Maintenance Items To Improve My Truck’s Fuel Mileage
Truck fuel efficiency is no simple matter with many factors to consider. Some of them are out of fleet managers’ control such as weather, traffic or required routes. But many of them can be controlled, like powertrain specifications, vehicle aerodynamics and driver training. Proper maintenance can also positively impact fuel economy.
Air filters help to improve your fuel efficiency by preventing dirt, dust, and debris from clogging your engine. Replacing your truck’s air filter on a regular basis according to your manufacturer’s maintenance schedule can make a significant difference in your overall fuel efficiency. A MERV 13-rated filter can trap very small particles of 0.3 microns and smaller. These can include pollen, pet dander, mold spores, bacteria, smoke, and virus-carrying particles. Depending on the air quality where you live, your air filter may need to be replaced more frequently than usual. A home with poor air quality may require a MERV 16-rated filter to ensure your family is breathing clean, fresh air. Generally, the higher the MERV rating, the better the filter is at capturing smaller particles in the air. If you have respiratory issues such as asthma or COPD, you may want to invest in a higher-grade filter to ensure your breathing is not affected.
If you want to improve your truck’s fuel economy and reduce emissions, one of the best things you can do is replace your oxygen sensors. These little power-saving devices work by detecting the oxygen levels in exhaust gas and then sending a voltage signal to the engine’s computer. Oxygen sensors consist of two parts: a zirconia ceramic bulb and a platinum electrode that vents to the outside atmosphere. When the bulb gets hot (approximately 600 degF) a chemical reaction occurs that produces a low-level voltage that can range from a few tenths of volt to almost a full volt. The engine control computer reads this voltage and responds by changing the timing of the ignition, fuel injector pulses and leaning out the fuel mixture. The result is a more efficient engine and lower emissions. As with all components, the life of an oxygen sensor will decrease over time. This is usually due to contamination from within the engine. Exhaust from an overly rich fuel mixture, leaded fuel and oil blow-by can all foul an oxygen sensor.
One of the easiest ways to improve your truck’s fuel mileage is by identifying and fixing vacuum leaks. These are often the culprit behind rough idle and sporadic RPMs. A leak introduces too much air into the engine, causing an imbalance in the air and fuel mixture that power it. As a result, the engine’s performance will suffer. The lean mix of fuel and air will stall the engine or misfire. It may also cause black exhaust smoke. If the lean mixture isn’t corrected, it can stall when you try to accelerate, too. If you notice any of the above symptoms, it’s best to have the leak identified and repaired as soon as possible. The impact on your gas mileage will not be nearly as noticeable if the leak is corrected before it’s too late.
Getting your spark plugs replaced regularly can improve fuel efficiency by up to 30%. Fresh plugs ignite your engine’s air-fuel mixture at a proper time, which helps to reduce carbon buildup and engine knocking. Most spark plugs are made of copper cores surrounded by a nickel alloy. Premium plugs can have platinum or iridium tips for enhanced performance. A ceramic resistor is often a part of these plugs as well, to prevent radio frequency interference that can interfere with other electrical components in the vehicle. As your vehicle ages, it will wear out its spark plugs. The gap between the two electrodes needs to be set to a precise distance to ensure the best possible engine performance. Most auto parts stores will carry pre-gapped spark plugs for your particular vehicle model. If you are not sure how to set the gap, look for tools specifically designed for this purpose.
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