Are You Ready For The Road?
average of 13,000 Americans are killed between Memorial Day weekend and
Labor Day, some as a result of unperformed vehicle maintenance, according to
the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Each year, neglected
maintenance leads to more than 2,600 deaths, nearly 100,000 disabling
injuries and more than $2 billion in lost wages, medical expenses and
Most mechanical failures can be traced to neglected
maintenance. For example, the U. S. Department of Transportation reports the
leading cause of mechanical breakdown on our nation's highways is
overheating, a condition that is easily avoidable. Other deficiencies that
are simple to detect include low antifreeze/coolant, worn or loose drive
belts and defective cooling system hoses.
Checking tire pressure
and inflating a tire costs nothing, yet an average of 21 percent of cars
inspected in check lanes during National Car Care Month have under inflated
tires. This can lead to a blowout and a serious accident.
Fuel Saving Tips
| Under inflated tires
|| Increase rolling resistance
Dirty air filter ||
Causes excessively rich fuel/air mixture || 2.0mpg |
| Worn spark plugs
|| Cause inefficient
combustion, wasted fuel || 2.0mpg |
| Worn O2 sensor
|| Unable to detect and adjust air/fuel
Dirty or substandard engine oil || Increases internal engine friction
Loose gas cap ||
Allows fuel to evaporate || 2.0mpg |
| Potential loss in fuel economy if
all of the above were neglected || ||
The Car Care
Council offers these fuel-saving tips:
- Vehicle gas caps --
About 17 percent of the vehicles on the roads have gas caps that are either
damaged, loose or are missing altogether, causing 147 million gallons of gas
to vaporize every year.
- Under inflated tires -- When tires aren't
inflated properly it's like driving with the parking brake on and can cost a
mile or two per gallon.
- Worn spark plugs -- A vehicle can have
either four, six or eight spark plugs, which fire as many as 3 million times
every 1,000 miles, resulting in a lot of heat and electrical and chemical
erosion. A dirty spark plug causes misfiring, which wastes fuel. Spark plugs
need to be replaced as recommended by the manufacturer.
- Dirty air
filters -- An air filter that is clogged with dirt, dust and bugs chokes off
the air and creates a "rich" mixture -- too much gas being burned for the
amount of air, which wastes gas and causes the engine to lose power.
Replacing a clogged air filter can improve gas mileage by as much as 10
percent, saving about 20 cents a gallon.
driving tips include:
- Don't be an aggressive driver --
Aggressive driving can lower gas mileage by as much as 33 percent on the
highway and 5 percent on city streets, which results in 10 to 66 cents per
- Avoid excessive idling -- Sitting idle gets zero
miles per gallon. Letting the vehicle warm up for one to two minutes is
- Observe the speed limit -- Gas mileage decreases
rapidly at speeds above 60 mph. Each mpg driven over 60 will result in an
additional 10 cents per gallon. To maintain a constant speed on the highway,
cruise control is recommended.
WIPERS - In
the 2001 National Car Care Month vehicle check lanes, 21 percent of
participants had wipers that smeared, streaked or chattered across their
windshields. Although climates vary, wipers generally need replacing every
six months. An easy reminder is to change wiper blades in the spring and
fall when you change your clock. Be sure the windshield washers are working
properly, too, and keep the reservoir filled with solvent.
LIGHTING - Another important pre-trip check should be
exterior and interior lighting. Vehicle check lanes revealed an overall
failure rate of over 25 percent in the lighting category. The Car Care
Council reminds motorists to check their lights monthly. Other suggestions
from the Council include turning on headlights both day and night. This
helps define your car's position on the road, and its distance from other
drivers. When your vehicle's lighting is defective, other motorists may not
get the message that you intend to stop or turn. The end result could be
10 Minute Pre-Trip Checkup Can Pay
Car Care Council offers three suggestions for a
traveler's 10-minute pre-trip checklist:
- Check all fluids.
There are several fluids, in addition to antifreeze, that require attention,
including engine oil, power steering, brake and transmission fluids and
windshield washer solvent and antifreeze/coolant.
- Check hoses
and belts. A belt that fails can affect the electrical system, air
conditioning and power steering, as well as the cooling system. Cooling
system hoses may be deteriorating from within, so old hoses and clamps in
marginal condition might need to be replaced.
- Check the
tires. Check tire inflation and inspect the tread for uneven wear,
indicating the need for wheel alignment. Also look for bulges and bald
"While a last minute checkup is better than no
checkup, motorists should plan ahead to allow time to perform necessary
maintenance themselves or at the local service facility. A properly
maintained vehicle is safer and more dependable and will even save a few
dollars at the gas pumps," said the Car Care Council's Executive Director,
Not only can a pre-trip inspection help reduce chances
of costly and possibly dangerous road trouble, it also provides an
opportunity to have repairs made at home, with one's own technician who
knows the vehicle. Especially important, it provides peace of mind. While no
inspection can guarantee a car's performance, it's comforting to know proper
precautions were taken.