Home "Road Ready!" with Moses Ludel at YouTube ‘Road Ready’ Episode 10: Tuning and Maintenance for Maximum Fuel Efficiency

‘Road Ready’ Episode 10: Tuning and Maintenance for Maximum Fuel Efficiency

by Moses Ludel
Avoiding tune-ups and maintenance to “save money” is a surefire way to increase fuel use! As fuel prices soar, a tune-up and overall maintenance will maximize your vehicle’s fuel efficiency and mileage.

Squeezing the most out of a tankful of gasoline or diesel fuel requires a well tuned engine. Modern EFI engines with high output ignitions actually require less attention than older engines. As a result, many owners neglect tuning chores until trouble symptoms or an engine check light draws attention. There is no “savings” with this approach. Any money saved by ignoring service needs will end up in the fuel tank. A neglected engine will not get maximum fuel efficiency or good fuel mileage.

Spark plugs, a distributor cap and rotor are just as important to an EFI engine as they were to breaker point ignitions and carbureted engines with HEI systems. High output coils and precise electronically metered fuel mixtures tend to mask common symptoms of parts wear. Meanwhile, fuel efficiency suffers.
Spark plug cables are part of ignition tuneup on Jeep engines through the nineties. Many contemporary vehicles now have engines with coil-on-plug ignitions. Know which parts your engine uses and maintain the tune. Here, an ignition cable upgrade will extend the service intervals between spark cable changes.

Items as basic as an air filter can impact your fuel mileage. On vehicles driven off-road or on dusty trails, a paper air filter element might not last a weekend. Know how and when to service the air filter. Diesel fuel filters are another item that can need replacement unexpectedly. Fueling stations with water contamination or dirt in their storage tanks can ruin a brand new fuel filter.

One fueling station fill-up was enough to clog a near new Cummins/Mopar™ fuel filter! Fortunately, the filter did its job and stopped debris and water from reaching the precision ($$$$) high pressure fuel pump. The cause was a tanker truck filling old style underground tanks at a Green River, Utah, truck stop while we were fueling our vehicle. 55 miles later at Moab, the engine was rough idling from a fuel restriction. We carry the right wrench and a new filter onboard the truck for these “special” occasions.

There is no “fixed” mileage for filter changes. The service suggestions are the maximum recommended interval under normal driving conditions. Some causes for a premature filter failure include excess dust around an air filter element and water or debris exposure for fuel filters. Anyone traveling in the backcountry for any distance should carry spare air and fuel filters. Bring the tools necessary to change the filter(s) in the field.

One of the best investments we have made at our shop is a fuel injector cleaning machine. We purchased this special fluid for the injector cleaning process. Injector performance can suffer from cheap fuel, poor fuel filtration, clogged injector filters or general wear over time.

Overall maintenance includes the engine, transmission, axle(s) and other chassis fluids. For fuel efficiency, the rolling resistance of the vehicle is a concern. Low tire pressures, worn wheel bearings and bad U-joints or CV-joints can create fuel robbing drag. Engine loads from power driven accessories can also have an impact.

Accessory drag on the engine may be less noticeable with our Ram-Cummins engine. Turning on the A/C barely affects the engine. However, for maximizing fuel efficiency, the air conditioning compressor must be in good condition with normal refrigerant pressures at the high and low sides of the system. Air conditioning is more than comfort. A/C performance also impacts the fuel efficiency of the vehicle.

In Episode 10 of Road Ready, we talk about the basic maintenance and tuning that can improve your vehicle’s fuel mileage. Episode 11 discusses the driving techniques that improve or hamper fuel efficiency…Road Ready Episodes 9-12 focus on ways we can conserve fuel and reduce our monthly fossil fuel bill.

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