Auto Bits: Fuel facts and myths

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

Tip of the Week

Here are a few tips from Shell Oil Products U.S. that separate fuel fact from fuel fiction:

- Regular maintenance will help keep your vehicle running longer and can help save money at the pump: Fact

Keeping up on regular car care services, such as changing the engine air filter, oil changes and transmission checkups, can help your vehicle run more efficiently and avoid major expenses in the future - no matter how old your car is. Following a vehicle manufacturer's motor oil recommendation can improve gasoline mileage by 1 to 2 percent. Be sure to look for motor oil that says "Energy Conserving" on the API performance symbol to ensure it contains friction-reducing additives. Keeping your engine properly tuned can improve gas mileage by an average of 4 percent. Also, finding and correcting smaller mechanical problems before they turn into bigger ones can help save you money in the long run.

- All gasolines are the same: Myth

In addition to basic vehicle maintenance, gasoline choice plays a vital role in the cleanliness and performance of an engine. So if you've been using lower-quality gasolines in your vehicle, it is important to clean up the gunk left behind in your engine. Gunk, also known as carbon deposits, can begin to build up in as little as 5,000 miles.

- Octane levels in fuel don't really make a difference: Myth

You probably associate octane with the numbers you see at the pump, but the technical explanation for octane is a fuel's ability to resist engine knock. If you use a lower octane fuel in an engine designed to use higher octane, engine knocking may occur, causing the car to shudder and lose performance. Most modern engines can sense knocking and go into a "safe mode" in order to protect the engine from serious damage, yet can reduce its ability to perform at its best.

-- ARA

The List

Motor Trend recently named its top cars of the year, and the winner was the Ford Fusion. Here are the other cars that were in the running:

BMW 7 Series

BMW Z4

Buick Lacrosse

Chevrolet Camaro

Ford Mustang

Ford Taurus

Honda Insight

Hyundai Genesis Coupe

Kia Forte

Kia Soul

Lexus HS 250H

Mazda3

Mercedes-Benz E-Class

Nissan 370Z

Nissan Cube

Porsche Panamera

Subaru Legacy

Suzuki Kizashi

Toyota Prius

Volkswagen GTI

Volkswagen Routan

For more information on the cars of the year, go to www.motortrend.com.

Did You Know

From January through October, the most recent numbers available, Chinese residents bought more new cars than U.S. residents, outbuying us 10.9 million to 8.6 million.

Car Q&A

Question: I own a 2002 Ford Escape. Recently the brakes started acting up. When I try to stop it feels like the anti-lock brake system is activating. The ABS light does not come on. My mechanic said the car needed new rotors and brake drums. I said go ahead and fix it. He replaced everything and I still have the same condition. What do you suggest?

Answer: The first step is to get a refund from the shop that did the work. Put the credit card payment in contest if needed. The second step is take the car to a shop that has knowledge of the anti-lock brake system. The qualified technician will hook up a scan tool and monitor the ABS wheel speed sensors on a road test. The most common fault is a cracked ABS tone ring on an axle. If there was a fault in the ABS electronic system, the system would not pass its self test when the engine is started. It’s too bad the mechanic replaced all the parts you did not need.

-- Junior Damato, Talking Cars columnist

GateHouse News Service