Archive for the ‘gas’ Tag

Love your engine by checking the oil

The gas station ritual has changed over the years. Today we tend to fill the tank, clear trash out of the door pockets and under the seats, and get going.

One important task has fallen by the wayside – checking the engine oil level.

Oil is the lifeblood of your engine and too little or too much of it can cause serious and expensive damage. Also, regular checking lets you see if the level is falling unexpectedly, an early sign that service is needed.

Checking engine oil is easy and can be done while filling the gasoline tank. You’ll even earn respect from other drivers who see you pop the hood and work the dipstick with authority.

We find it handy to keep a roll of shop towels or paper towels in the car. Not every fuel station puts them out anymore. A shop rag works too. Or, in a pinch, a couple of leftover fast food napkins.

Let the engine sit for a couple of minutes before you check the oil, so go ahead and start the fuel pump and clean out the door pockets. Then pop the hood – the release is usually located on the left edge of the driver’s footwell. Then slide your hand under the front edge of the hood and release the secondary latch to open the hood all the way, using the prop rod to hold it open if your car has one.

The handle for the dip stick is usually topped in yellow plastic and labeled Engine Oil. If you’re not sure, check the owner’s manual for a diagram of its location.

Pull the dipstick out of the tube, grasping the end of the stick with the towel and wiping it clean. Look at the end of the stick and see the high and low marks that define the safe zone for the oil level.

Slide the dipstick back into the tube and push it all the way in until the handle seats. Now pull the dipstick out, again grab toward the end with the towel and look at where the oil level shows:

  • If it’s inside the safe zone, between the marks, all is good so put the dipstick fully back into the tube, close the hood and wipe your hands clean.
  • If the oil level is at or below the bottom mark of the safe zone, it’s time to add a quart of oil. Check the oil fill cap or the owner’s manual for the correct grade, such as 5W-20, and use that oil.
  • If the oil level is above the top mark of the safe zone you should take your vehicle in for service as soon as possible.

Many of today’s vehicles also have an oil life monitor that lets you know when it’s time to change the oil. When you get the signal, have the oil changed – old, dirty oil can lead to engine damage.

It’s easy and quick to check your engine oil. You’ll drive with confidence knowing your engine is maintained to perform as designed.

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US gas prices may climb back up in mid-February

Valentine’s Day may not bring a whole lot of love to those headed to the fuel pumps. Gas prices may start rising by the middle of February as oil companies switch over to the so-called “summer blend” of gas, Willits News says, citing an analyst for That blend is better for the environment, but is also more expensive to produce.

San Francisco’s ABC news affiliate, citing a Lundberg poll, also said wholesale fuel prices may spike within a couple of weeks. That city is particularly concerned because, even though the rest of the US is enjoying cheaper gas, San Francisco’s fuel has the highest gas prices in the continental US.

That said, predicting gas prices can be like predicting the weather, says the Christian Science Monitor. Obviously, simple supply and demand come into play, and demand has been down because of more fuel-efficient US cars and lower demand from Asia, while North American crude supply is up.

US gas prices have held steady at about $2.04 a gallon for the past week, though are down about 25 cents from a month ago, according to AAA. Gas prices, which are at a five-year low, averaged $3.28 a gallon a year ago.

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Michigan gas prices tumble to 10-month low

Gasoline prices in Michigan tumbled to their lowest point in about 10 months, and analysts expect prices to keep falling.

The average price of an unleaded gallon of gasoline fell to $3.27, down 13 cents from a week ago, according to AAA.

In metro Detroit, it was a similar story. The average price dropped 10 cents to $3.31 per gallon.

“Decreased demand, relatively lower crude prices and the cost savings associated with producing winter-blend fuel will likely keep downward pressure on the price for retail gasoline,” AAA Michigan said in a statement. “Barring any major disruptions in supply, drivers are expected to see some of the lowest autumn prices since 2010.”

Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst of, said prices are heading below the $3 mark.

“We’re really looking at wholesale prices that point to not just lower, but they’re dramatically lower,” Kloza said in an interview. “It’s coming fairly soon.”

In fact, stations in Greenville and Ionia have already reduced prices to below the $3 mark.

The lowest average price for a Michigan region is $3.14 in the Grand Rapids-Muskegon-Holland region. Marquette has the highest price at $3.49.

