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Improving Your Hot Rod’s Fuel Economy

Improving Your Hot Rod’s Fuel Economy


Gas prices are on the rise again this summer and it pays to find little ways to improve your car’s fuel economy.

This week gas prices in my area hit an average of $4.08 per gallon. The recent cost increases make gas-saving car care procedures more important than ever. There used to be a time when $10 worth of gas would fill up a lawn mower gas can. These days, $10  might fill a third of the can; and your hot rod uses a lot more gas than your lawn mower!

Improving fuel economy depends on how much power is needed to move your hot rod. The less resistance your car has to moving, the higher its economy will be. If you can increase a hot rod’s fuel economy, you save money

Make your hot rod “hum” a tune by checking timing, cleaning or changing spark plugs, adjusting the carburetor, changing oil, cleaning or changing the air filter and, where applicable, checking emissions controls. A hot rod needing a tune-up can use up to 15 percent more gas. In general, the older the engine, the more frequently a tune-up will be needed.

Airing Up Tires
If the air pressure in your tires drops, your car’s “road resistance” increases. It doesn’t roll as well. Experts say you should check inflation pressures weekly. Keep the readings within the tire maker’s guidelines. A tire that’s under-inflated by 8 psi wastes 5 percent of the gas you put in it.

Check Wheel Alignment
If your wheels aren’t rolling straight and true, you’re creating added rolling resistance and causing a negative affect on gas mileage. Studies show improper alignment can use 3 percent more fuel and cut tire life by 25 percent. And the impact on your pocketbook is much worse if the tire gets ruined.

Brake Adjustments
Keep the brakes on your hot rod adjusted properly for safety, as well as better gas mileage. Dragging brakes are a drag on fuel economy. Another bad practice is driving with one foot on the accelerator and the other on the brake. If you forget to release the hand brake, you’ll be wasting precious gas by driving with the brake on. This also increases lining wear and can even cause a fire.

Air Conditioning
Today we are used to using A/C all the time in our modern cars, but years ago — when our hot rods were new — auto air conditioning systems were a rarity and not all that reliable. Cars that had this option used about 15 percent more gas when engine power was being used to run an A/C compressor. If you flip on the A/C only when needed, you’ll burn less gas. The use of modern, efficient aftermarket A/C systems—such as those that Vintage Air ( sells for a variety of hot rods—is another possibility.

In a well-lubricated vehicle, there’s less friction between moving parts of the engine and car. With an old car, keeping the crankcase full to the proper level is probably more important than anything else. Oil change intervals should be those recommended for the type of engine are using under the hood of your rod. Also remember that old cars have parts besides engine parts that need lubrication. Modern car owners have never heard of lubing a generator or carburetor, but on some old engines, it is important to lubricate such parts.

Cooling Counts
Think of cooling system care as a way to save fuel, too. An incorrect or stuck thermostat can cause your hot rod to use up to 7 percent more gas. Also check for a slipping fan belt, which can case overheating. If the belt is just loose, tighten it up. If it is worn, replace it. If the original type belt is hard to find, check to see if they list a modern equivalent.

Stop Bad Driving Habits
Car care is important to fuel economy, but so is the way you drive your hot rod. Excessive braking increases fuel consumption. So does “jack rabbit” starts. Clean your rod and remove extra weight. Driving at a steady speed increase your operating economy. Professional drivers moving at a steady speed always hit those high numbers set in the Mobilgas Economy Run. Watch your speed. Every five miles faster you go over 55 mph costs about one mile per gallon in fuel economy.

Plan Your Travel    
The number one way to save gas with a hot rod is to drive it fewer miles. By planning your travel more carefully, you can usually do everything you want to do and still drive fewer miles. For instance, if you are going to drive to a car show, map out your trip on your computer and use the shortest route.

It is easy to install a GPS in your hot rod and many rodders now have a GPS function on their cell phones. Using GPS to get somewhere can save you gas money as you’ll make fewer wrong turns and the satellite signals will help you find shorter routes to places.
In rare cases, you may notice that the route that is shortest in miles takes longer in minutes. That probably means more idling, which wastes fuel. So opt for the route that has you driving for the shortest amount of time.

If you were planning a trip to the parts store on Saturday and there’s a rod run the same day, try to combine the two by stopping at the parts store on the way to the run. By combining two trips into one, you’ll be saving gas.

Participation in hot rod shows and events is very entertaining and usually a lot less expensive then going to the movies, visiting an amusement park or taking in a sporting event. By taking steps to make your hot rod is more economical to drive, you can probably keep your travel expenses in the same neighborhood of what you spent last year. Finding ways to pass by one more gas pump before you refill may become the secret to having some affordable fun this summer.

Streamlining your hot rod can make it go faster at Bonneville and further on a gallon of gas.

You may not be able to bring all of the streamlining touches of this Salt Flats racer to your street rod, but low body lines or flush door handles don’t hurt.

Making sure your “flattie” V-8 is in its best state of tune will save you gas once you bolt it into your hot rod.

Reisinger Custom Rebuilding ( used a fuel-injected flathead in its “Senorita” Model A roadster to up the rod’s gas mileage.