How to Tune Your Own Car for Better Gas Mileage

Joos Mind/Getty Images
Joos Mind/Getty Images

A lot can be said for tuning your own car. Number one, you save money. Two, you can choose the parts that are going into your ride, and three, you know that the job is getting done right! While not all of these steps are something that everyone will be comfortable doing, there is nothing wrong with learning more about your vehicle and how to make it run more efficiently.

Change Your Air Filter

If your air filter is dirty enough that when you hold it up to a light bulb you can't see much light through, then it is time for a replacement. An air filters job is to keep containments out of your engine, and it does such a good job of that, over time those very containments build up and reduce the amount of air that your vehicle can uptake.

Depending on the age of your vehicle, this can reduce your fuel economy by up to 10 percent. Newer engines with computer management systems are usually able to pickup on a dirty filter and feed the engine less fuel to compensate. Even though, it is still a good idea to keep your filters reasonably clean for optimum fuel efficiency.

Change Your Oil

This is one that you may or may not be your cup of beans, but if you do, just make sure that you buy an oil container large enough to handle the capacity of your vehicles oil and then take it to a recycling facility.

Millions of gallons of oil are spilled out into our soil, trash, and sewers by do-it-yourselfer's every year. This adversely affects our groundwater. It only takes about one gallon of oil to contaminate one million gallons of this is one scenario where one person can really do a lot of environmental damage and may not even realize it.

As your oil ages it becomes thick like syrup and subsequently a lot harder for it to do its job. The recommended intervals for an oil change is every 3,000 miles, or every three months. Even if you don't drive your car often, you still need to change the oil often, because conventional oil can breakdown overtime.

One way to extend your oil changes is to use synthetic. Synthetic oil does not breakdown as easily, as it has a more durable composition. You could also think of synthetic as slightly better for the environment for this reason. You will only have to change it half as often, since synthetic has been proven to last around three times longer than conventional oils in most studies.

In addition, you will also want to use your manufactures recommended grade of oil. It has been found that you can save as much as 2 percent in fuel efficiency just by using the correct grade in your vehicle. Look for the phrase Energy Conserving on the label of your favorite oil, as you can then be sure it is using the latest in friction reducing technologies.

Install New Spark Plugs

All it takes is one dirty misfiring spark plug to decrease your mpg by seven percent. Make that two misfiring plugs and you're down 20 percent in fuel efficiency. With this in mind it is important to change your spark plugs every 30,000 miles or so.

Some spark plugs like platinum and iridium will tell you that you can wait for up to 100,000, but when you are talking about losing that much efficiency over one bad plug, most experts don't recommend going too much beyond 45,000.

Spark plugs are actually very easy to change with just a few tools and an hour or so of your time. Don't worry too much about all the specialty plugs available out there unless you are in the mood for some experimentation. What the manufacturer originally used, is usually what will offer the best economy... they are the ones who tested the vehicle for its optimum performance after all.

Use a Fuel System Cleaner

Fuel injectors and engine components can get gummed up over time with residuals of gas and the best way to restore your vehicle to its original state is to run a quality fuel cleaner through your gas tank every 6 months to a year.

BG 44K is probably one of the best commercial fuel injector cleaners on the market. If your engines fuel system is to clogged up for this stuff to work, then you'll have to get your engine professionally maintenanced by a mechanic.

Clean Out Your Vehicle of Unnecessary Clutter and Gadgets

This is an easy one. You would be surprised at the number of people who carry around 100 pounds or more of unnecessary stuff, including ski racks and bike racks when it is no longer the season to be using them. All the items add weight to your vehicle and subsequently make your engine work harder (use more fuel) to pull you along to your destination.

Finally, Check the Air Pressure of Your Tires

Yeah, we know you have heard this about a million times already, but it pays by about roughly 3.3 percent better fuel economy to mention it again!

Feel the need for sustainable speed? See what eco-engineers are doing to create super-charged but low-impact cars, bikes, and planes on Planet Green TV's Mean Green Machines.