   On modern vehicles, the precision of the fuel injection system compensates for a restriction in the air filter.

   Everyone wants to save fuel now.   Don’t be the victim of devices that claim to increase fuel mileage.   I have never seen one that helps fuel mileage, just someone else’s pocket book.

Diagnostic dilemmas

   One of the greatest challenges in auto repair is diagnosing modern engine, transmission and body-control electronics.   The most common question we encounter from customers is how much is it to repair a “check engine” light, a poor running engine, a transmission or even a security system.

   The honest answer is you don’t know until you know.   We have logical steps to follow, checking and eliminating different possibilities.   A good diagnostician will consider the most common logical possibilities and go through and test each one until the problem is found.

   This process gets even more complicated if there is more than one problem, the problem is intermittent, or as in a recent case, the problem is “unnatural” (someone goofed up on it when the earlier repair work was done).

   A Volkswagen came into our shop a few weeks ago with the “check engine” light on.   After spending a quoted hour on “running” the electronic fault from the car’s computer and checking those codes, we still didn’t have an answer.   We had to call the customer back and ask permission for more time.

   In most cases, we know in one to two hours of diagnostic time what the vehicle needs.   But in this case, even after hours of running test and checking major components, we still were not sure what the problem was, but we had a good idea the cam timing was off.   This was another three hours of time to check; with another six hours of repair (the transmission had to come out on this vehicle for us to access the timing chain.)

   The customer was not happy about not having a definite answer on this recently purchased car, and I understand his frustration.   What created the frustration was not our skills, but the problem’s complexity and the high cost of repair.

   Please remember, an auto repair shop has no control over what is broken.   We just give you the news, good or bad!

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