More than a dozen gas stations in metro Detroit are charging $3.07 or less, though most of those prices are cash only, according to

Kloza said a confluence of factors are driving prices down.

The price of crude oil has been falling, hitting the $90 mark, and Bloomberg reported Thursday that betting on the future price of oil hit a 17-month low last week.

Refineries in the Midwest have also ended maintenance initiatives in recent weeks, increasing supplies and lowering prices further.

Political turmoil in the Middle East has had little effect on gas prices, economists noted.

“Geopolitical events remain front of mind for market watchers, but in recent months have not translated into upward pressure on global oil markets,” AAA said.

Kloza said the price of crude oil has fallen despite ISIS violence in Iraq and Syria, indicating that the market is not concerned that continued fighting will disrupt the flow of oil.

Still, he cautioned that $3 gasoline isn’t necessarily here to stay.

“I don’t think that becomes the new normal,” he said. “I do think that becomes a level that people will get used to in the offseason.”

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20 ways to save gas this summer

For every penny that gas prices go up, Americans spend $1.25 billion more per year at the pump. No one wants to waste that kind of money. So unless you’re hauling the whole ball team, [1] IT’S TIME TO UNLOAD THE OLD SUBURBAN. And you, Honda Element fella, stop smirking: You’re getting only 20 mpg — and driving something even less aerodynamic.

If you’re driving something that gets reasonable fuel economy, drive it reasonably. When entering a highway, [2] ACCELERATE TO 60 MPH AT ABOUT DOUBLE YOUR CAR’S TOP 0-TO-60 TIME. As Popular Mechanics proved in a battery of tests, this puts the car in its more efficient top gear quicker than the smug hyper-miler crawling up to speed… in the left lane.

[3] COAST — IN GEAR. The same tests showed that rolling in neutral requires a trickle of gas to keep the engine running but in-gear coasting does not — and that if you anticipate traffic lights and [4] DON’T COME TO A COMPLETE STOP, you can boost mpg by as much as 50 percent.

A warm engine is more efficient, so string errands together by [5] DRIVING TO THE FARTHEST DESTINATION FIRST, which will get the block heated up, then work your way home.

When it’s warm out, keep cool by opening the windows, enjoying the breeze, and [6] TURNING OFF THE GAS-DRAINING A/C. At highway speeds, however, our tests showed windows-down driving creates drag. So at 60 mph or faster, roll up the windows and [7] PUT ON THE A/C.

Notice to hoarders: You don’t need to lug around a case of oil, a bag of sand, or that box of antique tools you got at the garage sale, right? So [8] EMPTY THE TRUNK — less weight, better mileage. Pickup drivers, [9] REMOVE THE 300-POUND TOOLBOX FROM THE BED and, while you’re at it, [10] CLOSE THE TAILGATE to create a drag-reducing air bubble. MythBusters increased the overall range of a full tank by 30 miles using this technique; the show also proved that [11] A RIGHT-TURN ONLY ROUTE increases fuel economy by 3 percent, because idling (at stoplights, for instance) wastes fuel. For that same reason, [12] AVOID TRAFFIC PINCH POINTS. Driving at speed is more fuel efficient than creeping along in low gear. And if you’re not regularly carrying a bike or a kayak on that roof rack, reduce drag by [13] SLIDING OFF THE CROSSBARS or at least [14] SLIDING THE CROSSBARS ALL THE WAY BACK (making a single wing).

At the pump [15] AVOID GAS RATED E15; the “E” is for ethanol, which has about 30 percent less energy than gasoline and kills mpg. (Ethanol-free gas is rare today; you’ll probably have to settle for E10.) While at the filling station, [16] INFLATE YOUR TIRES PROPERLY and check them for uneven wear, which works against you. Stickier, wider performance tires also increase road friction and sap mileage. So [17] STEER CLEAR OF TIRES MEANT FOR RACE CARS, and [18] SWITCH TO ECO-FOCUSED TIRES, which reduce rolling resistance. Also, [19] GET A TUNEUP; a smooth-running engine is more efficient.

Finally, don’t overlook the obvious: Nothing saves gas like not driving at all. [20] RIDE YOUR BICYCLE to fetch that quart of milk, especially if the store is just a mile or so away.

Content provided by Popular Mechanics.

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