Compliments of Hagerty Insurance and John Gunnell


Fueling the Economy
/ John Gunnell

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 top condition:

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 regularly.

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 7-23 percent.

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 temperature.

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 acceleration.

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.

Plan Ahead
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 them.

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 gas.

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.