Before It's Too Late
We're all screwed. We're running out of petroleum and that's going to change life as we know it. You've already seen the effects. We're paying more than double what we used to for gas and diesel-and this isn't the end of it, folks. Not to scare you, but the faster we run out of fuel, the faster we're going to have to switch from our big-blocks to four-banger 4x4s. Eventually we won't even be running on internal combustion engines as we know them today. It's only a matter of time.
We don't know about you, but we want to keep driving our big-block K5s, our FJs on 39s, and our Super Duty diesels for as long as we can. These are things that make us tick. There's nothing like it for us. It's like giving a Twinkie to a fat kid. Like giving every disgruntled postman a gun, and Paris Hilton a drive-thru liquor store. We want-no, need-to drive our off-road toys, so we figured out some fuel-saving tips to make sure that we conserve fuel to sustain our depraved four-wheeling ways for as long as we can. If we can make our fossil burners get better mileage, then we can play with our toys longer (and those deranged hippies might just get off our backs).
Remember this important lesson: Increasing vehicle efficiency improves fuel economy. You increase efficiency by burning less fuel to do the same amount of work. How? Read on.
You burn less fuel when you increase your engine efficiency. By having a more complete burn, you are not only getting more work out of your consumed fuel, but you're also putting out fewer emissions. This is good for you, good for your neighbor, and good for the environment.
Programmers & Chips
A programmer like this Superchips unit (www.superchips.com) will net you some increased fuel savings and juice your engine a little bit as well. Not only can it add horsepower and increase your mileage, it'll also change your shift points and make your vehicle all-around more fun to drive. You can buy a programmer (or at least a chip) for almost every computer-controlled 4x4 made. In fact, there's a good chance that your OEM will have its own factory performance ECU that you could swap right in if you're worried about plugging something foreign into your electrical system.
New O2 Sensor
By plugging a new O2 sensor into your exhaust system, you'll get better readings and your engine's ECU will not think your emissions are so dang dirty. Soot and particulates build up on oxygen sensors over time, and that can make your ECU think your engine is running more poorly than it is. When the ECU thinks the engine is running cleanly, it will allow the engine to run more efficiently.
Air Intake Systems
The benefits of an air intake system have been pounded into your head by every aftermarket air intake ad. On many vehicles it does actually help a bit, but be wary: You should expect about half or less of what some manufacturers claim on the outside of their boxes. Also, be aware that we really have not found an air-filtering element that does a better job of filtering the air than the factory equipment does. All that said, we'd still recommend one in an effort to increase your engine's efficiency.
Engine work like porting and polishing your heads or intake manifold can greatly improve the flow of air and fuel to and from the combustion chamber. This in turn allows your engine to work more easily, therefore increasing your power output per unit of energy consumed. Doing things like balancing and blueprinting your engine will net you a much better-running engine that will last longer, run stronger, and consume less fuel.
Replacing or modifying the throttle body on your fuel-injected 4x4 will often increase the cubic feet per minute (cfm) of airflow into your engine. By smoothing corners and edges, companies like F&B Throttle Bodies (www.fbthrottlebodies.com) can net you a few horsepower on all types of fuel-injected engines. Why aren't your stock throttle bodies built to be so free flowing? Cost, baby!
By replacing ignition parts with equipment like this distributor and wire package from Performance Distributors (www.performancedistributors.com), you can enlarge the spark in your engine or change the time at which the spark plug ignites the fuel in your cylinders. By doing so, you can manipulate and increase the energy output of the burn, therefore netting more energy (and more power) out of every drop of fuel.
A good exhaust system expels your engine's hot air more efficiently than many cumbersome factory exhaust systems. In the last few years, OEMs have actually made it quite a challenge for your favorite muffler company to net you any power gains or fuel savings since the factory stuff has improved so much. But on older vehicles, you can get rid of some pretty restrictive stuff and make your engine do more work without having to use so much energy to expel the exhaust.