DRAMATIC drop in MPG

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fmhealth
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DRAMATIC drop in MPG

Post by fmhealth »

My beloved '03 Honda Accord is suddenly acting it's age. For all these years it's faithfully delivered 24-26 mpg. Suddenly, it's now down to a ridiculous 15 mpg. Perhaps the 151,000 miles are taking their toll on my old friend.

Local shop said to replace the four spark plugs & do a cleaning of the entire fuel system. Total cost $350.00. I don't think so. I think there may be something more sinister going on. I'll head over to AutoZone tomorrow & get some reasonable alternatives to consider. They have been very helpful in the past. I don't drive much anymore & mostly local streets. Use the same Costco gas I always have & nothing really has changed in years.

Anyone with some insights would be very much appreciated. I hate to believe that we're getting towards the end of our journey together.

Be Well,
fmhealth
7eight9
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Re: DRAMATIC drop in MPG

Post by 7eight9 »

THE MAIN CAUSES OF BAD GAS MILEAGE (AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT)
Incorrect Tire Pressure
Spark Plugs
Bad Oxygen Sensors and/or Air Filters
Driving Habits
Bad Fuel Injectors
Air Conditioner
Motor Oil
Idling

https://www.joebowmanautoplaza.com/blog ... and-645870
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Zanmar
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Re: DRAMATIC drop in MPG

Post by Zanmar »

A fuel leak? Thats a big drop in mpg.
LittleMaggieMae
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Re: DRAMATIC drop in MPG

Post by LittleMaggieMae »

Don't forget to check the pressure in your tires. If you have a tire or two that is really low (but not really flat) your MPG will plummet very quickly (as in feels like it plunged overnight).
Weathering
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Re: DRAMATIC drop in MPG

Post by Weathering »

Change the spark plugs yourself ($25). Honda is known to place the spark plugs where they are easy to access (unlike Toyota).
Get an OBDC 2 reader and access any stored codes (or ask Autozone to do this for you). See if any of the issues related to these codes (if any) would impact mpg.
Then fill your gas tank and note your odometer reading. Then when you are nearing empty note your odometer again. Do the math to determine your mpg. It may very well be that the failure is in the car’s calculation of recent mpg, not an actual change in mpg.
finite_difference
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Re: DRAMATIC drop in MPG

Post by finite_difference »

Is the check engine light on?

Do you follow all maintenance according to the owner’s manual?
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RetiredAL
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Re: DRAMATIC drop in MPG

Post by RetiredAL »

fmhealth wrote: Wed Sep 21, 2022 9:12 pm My beloved '03 Honda Accord is suddenly acting it's age. For all these years it's faithfully delivered 24-26 mpg. Suddenly, it's now down to a ridiculous 15 mpg. Perhaps the 151,000 miles are taking their toll on my old friend.

Local shop said to replace the four spark plugs & do a cleaning of the entire fuel system. Total cost $350.00. I don't think so. I think there may be something more sinister going on. I'll head over to AutoZone tomorrow & get some reasonable alternatives to consider. They have been very helpful in the past. I don't drive much anymore & mostly local streets. Use the same Costco gas I always have & nothing really has changed in years.

Anyone with some insights would be very much appreciated. I hate to believe that we're getting towards the end of our journey together.

Be Well,
fmhealth
My 96 Civic, with only 120K on it, failed CA smog test this summer with excessive CO and barely passing HC. Turns out the O2 sensor was lying about what the Fuel/Air ratio was and it was actually running pretty rich. I had seen a drop in mileage from the lower 30's into the mid 20's over the spring. No codes were thrown. High CO is indicative incomplete combustion, often from excess fuel.
billaster
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Re: DRAMATIC drop in MPG

Post by billaster »

I'll add to the list bad mass air flow sensor. This can cause the computer to inject too much fuel. This can occur with and without error codes.

Another is possibility is clogged or disintegrated catalytic converter.

Any other symptoms like hesitation, stalling, poor idle, poor acceleration, engine misfiring?
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David Jay
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Re: DRAMATIC drop in MPG

Post by David Jay »

Zanmar wrote: Wed Sep 21, 2022 9:25 pm A fuel leak? Thats a big drop in mpg.
+1 That's the first thing I thought about with an old car and a dramatic drop in fuel usage.
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Morgan Dollar 1921
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Re: DRAMATIC drop in MPG

Post by Morgan Dollar 1921 »

Suspect Air filter, fuel system leak, yes it could be spark plugs, error in math, ( I do not intend to insult your math, just double check it) I know waiting in line for drive-thru food in the age of the pandemic has dropped my personal MPG numbers. If the car is not moving but still running it is getting ZERO MPG in the line at Chick-Fil-A.

