FORT KNOX, Ky. – Chris Nelson has been an automotive professional for over half a century – and he says there are some simple ways vehicle owners can get more bang for their buck.
Following time in service as an automotive maintenance chief warrant officer in the Army, and then as a commercial mechanic for several years, Nelson, who holds a degree in automotive technology, now manages the Fort Knox Automotive Crafts Shop. He said he loves what he’s able to do for the military community.
“If I owned a shop and it said ‘Chris’ Automotive’ on it, this is exactly how I’d run it,” said Nelson. “We are as transparent as they come. If I can’t fix something, I’ll give you the best advice I can.”
Nelson said the advice he’s recently been most focused on sharing centers around key things drivers can do to help improve their vehicles’ fuel efficiency and reduce what they’re spending at the pump.
“Routine maintenance is the best thing you can do for your vehicle,” said Nelson. “Oil is the bloodline of the vehicle. The dirtier the oil, the slower it moves and the harder the engine has to work.”
Nelson explained spending the money on timely oil changes contributes to more than many drivers realize.
“I know that oil prices are up, but you’ve got to change your oil,” said Nelson. “It’s one of those things that’s going to save you money in the long run; it’s going to give you better fuel economy.”
In addition to keeping clean oil in vehicles, Nelson said drivers will see a difference in gas use by replacing air filters, getting tuneups when they’re due, and one other maintenance action they may not think of.
“If you have low tire pressure, it makes the car work harder,” said Nelson. “Tires should be inflated to factory standards. It makes a big difference.”
Nelson said vehicle maintenance isn’t the only way drivers will see improvements in fuel economy. The other biggest contributor comes from drivers themselves.
“Stop-and-go driving is less gas efficient,” said Nelson. “From a stop, don’t gas it. Take off easy.”
Although city driving often can’t be helped, Nelson said that is where drivers will see less fuel economy. When driving on the highway, however, he applies one technique every chance he can to help with efficiency.
“I use my cruise control,” said Nelson. “I set it, and I don’t care if people pass me. That’s going to help.”
In the summer months, Nelson said there’s one other major factor that takes away from fuel economy: the use of air conditioning in vehicles. There are adjustments drivers can make that will improve efficiency.
“Don’t set your A/C at the max,” said Nelson. “When you do, it cycles the compressor and kicks it off because when it’s on, it draws more horsepower. Anything that causes the engine to work harder is going to draw more fuel.”
Nelson said there’s also another A/C feature drivers can switch on to help.
“Believe it or not, use the recirculation inside the car,” said Nelson. “That way you’re recycling the cool air that’s already in the car and not overworking it.”
Nelson said of all the many pieces of advice he can offer to help drivers save money, the one he urged the Fort Knox community to consider most is the savings he can offer them at the auto craft shop.
“We don’t upsell a thing. What you ask for is what you’re going to get,” said Nelson.
Nelson pointed out the shop offers everything from professional services to parts, new tires, and even bays that can be reserved to perform self-maintenance. He said anyone who would like one of their certified mechanics to complete work on a vehicle needs only to walk in the door.
“We don’t do appointments. It’s first come, first serve,” said Nelson. “Now, the drop-off time is from 7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. We just started that in May.”
Nelson said his top priority is to get customers in and out as quickly as possible to avoid any extended inconvenience. When it comes to properly caring for vehicles, there’s one main thing he hopes drivers will keep in mind.
“You can’t buy a mechanic in a can,” said Nelson. “Nothing tops having somebody physically looking at your vehicle and doing the right things to make it more fuel efficient.”