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Don’t expect great gas mileage from a truck


Dear Car Talk:
I bought a used 2008 Ford F-150
about three years ago. It’s an
excellent vehicle and very troublefree, except for regular maintenance
of course. The only irritating issue
is low fuel economy. I bought a
cover for the bed and that improved
the mileage, but it still gives me
only 16-18 mpg. Any suggestions
for better miles per gallon? Thanks.
— Frank
Yeah, a Toyota Prius. If you bought
a zebra, you’d expect it to have

stripes, right, Frank? Well, you
bought a pickup truck, and you
should expect it to get mediocre gas
mileage. That’s baked in. In fact,
16-18 mpg sounds pretty good to
me. The EPA rating for this truck,
back in 2008, was 14 mpg city and
19 highway, with an average of 16
mpg. So, you’re already exceeding
expectations. If you had come to
our shop and said that you used to
get better fuel economy, and it had
dropped recently, there are some
things we would check.
The first would be your reliability
as a witness. But if you survived our
cross examination, we might start
by checking your tire pressure. Low
tire pressure is not only dangerous,
but because it creates a bigger patch
of rubber on the road, it creates
more friction and can also result
in lower mileage. We’d also check
your thermostat. If your thermostat

were stuck halfway open or opening
too early, your engine might not be
getting all the way up to operating
temperature. And an engine
running cool will run inefficiently,
with lower mileage. We might check
for an obstructed exhaust too.
If your engine wasn’t breathing
properly, that could lead to wasted
Finally, if it’s an old vehicle, we
might check the compression,
because an engine that’s not fully
compressing its fuel-air mixture
is obviously not getting the most
out of each drop of gas. In your
case, I really doubt you’ve got any
problem at all, Frank. If you really
want to see if you can improve
your mileage any further, you
might want to try overinflating
your tires by a few pounds more
than the recommended pressure.
Just be sure to stay below the tire

manufacturer’s maximum pressure.
Also, you can make sure your truck
is empty when you’re not actively
hauling anything. Extra weight
will decrease mileage. And you can
drive slower. The difference in fuel
economy between going 75-80 mph
versus 55-60 mph is enormous.
If it matters that much to you,
slow down. But don’t expect any
miracles, Frank. You’re already at
the winning end of the F-150 fuel
economy bell curve.
Got a question about cars? Write to Ray
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© 2019 by Ray Magliozzi and Doug
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