Don’t let pricey gas ruin your hobby activities this
summer. By performing routine service, practicing good
driving techniques and planning ahead, you might be able
to keep fuel costs affordable and attend as many shows
and events as you did last year.
Maintenance for Better Efficiency
We know that a well-maintained car will run
better and more efficiently. There are a few relatively
simple steps you can take to make sure your car is in
Perform a tune-up for peak efficiency. For a
tune-up, the spark plugs, points, rotor, condenser,
distributor cap and timing should be checked and
changed/modified as needed. Making sure that the
carburetor is adjusted correctly (if your car is
equipped with one) is very important. An overly rich
air/fuel mixture can hurt fuel economy.
Check the vacuum fuel pump for signs of leakage.
Some modern gasoline will eat through old diaphragm
material. In addition to wasting gas, a leaky fuel pump
is dangerous. Get a rebuilt pump or a pump rebuilding
kit with a modern diaphragm material that’s unaffected
by today’s gas.
Clean the engine. Recently, a group of
hobbyists taking an automotive night school class were
offered the use of a MotorVac CarbonClean machine. The
machine has a small fuel tank that holds a gallon of gas
and a solution that cleans carbon from an engine. The
instructor said that cars get three to five more miles
per gallon after a MotorVac treatment. The procedure
takes an hour. Repair shops charge up to $150 for it.
This high school shop does it for student practice and
charges $10 (cost of the cleaning solution + gas). Check
your local high school or vocational school and inquire
about this service.
Check tire pressure regularly. The correct
amount of air in your tires and proper wheel alignment
decreases road resistance and increases fuel economy.
Check tire pressure each time you leave for a show or a
long cruise. Tubeless tires were introduced around 1955.
If you’re using tubeless tires on a car with
non-tubeless rims, you may get slow leaks. Rotate your
tires, and check and reset your wheel alignment
Sensible Driving Practices
Not only because it wastes gas, but drive
sensibly because it's safer
for you and your car.
Don’t accelerate quickly or stop on a dime; it
wastes gas. These driving practices can lower gas
mileage by as much as 33 percent at highway speeds and
by five percent around town.
Don’t speed. Fuel economy decreases at
speeds over 60 mph. Most vehicles get optimum mileage at
35-45 mph. You pay 10 cents per gallon for every five
miles an hour over 60. At 60-plus, fuel economy drops
Avoid idling the engine. Idling is the same
as driving and getting no miles per gallon. Monster
mills waste more gas at idle than four bangers. When
your muscle car isn’t moving, shut it off. Avoid the
driveway “warm up.” Instead, drive slowly for the first
few blocks to bring your engine up to operating
Shift properly. Many older cars, sports cars
and muscle cars use manual transmissions. Shifting into
high gear as soon as possible without lugging the engine
reduces drag and uses less fuel. On cars with automatic
transmissions, stay out of lower gears and avoid using
the “kick-down” gear to show off your car’s
Use overdrive. Many older cars were equipped
with it. When you use overdrive gearing, your engine
speed goes down and you save gas. Cruise control is
rarer on old cars, but should be used when available.
Using cruise control helps maintain a constant highway
speed, which usually saves gas.
Use A/C frugally. Packard was the first
automaker to offer air conditioning in the 1940s. By the
‘60s it was becoming a more common option. Today, it’s
rare to find a vehicle without it. The older air
conditioning systems aren’t as efficient as the ones
today. With the air conditioning on, an older car’s
engine uses more fuel. You can increase gas mileage
tremendously by using the A/C only when really needed.
Planning can increase fuel economy, whether it’s
pre-planned driving or spending more time planning your
route to a car show. By thinking about what’s coming up,
you can anticipate moves that might waste gas and avoid
When driving, think about that red light ahead. Take
your foot off the get and let your vehicle coast to a
stop. Use the vehicle’s own momentum to get you to the
intersection. If you know that a big hill is coming,
increase your momentum before you start up the hill,
rather than gunning the accelerator near the top.
These days you can do a really good job of planning
your route to a car show. Computer programs such as
Streets & Trips, or online planning services like Map
Quest, offer turn-by-turn instructions from any starting
point to any destination. Many times you can pick the
quickest route, the shortest route or the most scenic
route. Usually the shortest route will use the least
John “Gunner” Gunnell is the automotive books editor at
Krause Publications in Iola, Wis., and former editor of
Old Cars Weekly and Old Cars Price Guide.