Tires, did you change tires? Tire pressure correct? Check the engine light on? Possible transmission slippage, (doubtful).

I respect the folks at Autozone, but you know who knows your Honda best, the factory trained Honda service dept. Yes they are not cheap, you do not want them to be, because they spend $$$ on tech training, have the latest TSB, have the correct special tools for you Honda, and stock Genuine Honda parts just like the ones the car rolled off the assembly line with. Not saying they are your only option, but if my car it sure would be my 3rd or 4th at the latest stop.

I log my MPG tank by tank and have since March 2nd, 2013, Fuelly app, free version. Five cars between the DW and myself and we never fail to average more that the highway rating as a true multi-tank average. My 2014 Civic averaged 39.4 MPG over 15K miles. EPA sticker was 30 - 39.

I recently, (June 2021) put new tires on my 2016 Impreza ,, prior to mounting new Cross Climate II's it was turning in an average of 36.8 MPG with some tanks in the 38 to 40 MPG range. With the new sticky tires, MPG has dropped 7/10th's MPG. Summer fuel vs winter fuel here in Ohio makes a diff too!

That said with the drop you are seeing, something must be amiss mechanically, so check your tune-up and other routine maintenance records vs recommended items. I am not really sharp on the VVTS, but it could be bad. Cat convertor going bad, Mass Air flow sensor and more are suspect.

Don't hesitate to spend some cash to fix the issue as $4 gas at a diff of 10MPG you are gonna spend it soon anyway.
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whodidntante
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Re: DRAMATIC drop in MPG

Post by whodidntante »

For that kind of drop in mileage, all things being equal, there is unburned fuel going through the engine, and quite a bit of it. Or a fuel leak. An error or a significant change in driving patterns is also possible. It actually could be the spark plugs, since a lack of good spark will lead to, you guessed it, unburned fuel. And the gap widens and the electrode wears away over time, which is why they have to be replaced as part of normal maintenance. But a misfire bad enough to leave that much unburned fuel would likely throw a code and maybe also a flashing check engine light since unburned fuel is a catalyst damaging fault.

A good mechanic will know if the spark plugs are bad very quickly after pulling them out of the engine. There is no guessing required. You probably want to authorize replacement if anyone looks since it's basically the same amount of work to put the new ones in instead of the old ones.

Fuel injection service is most likely an upsell, but no way to tell anything from my keyboard. Can't see a thing. :happy
Johnny Thinwallet
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Re: DRAMATIC drop in MPG

Post by Johnny Thinwallet »

fmhealth wrote: Wed Sep 21, 2022 9:12 pm My beloved '03 Honda Accord is suddenly acting it's age. For all these years it's faithfully delivered 24-26 mpg. Suddenly, it's now down to a ridiculous 15 mpg. Perhaps the 151,000 miles are taking their toll on my old friend.

Local shop said to replace the four spark plugs & do a cleaning of the entire fuel system. Total cost $350.00. I don't think so. I think there may be something more sinister going on. I'll head over to AutoZone tomorrow & get some reasonable alternatives to consider. They have been very helpful in the past. I don't drive much anymore & mostly local streets. Use the same Costco gas I always have & nothing really has changed in years.

Anyone with some insights would be very much appreciated. I hate to believe that we're getting towards the end of our journey together.

Be Well,
fmhealth
The first thing to do is check tire air pressure. That's easy and free.

I'm assuming you have an i4 engine since you mentioned replacing four spark plugs. How's your oil consumption? The 7th gen i4 Accord engines (2003-07 model years) love to start consuming oil when they get up in mileage. I have a 2007 Accord i4 engine with 191k miles so ask me how I know. And one of the consequences of persistent and long-term oil consumption is the catalytic converter eventually living on borrowed time.

How old are the spark plugs? Original? Mine were replaced at 105k miles when the car was 8-years-old. I believe the recommended mileage interval is right around 100-105k for Accords. It may not be unreasonable to replace them depending on when they were last replaced.

My own journey with my 2007 is nearing the end. I have a deposit down on a 2022 Accord. We actually already had one new build come in last week, but my wife and I discovered a mechanical issue on the test drive that stumped the dealer so we punted on that car. Our name is back on the list for another upcoming 2022 Accord new build scheduled to arrive in October.
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fmhealth
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Re: DRAMATIC drop in MPG

Post by fmhealth »

Thanks go out to everyone who responded so quickly. Much appreciated! I've been fortunate to have had a lot of luck with AutoZone. Here is some additional information that may help.

