In July 2019, residents of North Carolina and other states along the Eastern Seaboard kept an eye on Tropical Storm Barry, a weather system that seemed as if it would make landfall along the Louisiana coast as a Category One hurricane. Thankfully, TS Barry did not strengthen; it mostly dissipated upon arrival and spared the Raleigh region, but there were a few news headlines suggesting that gas prices would increase as a result of this weather event since fuel distribution systems would be disrupted. Although the disruption was minimal, average gasoline prices across the Carolinas ended up with a spike, settling to an average of $2.58 per gallon and expected to continue rising.
Compared to other areas of the country, drivers in the Tar Heel State are not subject to the high gasoline prices usually seen in Southern California, where gas stations were charging up to $4.00 per gallon in mid-July. In countries such as Norway and The Netherlands, drivers pay more than $7 per gallon because of high taxation and environmental conservation laws. While North Carolina is unlikely to see such high gas prices, catching up to Southern California is not impossible because of the ongoing tensions in the Persian Gulf, where Iranian forces are reportedly sabotaging oil tanker transit, which in turn creates uncertainty in the global markets. There is also the current strategy by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, which has been controlling crude oil supplies in an effort to boost fuel prices; moreover, the political and economic crisis in Venezuela, a major oil producer, is also putting pressure on how much you pay at the pump.
Naturally, geopolitical tensions and tropical weather systems are beyond your control with regard to gasoline prices; however, there are a few things you can do to keep your car as fuel-efficient as possible. One way to completely stop worrying about gas prices is to ditch the internal combustion engine and switch to a plug-in electric vehicle; if this seems too extreme, you can opt for a hybrid system, but there are less drastic ways to save at the pump through proper maintenance.
How Your Car’s Fuel Injection System Works
Unless you drive a classic powered by a legacy carburetor system, your car runs on a fuel injection system designed for efficiency, power, clean emissions, and a smooth ride. In essence, internal combustion engines mix air with gasoline before sending the mixture into the cylinders. Piston compression and sparks fired by the plugs result in combustions and explosions that serve as energy for the power plant and drive train.
Electronic fuel injection (EFI) systems were developed for the purpose of eliminating quite a few problems commonly found in the old carburetor systems. Your car has an engine control unit (ECU) or module that is constantly being updated with information collected by various sensors; the goal is to always inject the precise amount of fuel required by driving conditions, and this is one of the principles of fuel efficiency because it cuts down on gasoline or diesel evaporating, igniting poorly or being mostly wasted through emissions.
Some of the EFI sensors that provide data to the ECU include:
* Oxygen sensor
* Airflow sensor
* Throttle position
* Manifold pressure
* Camshaft position
* Temperature sensor
EFI systems are comprised of quite a few parts. Starting with the gasoline or diesel tank, there are pumps, pressure regulators, air filters, valves, lines, hoses, injectors, starters, adjuster screws, spark plugs, and others. Luxury cars tend to have more sophisticated engine management systems with even more parts.
Fuel Systems Maintenance
If the gas mileage you became used to when you acquired your car has fallen to unacceptable and expensive levels, there is a strong chance that your fuel system is not working as efficiently as it should. Incorrect readings from oxygen sensor combined with dirty air filters can end up impacting fuel efficiency by as much as 20 percent. If your spark plugs are misfiring or failing to ignite the fuel mixture, that is another 10 percent loss in terms of gas mileage. Since many of the EFI sensors depend on vacuum readings, cracked hoses or lines could also reduce fuel efficiency.
All the issues above can be determined and taken care of with proper maintenance. Extreme cases involve fuel leaks, which are not only expensive but also dangerous. Replacing an entire fuel system is a very expensive repair that is rarely required because issues can be isolated to certain parts or sensors. The problem with failing to address EFI issues is that they can eventually affect the functionality of other parts. In the end, fixing fuel system problems upon recommendations by auto service technicians can not only help you save money at the pump but also prevent expensive repairs down the line.