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you & your car

Ford’s 2.7-litre V-6 EcoBoost engine is one of the available engines for its 2015 F-Series trucks.

What is the gas mileage of a four-cylinder turbo versus a small V-6? I have been told that a turbo gives lower gas mileage. Ken

Turbochargers allow smaller engines to produce the same power as larger ones – by forcing more air through the cylinders. When they are producing similar power, the mileage will be similar. But, when the turbo is not being utilized –for example, at steady speeds and under low loads – the smaller (turbocharged) engine will use less fuel.

PADDLE SHIFTERS

Is it mandatory to use paddle shifters on a car? Danny

For the most part, paddle shifters are an affectation – a marketing ploy. The "paddles" are not necessary at all for the operation of the vehicle. Granted, they are useful and used in competition when selecting a gear for the situation is critical. Some enthusiasts use them on public roads as they make the driver feel more involved. But I would bet that 99.9 per cent of paddle shifters are never used beyond the first month of ownership. Today's automatic transmissions are, for the most part, programmed to maximize efficiency under light throttle conditions and performance under heavy throttle application.

CHECK ENGINE LIGHT

The Check Engine light on my 2001 Honda is on but I can pull a fuse, put it back in and the light goes out and may not turn on again for a week, sometimes longer. Is this causing damage to my engine? - Norm

There is a reason the light is coming on. Take it to a credible shop where they will plug in a code reader to determine the source of the problem. Ignoring the warning could prove costly.

FUEL ECONOMY

I bought a Toyota Prius hybrid to get great mileage but I can't duplicate the advertised numbers in summer and the situation is worse in winter. The winter mileage is half that claimed by Toyota.

The rated fuel economy is obtained in ideal conditions on level roads under good weather conditions and light throttle. Revisions announced for next year will ring the numbers closer to reality but there will still be a gap between different drivers – and conditions. Do your drive aggressively? Do you regularly exceed the posted limit by even a tiny amount? Does your route start at or include higher elevations? Does it include hills? These issues all affect mileage. Winter is another story altogether. The heater depends on fluid circulating through a hot engine. This means the engine has to run more often and longer each time to generate that heat – using gasoline in the process. The rear defroster uses juice from the batteries and the front one heat from the engine – that's more gasoline consumed. The components of a hybrid work best when warm. The batteries rely on a chemical reaction, which slows as the temperature drops, causing the internal combustion engine to work longer and harder to supply power – and burning gasoline.

If you have questions about driving or car maintenance, please contact our experts at globedrive@globeandmail.com.

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