Tires were checked last week and no problems were found. There hasn't been any fluids noticed on the garage floor. Check engine light was on last week, this was resolved with an oil change, filter & new air filter. Additionally, the power steering fluid was changed out. Car rides very smooth, starts up as it always has like race horse ready to rumble.

I'll report back as I narrow-down the cause of this recent problem. Hopefully just a "bump in the road" so to speak.

Be Well,
fmhealth
Katietsu
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Re: DRAMATIC drop in MPG

Post by Katietsu »

fmhealth wrote: Wed Sep 21, 2022 10:51 pmCheck engine light was on last week, this was resolved with an oil change, filter & new air filter.

Be Well,
fmhealth
This may be significant. Did anyone read the codes at the time? Was the air filter severely in need of being changed?
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celia
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Re: DRAMATIC drop in MPG

Post by celia »

We had this problem recently. We’re retired but bought a brand new car in 2019. Usually $50 for a tank of gas lasts us 3 months since we mostly drive to the store and doctor appointments.

I was going through our credit card receipts late last year and noticed we were spending $50 A MONTH without any change in driving habits. (The second car is only driven about once a month locally if the other person is out in the new car.) I told DH that I think someone is syphoning our gas. I started going out each night to make sure the car and “door” to the gas tank were locked. (Locking the car automatically locks the gas tank “door” as well.) Sure enough, about half the time, one of us forgot to lock it. So now I lock the car remotely (again) before going to bed each night.

Since we started tracking our mileage and number of gallons each time we fill up and consistently lock the car, we are back to spending $50 every 3 months.

Guess I should go out and check the car now. Thanks for reminding me indirectly.
Valuethinker
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Re: DRAMATIC drop in MPG

Post by Valuethinker »

celia wrote: Thu Sep 22, 2022 2:13 am We had this problem recently. We’re retired but bought a brand new car in 2019. Usually $50 for a tank of gas lasts us 3 months since we mostly drive to the store and doctor appointments.

I was going through our credit card receipts late last year and noticed we were spending $50 A MONTH without any change in driving habits. (The second car is only driven about once a month locally if the other person is out in the new car.) I told DH that I think someone is syphoning our gas. I started going out each night to make sure the car and “door” to the gas tank were locked. (Locking the car automatically locks the gas tank “door” as well.) Sure enough, about half the time, one of us forgot to lock it. So now I lock the car remotely (again) before going to bed each night.

Since we started tracking our mileage and number of gallons each time we fill up and consistently lock the car, we are back to spending $50 every 3 months.

Guess I should go out and check the car now. Thanks for reminding me indirectly.
Is your car in a downstairs parking lot? eg a condo?

I mean, I live in a big city (London). So I am not (completely) naïve in the ways of a big city.*

But stealing fuel? Somebody is going by in the middle of the night and checking who has left their gas cap unlocked? A neighbour?

I think in European cars, one generally needs the key to actually close the gas cap back on. It's possible to forget, drive away and your gas cap (usually on roof of car) flies off. But not possible to forget to lock it.
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fmhealth
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Re: DRAMATIC drop in MPG

Post by fmhealth »

I believe the air filter was past it's prime. No codes were visible but I didn't pursue this any further. Car is in my garage. It's never in 20 years been parked outside overnight.

Be Well,
fmhealth
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ClevrChico
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Re: DRAMATIC drop in MPG

Post by ClevrChico »

I would check for dragging brakes. Every old car in my experience eventually gets this problem. You can test it yourself by jacking up each wheel and testing to see if it spins easily. You can also simply feel the wheel after driving around a bit and see if it feels hot.
jayjayc
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Re: DRAMATIC drop in MPG

Post by jayjayc »

I've had this problem before and replacing the spark plugs fixed it. Your mechanic already diagnosed the issue to be spark plugs. If you want to save some $, it's very doable to replace them yourself. Youtube can help you here.
billaster
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Re: DRAMATIC drop in MPG

Post by billaster »

fmhealth wrote: Thu Sep 22, 2022 11:53 am Check engine light was on last week, this was resolved with an oil change, filter & new air filter ...I believe the air filter was past it's prime. No codes were visible but I didn't pursue this any further.
This doesn't sound right. If the check engine light was on there should have been at least one code. Unless you are confusing a maintenance light with the check engine light. The check engine light is orange, has a goofy outline of an engine, and has the text "Check".

You should probably go to a auto parts store that will do a free code check.
illumination
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Re: DRAMATIC drop in MPG

Post by illumination »

It seems insane to me a drop like that in mpg isn't throwing a check engine light as its clearly not operating properly.

You said an oil change "resolved" the check engine light? That's not "normal", did the shop clear the code? What did the code say?

