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#5 control system (ECS)
Have you ever had the “check engine” light on the dashboard come on? That yellow warning light has caused many a driver to panic. Quite often, the light appears because you have just filled up the gas and put the gas cap on incorrectly. This is an easy fix, but it may require going to a dealer or garage to get the light reset. However, if you didn’t fill up and the light is on, it may mean that the emission control system (ECS) is acting up. The ECS senses how much air is being let into the engine and regulates the exhaust emissions coming out of it. If the ECS is not functioning properly and not allowing air in or out of the engine, it can put a serious strain on the engine.
“Fixing a serious maintenance problem, such as a faulty oxygen sensor, can improve your mileage by as much as 40%.”
Always take the “check engine” light seriously. If it comes on, get your engine checked out immediately. Better yet, have the ECS tested each year to ensure that your engine is okay—before the light comes on.
#18 Fill up near empty
Although waiting to fill up until the gas tank is near empty may sound like a risky proposition, filling up once it gets below a quarter-full can be a good way to maximize your car’s fuel efficiency. Gas weighs a lot and slows down the car. This weight also taxes the engine, meaning it has to work harder, and burn more fuel, to keep you moving.
“[Keep in mind that every] extra 100 lbs (48 kg) of weight can increase your fuel bill by 2%.”
If the price isn’t right when your gas tank hits the quarter-full mark, put in just a bit of gas for the time being. You can fill up when you see a bargain on gas. The extra weight of a full tank will be offset by the cheaper gas. Some people call this “gas surfing.” They believe that by no means should you let your car’s gas tank get to the “light is on” stage—it’s too risky. What if you can’t find a station or if it’s late at night and everything’s closed? But, if you want to save money on fuel, gas surfing might be worth a try.
#46 Turn the engine off
Other than leaving your car at home, what is the best way to avoid using fuel? Turning off your engine. Idling is one of the biggest drains on fuel economy (see Tip 45).
“If you are stopped for more than 10 seconds, except while in traffic, turn off your engine … idling for more than 10 seconds uses more fuel than it takes to restart your engine.”
Fuel Consumption Guide, Natural Resources Canada, 2008
There are many myths about turning a car’s engine off and on. Some people think that it takes 10 times as much fuel to restart a car than letting it idle. Others think that you cause great strain and harm on the starter and electrical system when you fire up the engine soon after shutting it off. Both are false. The goal is to save fuel and cut CO2 emissions, so turn it off. If your car isn’t idling, you aren’t wasting fuel.
If you have to wait somewhere for 5 or 10 minutes, be patient and turn the car off. If you find yourself with more than 15 minutes and the temperature is extreme, seek out a place that’s heated or air-conditioned. Think how much more pleasant it would be to wait in a bookstore or coffee shop—and be saving money while you’re at it.
Places To Turn Your Engine Off
Idling is really bad: bad for fuel consumption and bad for the environment. The good news is that most people are aware of this and make the effort to stop and turn off their cars rather than keeping them running unnecessarily. Here is a brief list of a few key places where you should turn off the engine rather than idle:
• Schools. In many provinces, it’s illegal to idle near a school when dropping off or picking up the kids. Most people know this, yet many continue to do so, coming up with all sorts of excuses. None are acceptable.
• Construction zones. Getting stuck at a construction zone often means we sit in ours cars, idling, for many minutes. As soon as you are stopped (and see that there won’t be any further movement for a while), turn the car’s engine off. If you do, others will follow.
• Long lights. If you arrive at a major intersection and the stoplight has just turned red, you may be in for a wait. Instead of sitting there burning up fuel and polluting the air, turn off your car’s engine; restart it just before it turns green again (when the light controlling the opposite traffic turns amber).
• Stores. If you are with a friend who needs to make a “quick” stop at an ATM or a convenience store, turn off the engine while you wait—often that quick stop ends up taking five minutes.
• Accident sites. Let’s hope that you never get stuck at the scene of an accident. If you do get caught waiting in the jam of cars, turn your engine off, put on some gentle music, and relax. It may be a while before things get sorted.