Are You Ready For The Road?
An average of 13,000 Americans are killed between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day, some as a result of neglected vehicle maintenance, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Every year, unperformed maintenance leads to more than 2,600 deaths, nearly 100,000 disabling injuries and over $2 billion in lost wages, medical expenses, and property damage.
Most mechanic failures can be traced to not performing regular maintenance. For instance, The U.S. Department of Transportation reports that the leading cause of mechanical breakdown on our nation’s highways is overheating, a condition that is easily avoided. Other deficiencies that are easy to detect include low antifreeze/coolant, loose or worn drive belts, and defective cooling system hoses. Vehicle handling and stability compromised by weak and worn shocks and struts can make a bad situation worse and even more dangerous.
Checking your tire pressure and inflating your tires costs nothing, but on average 21% of cars inspected in check lanes during National Car Care Month have under-inflated tires. This can lead to a blowout or even a serious accident.
Fuel Saving Tips
|Condition||Effect||MPG Penalty up to|
|Under-inflated tires||Increase rolling resistance||e 1-2mpg|
|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 mixture||3mpg|
|Dirty or substandard engine oil||Increases internal engine friction||0.4mpg|
|Loose gas cap||Allows fuel to evaporate||e 2.0mpg|
|Potential loss in fuel economy if all of the above were neglected|| ||11.4mpg|
The Car Care Council offers these fuel-saving tips:
- Gas caps-Around 17% of cars on the road have gas caps that are loose, damaged or missing, causing 147 million gallons of gas to vaporize each year.
- Under-inflated tires-When tires aren’t inflated properly it’s like driving with the parking brake on and can take off a mile or two per gallon of gas.
- Worn spark plugs-A vehicles have 4, 6, or 8 spark plugs that fire as many as 3 million times every 1,000 miles resulting in a lot of electrical and heat and chemical erosion. A dirty spark plug causes misfiring, which wastes fuel. Spark plugs need to be replaced as often as the manufacturer recommends.
- Dirty air filters-A clogged air filter can be caused by dirt, dust, or bugs and 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 up to 10%, saving around 20 cents per gallon.
Fuel-saving driving tips include:
- Avoid excessive idling-sitting still gets 0 miles per gallon. A vehicle only needs 1-2 minutes to warm up.
- No aggressive driving-it can lower your mileage as much as 33% on the highway and 5% in the city, which results in 10-66 cents per gallon.
- Stick to the speed limit-Gas mileage rapidly decreases above 60 miles per hour. Every mpg over 60 will result in an additional 10 cents/gallon! Cruise control is recommended to maintain a constant speed on the highway.
WIPERS - In 2001, National Car Care Month vehicle check lanes, 21% of participants had wipers that streaked, smeared or chattered across their windshields. Although climates vary, wipers generally need to be replaced every 6 months. An easy benchmark is to change your wipers when you change your clocks! Be sure the windshield washers are working properly, too, and keep the reservoir filled.
LIGHTING - Another important pre-trip check should be interior and exterior lighting. Vehicle check lanes revealed an overall failure of 25% in the lighting category. The Car Care Council reminds drivers to check lights monthly. Other suggestions from the council: turn on headlights day and night. This helps define your vehicle’s position on the road and its distance from other drivers. When lighting is defective, other motorists may not know you are about to stop or turn and the results could be disastrous.
10 Minute Pre-Trip Checkup Can Pay Off
Car Care Council offers three suggestions for a traveler's 10-minute pre-trip checklist:
- Check tires-Tire inflation needs to be checked and inspection of tread for uneven wear-indicating the need for wheel alignment. Also, look for bulges and bald spots.
- Check all fluids-Several fluids require attention in addition to antifreeze. They include engine oil, power steering, brake and transmission fluids, and windshield washer solvent.
- Check hoses and belts-a failing belt can affect the air conditioning, electrical system, and power steering, as well as the cooling system. Cooling system hoses may be deteriorating from within, so old clamps and hoses in marginal conditions may need to be replaced.
"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, Rich White.
A pre-trip inspection not only helps reduce the chances of costly and even dangerous road trouble, but it also provides an opportunity to have repairs made at home, with one’s own technician who knows the vehicle. It provides peace of mind, which is especially important. While no inspection can guarantee a car’s performance, it’s comforting to know proper precautions were taken.
Helpful Stats & Information (VIN Decoder)
Would you like to know if your vehicle is the subject of an ongoing defect investigation? Check out the latest information on recalls, compliance testing, and technical service bulletins from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) commonly found inside the door jam or windshield, can be used to verify vehicle information such as the engine, body style, transmission, drivetrain, as well as the year, make, model, and sub-model information.
The VIN decoder contains information for vehicles from 1981-current and includes all major makes and models of domestic and import passenger cars, SUVs, sports cars, light trucks, and vans, representing 99.8% of all vehicles on the road. Enter the complete 17-character VIN, or at least the first 10 characters and press Submit for the complete vehicle configuration.