My first guess would be an O2 sensor and/or plugs, but you shouldn't throw parts at a problem. A competent shop with the right scanners can go "deeper" and should be able to figure out what's going on. I think it's worth paying a few hundred for a diagnostic fee. Better than shotgunning parts at it. I wouldn't just ignore the problem.
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vineviz
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Re: DRAMATIC drop in MPG

Post by vineviz »

fmhealth wrote: Wed Sep 21, 2022 9:12 pm My beloved '03 Honda Accord is suddenly acting it's age. For all these years it's faithfully delivered 24-26 mpg. Suddenly, it's now down to a ridiculous 15 mpg. Perhaps the 151,000 miles are taking their toll on my old friend.

Local shop said to replace the four spark plugs & do a cleaning of the entire fuel system. Total cost $350.00. I don't think so.
I'd reconsider. These two service items have a reasonable chance of restoring your engine's performance, and $350 isn't necessarily highway robbery. Replace the plugs at the very least.

If you're heading to AutoZone anyway, pick up two 20oz bottles of Chevron Techron Fuel System Cleaner (they should be less than $15 each). Add one bottle to your gas tank now, and the second on your next fill-up at Costco. There's a small chance this cleaner (and it is the only brand I'd recommend) might help, and virtually no chance that it will hurt.
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random_walker_77
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Re: DRAMATIC drop in MPG

Post by random_walker_77 »

illumination wrote: Thu Sep 22, 2022 1:00 pm It seems insane to me a drop like that in mpg isn't throwing a check engine light as its clearly not operating properly.

You said an oil change "resolved" the check engine light? That's not "normal", did the shop clear the code? What did the code say?

My first guess would be an O2 sensor and/or plugs, but you shouldn't throw parts at a problem. A competent shop with the right scanners can go "deeper" and should be able to figure out what's going on. I think it's worth paying a few hundred for a diagnostic fee. Better than shotgunning parts at it. I wouldn't just ignore the problem.
Most auto parts stores will read codes for free. Or you can buy the obd2 reader from amazon for $10-20. Agree on not throwing parts at a problem. However, if you're DIY, sometimes it's reasonable to replace parts that are likely either bad or near end-of-life, if doing so is cheaper than the diagnostic fee. For example, a set of 4 o2 sensors for a '03 accord will run you $72 on amazon. Youtube has videos showing how to swap them out. Similarly, spark plugs aren't expensive. If doing the work yourself, it can make more sense to just swap the likely parts if that gives you a high chance of fixing it, rather than spending more money for just the diagnosis. In this case, you'd want to see the codes, but those parts are probably due for replacing.

Either way, best to address this sooner rather than later. Definitely don't ignore the problem, as it'd be a shame to ruin an expensive catalytic converter.
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Re: DRAMATIC drop in MPG

Post by random_walker_77 »

After you believe the problem to be fixed, rather than waiting to go through a tank of gas, I think a smog check (if routinely and cheaply available in your area) would be an inexpensive way to confirm that you're not in danger of burning out your catalytic converter. In my area, emissions tests are regularly required for registration, and are priced very reasonably.
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Groundhog
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Re: DRAMATIC drop in MPG

Post by Groundhog »

vineviz wrote: Thu Sep 22, 2022 1:38 pm
fmhealth wrote: Wed Sep 21, 2022 9:12 pm My beloved '03 Honda Accord is suddenly acting it's age. For all these years it's faithfully delivered 24-26 mpg. Suddenly, it's now down to a ridiculous 15 mpg. Perhaps the 151,000 miles are taking their toll on my old friend.

Local shop said to replace the four spark plugs & do a cleaning of the entire fuel system. Total cost $350.00. I don't think so.
I'd reconsider. These two service items have a reasonable chance of restoring your engine's performance, and $350 isn't necessarily highway robbery. Replace the plugs at the very least.

If you're heading to AutoZone anyway, pick up two 20oz bottles of Chevron Techron Fuel System Cleaner (they should be less than $15 each). Add one bottle to your gas tank now, and the second on your next fill-up at Costco. There's a small chance this cleaner (and it is the only brand I'd recommend) might help, and virtually no chance that it will hurt.
+1 on the Techron recommendation.
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lthenderson
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Re: DRAMATIC drop in MPG

Post by lthenderson »

fmhealth wrote: Wed Sep 21, 2022 9:12 pm Anyone with some insights would be very much appreciated.
Anecdotal but as mentioned above, I had a vehicle where the mass airflow sensor that was malfunctioning. It caused the fuel mileage to drop down into the single digits and never threw a code. It also took several trips to the shop to finally get diagnosed causing me to almost run out of gas a few times since it was only failing intermittently and I would just notice by looking at the gas gauge and wondering how on earth I blew though a half a tank in a short period of time.
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fmhealth
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Re: DRAMATIC drop in MPG

Post by fmhealth »

SUCCESS!! Thanks so much my fellow BHs for all the sage & accurate thoughts. After spending another five hours with mechanics, reps at AutoZone and Advance Auto Parts, the following is the problem.

