Gas Pains +
Unless you've been sequestered on the space station or serving time as a terrorist subversive in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, you've been impacted by the rising cost of gasoline. For a while, gas prices were going up daily with no end in sight. What used to cost $40 to fill up is now in the $60-$80 range. And if you own a Ford Excursion or Chevy Suburban with a 40-plus-gallon fuel tank, plan on dropping a C-note to fill that boy up. It kind of takes the fun out of owning a truck, doesn't it?
Since we're paying more and getting less, people naturally are pissed off at everyone from OPEC to their local gas station attendants. After all, burning fossil fuel is one of America's unalienable rights that has to be spelled out somewhere in the constitution. So in an effort to get the most bang for our gas-buying buck, this issue concentrates not only on power and performance, but mileage as well. We get stacks of letters and e-mails from readers wanting 400 hp and 20 mpg. Unfortunately, you can't have your cake and eat it, too. But you can make the best of what you have with some simple upgrades and practices.
Take Your Foot Off The Gas
Rule number one in saving gas is to press the gas pedal as if there was an egg on it. Roll into the throttle gradually. Don't just flat-foot the gas from stoplight to stoplight. Back out of the gas before reaching the red light, not just in time to switch from the gas to the brake. Look farther down the road than the end of your hood and anticipate upcoming traffic and stops. Also, use the cruise control on long trips. It provides more even throttle control over flat ground than you do.
Check Your Tire Pressures
Rolling resistance and the weight of the vehicle has a lot to do with fuel economy. Underinflated tires cause excess drag and increased rolling resistance, which robs you of fuel economy. Check your tires at least once at month and inflate them to the recommended pressures. If your truck is fitted with aftermarket wheels and tires, do not use the pressures on the factory label inside the doorjamb as your guideline, as these are for the original OEM-size tire and wheel combo. Check with the manufacturer of your new tires for the recommended cold inflation pressure.
Try A Tune-Up
If your truck has more than 50,000 miles on it, it's time for a tune-up, even a minor one. New spark plugs are cheap compared with gallons of wasted fuel from a bad-running engine. Another tune-up trick no one tells you about is to change the oxygen sensor. It costs a few more bucks than plugs, but the sensors can get polluted from bad gas and give out bad readings, which affects the engine's fuel delivery and consequently, mileage. Also, don't forget the air filter. A new one is recommended every 12,000 miles. And if you switch from an OE paper-style filter to a reusable one, you can usually get at least 1 mpg and a couple of extra ponies as well.
Add Aftermarket Power Parts
Here's where you can really pick up a couple of mpg. If you view the motor as basically an air pump, increasing the pumping efficiency can add up to better power and mileage. A great place to start is with an aftermarket exhaust system with a free-flowing muffler; these can be worth at least 1-2 mpg more than stock. The problem is, most folks like how they sound so much that they drive more aggressively just to hear the exhaust. The same goes for upgraded air intakes: more air in, more air out, better power, better fuel economy.
In the end, we have no control over the price of fuel. We do, however, have control over the condition of our vehicle and our driving habits. Keeping both of them in tiptop shape can save us a few bucks in the long run, and let us enjoy our trucks a little longer before we all end up in electric vehicles.