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Save money--fix vehicles yourself.

COUNTRYSIDE: The article in the March/ April 2008 issue on "Doing your own auto mechanic work can pay off" rings true.

I have a 1991 Toyota Celica GT with over 368,000 miles, a 1995 Toyota Tacoma with nearly 200,000 miles and both receive regular maintenance and check-ups.

I do all the minor--and some major--maintenance on the vehicles and take the heavy work such as a clutch replacement to the professionals. This has resulted in vehicles that still have an excellent performance curve but more importantly, get high gas mileage.

I use K&N filters in all the vehicles (we also have a 2004 Tacoma and a 1996 Bounder motor home) and synthetic oils in the engines, and where possible the drive trains. The engines' spark plugs have been changed out to the multi-gap type to improve engine efficiency.

The Celica has had a new distributor installed by me, and this vehicle is getting an average of 40 mpg on non-ethanol gas. Mileage with E10--the mix in a lot of Colorado gas--drops to about 31 mpg, so always I try to buy fuel where ethanol is not added.

The 1995 Tacoma averages 30 mpg on non-ethanol gas but drops to about 22 mpg on E10, again proving that the ethanol additive does affect mileage a lot on certain vehicles.

The 2004 received its 30,000 mile maintenance and all drivetrain fluids were replaced with synthetic fluids, as per the manual. This truck is heavy with a custom topper and lots of extras but it averages 28 mpg, again on non-ethanol fuel.

The Bounder is a gas hog as usual, but I manage to see 15 mpg on the few trips we take and that is cut a little as the generator also uses the engine fuel, so maybe I get a little closer to 16 mpg. Again, proper maintenance and some upgrades in air handling, synthetic oils and ignition, helps this hog be a little more efficient.

If the Celica should finally lose the engine, I have in mind a nice full electric conversion but that could be far in the future from the way this vehicle runs and is maintained.

Bottom line for those of us trying to make it on a shoestring is that by learning how to do simple maintenance on a vehicle and budgeting for heavy repairs, you can extend the life of your second most expensive investment for years and years. If this gal can do it, anyone can.--Leslie Varnicle, Elizabeth, Colorado
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Title Annotation:Country conversation & feedback
Author:Varnicle, Leslie
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2008
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