The throttle(sp) body along with the vacuum check valve are just about shot. Replacement will run $300.00 all in. They'll actually order the parts & then come to my home to install. It was a long & winding road but I learned a lot & met some very interesting folks along the way.

Once again many thanks to my very bright BH friends. You folks are the best!

Be Well,
fmhealth
radiowave
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Re: DRAMATIC drop in MPG

Post by radiowave »

fmhealth wrote: Thu Sep 22, 2022 7:51 pm SUCCESS!! Thanks so much my fellow BHs for all the sage & accurate thoughts. After spending another five hours with mechanics, reps at AutoZone and Advance Auto Parts, the following is the problem.

The throttle(sp) body along with the vacuum check valve are just about shot. Replacement will run $300.00 all in. They'll actually order the parts & then come to my home to install. It was a long & winding road but I learned a lot & met some very interesting folks along the way.

Once again many thanks to my very bright BH friends. You folks are the best!

Be Well,
fmhealth
Great!

This thread reminded me of an episode of Car Talk. Sure do miss that radio show, never laughed so hard in my life :)
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bh1
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Re: DRAMATIC drop in MPG

Post by bh1 »

radiowave wrote: Thu Sep 22, 2022 8:04 pm
Great!

This thread reminded me of an episode of Car Talk. Sure do miss that radio show, never laughed so hard in my life :)
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jabberwockOG
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Re: DRAMATIC drop in MPG

Post by jabberwockOG »

vineviz wrote: Thu Sep 22, 2022 1:38 pm
fmhealth wrote: Wed Sep 21, 2022 9:12 pm My beloved '03 Honda Accord is suddenly acting it's age. For all these years it's faithfully delivered 24-26 mpg. Suddenly, it's now down to a ridiculous 15 mpg. Perhaps the 151,000 miles are taking their toll on my old friend.

Local shop said to replace the four spark plugs & do a cleaning of the entire fuel system. Total cost $350.00. I don't think so.
I'd reconsider. These two service items have a reasonable chance of restoring your engine's performance, and $350 isn't necessarily highway robbery. Replace the plugs at the very least.

If you're heading to AutoZone anyway, pick up two 20oz bottles of Chevron Techron Fuel System Cleaner (they should be less than $15 each). Add one bottle to your gas tank now, and the second on your next fill-up at Costco. There's a small chance this cleaner (and it is the only brand I'd recommend) might help, and virtually no chance that it will hurt.

Good advice -

Assuming tires are OK and brakes aren't dragging your issue is likely -

1. Dirty engine air filter - change if necessary
2. Dirty or malfunctioning MAF - clean with CRC brand MAF spray cleaner - CRC® Mass Air Flow Sensor Cleaner, 11 Wt Oz
3. One or more intermittently failing O2 sensors - although this would normally throw codes that light "Check engine light" Pay a good shop to read codes and diagnose and monitor O2 sensors.
4. Dirty throttle body and idle valve - clean with CRC brand TB spray cleaner
5. Dirty fuel injectors - two 20oz bottles of Chevron Techron Fuel System Cleaner is a good start and might clear up a light problem.
6. Worn out spark plugs - worn plugs are unlikely to be the culprit, but if you have more than book recommended miles on them, replacing 4 plugs on a 4 cyl Honda motor is cheap and easy.
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celia
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Re: DRAMATIC drop in MPG

Post by celia »

Valuethinker wrote: Thu Sep 22, 2022 3:36 am Is your car in a downstairs parking lot? eg a condo?
It is always parked in our driveway outdoors in the suburbs. The gas cap door is on the other side of the car (not visible from the house), rather than on the house side.
I mean, I live in a big city (London). So I am not (completely) naïve in the ways of a big city.*

But stealing fuel? Somebody is going by in the middle of the night and checking who has left their gas cap unlocked? A neighbour?
That’s what I suspected. It was happening when the gas prices were rising here. (It was over $6 per gallon here in California, which I suspect was a lot less than London, but higher than the rest of the US since California has higher refinery requirements.) The same thing happened in 1973 during a gas rationing period (oil embargo). Only most cars didn’t have locking gas caps or locking gas cap doors then and many cars were syphoned at night. We were very young and only driving an old clunker then and lived in a tiny apartment building. The clunker was our primary asset then! LOL
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