A little change can make all the difference!

Changing out Smokey's spark plugs brought fuel economy back to the exceptional range I'd known right after purchasing her. It eventually would reach 23.4 running mpg along I-27 in Amarillo. (Thanks to my wife for the photography skills!)

Changing out Smokey’s spark plugs brought fuel economy back to the exceptional range I’d known right after purchasing her. It eventually would reach 23.4 running mpg along I-27 in Amarillo. (Thanks to my wife for the photography skills!)

One thing that’s always impressed me about Smokey is the outstanding (relatively speaking)  fuel economy she’s gotten, compared to her EPA rating. It’s easy to understand my concern, then, when many months ago that fuel mileage began a dramatic drop.

Vehicles change for a reason — Smokey was trying to tell me something. My first step was to clean the intake manifold of my 3.8-liter V-6. The easy process brought Smokey’s gas mileage right back up — for a few days.

Though their original 0.050 gap had widened only to an average of 0.052, the difference appears to have been enough to drop average fuel mileage to about 15 mpg.

Though their original 0.050 gap had widened only to an average of 0.052, the difference appears to have been enough to drop average fuel mileage to about 15 mpg.

The next step, then, was spark plugs. These are a touchy subject with me. The last time I tackled the task, long ago on another vehicle, I over tightened a plug, cracking it and leading to a $500-plus repair bill. Since then, I’ve chosen to avoid the task altogether. With Smokey, though, I’ve committed to performing my own maintenance wherever possible, and I’m glad I did.

Though there were only about 43,700 miles on the original plugs and their original 0.050 gap had only widened a couple of thousandths on average, the results were most impressive. In-town fuel economy quickly returned to mid-17s and higher, while even in-town highway driving climbed north of 20 mpg! It’s only been a couple of days, so time will tell how lasting is the change. I’m hopeful — and grateful to my fellow local Jeepers for the good fellowship as we worked on each others’ rides.

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