Routine maintenance and fuel-saving ideas


As the temperature rises and the calendar creeps closer to that vacation, it’s time to start thinking about taking steps toward keeping your car in good working order.

“The No. 1 breakdown in the hot weather is cooling-system related,” said Glenn Dahl, senior technical education coordinator with Bridgestone Retail Operations.

Belts and hoses also can be affected by changes in temperature, so it’s important to have them checked out as well, Dahl said.

Additionally, summer heat can zap the life out of your battery.

“The failure rate of batteries in the heat of summer rivals that of winter,” Dahl said.

Dahl said consumers can avoid summer breakdowns by having their batteries and charging systems checked twice a year: once in the winter and once in the summer.

Bridgestone Retail Operations service marketing manager Jeff Lange said a quick checkup before a long trip can help avoid being stranded later down the road.

“Before you go on a major trip, have the vehicle inspected by a professional automotive technician. They’ll look at brakes, suspension, the charging system, vital fluids, belts and hoses — all those things that can lead to a breakdown,” he said.

Lange also recommends getting an oil change and having the tires inspected and rotated, which can maximize gas mileage, he said.

Dahl said keeping an eye on your tires is especially important and it’s easy.

“That’s probably the No. 1 thing that can impact fuel economy and tire life,” Dahl said.

Dahl said the correct tire pressure isn’t the number printed on the tire but rather what the vehicle manufacturer recommends.

“That can be found on the door jamb of the vehicle,” Dahl said. If it’s not there, you might find it printed in a placard in the glove box. Dahl adds it’s not uncommon for the recommended tire pressure to vary from the front of the car to the rear of the car.

On a similar note, having your wheel alignment checked and, if necessary, adjusted can help.

“If the tires and wheels aren’t going straight down the road and they’re trying to pull in opposite directions, that can cause drag and impact fuel economy,” Dahl said.

Another quick and easy fuel-saving fix is to clear all the junk out of your trunk.

“I don’t know how many trunks I’ve opened in my day and seen the trunk packed to the top. If it doesn’t need to be in your car, take it out. It takes more fuel to move your car,” Dahl said.

Using the correct oil weight also can aid in fuel economy.

“There are some cars, especially when you get into some of the hybrid cars, that use a very thin oil that helps them maintain high fuel economy. If you took a Toyota Prius and put the wrong oil in, you can affect the fuel economy by 10 miles per gallon,” Dahl said.

Although you might have heard you can use less fuel by driving with the windows down, Dahl said it might be a better idea to go ahead and use the air conditioner.

“Your car can become a big parachute if you’ve got the windows open going 60 miles per hour. Most of the air-conditioning systems on cars today are extremely efficient,” Dahl said.

Additionally, Lange said you can increase your fuel economy by driving at a steady speed, avoiding accelerating and decelerating and using cruise control when possible.



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