One of the biggest questions in the automotive world, how do I improve fuel economy? Fuel isn’t getting any cheaper, and statistics show humans aren’t traveling less either. The good news is manufacturers are improving on their engines and aerodynamics, but they still can’t seem to keep up. We all want to improve gas mileage, but before you switch to an electric/hybrid vehicle, try using some tips in this guide on your current vehicle.
As in many areas, the first thing you should do to improve your gas mileage is perform the proper maintenance to your vehicle. Let’s start with your tires. Make sure your tread never gets too low and you have the proper amount of tire pressure. An alignment and balance every few months will also improve MPG and ensure uniform wear across all 4 tires. A quick example of why: If your front two tires are not aligned and your drivers side is facing outward, your car will have to work that much harder to keep you in a straight line when one tire is trying to pull a different way. Additional maintenance includes replacing air filters and using the recommended motor oil and fuel octane to increase MPG’s.
What comes next is how you drive your vehicle. Personally, I drive the exact opposite of a fuel saver – windows down with my AC on, heavy acceleration, high RPM shifting, no cruise control, and prolonged idle periods during the winter. Are they hard habits to break? Not really, but I’m stubborn. Let’s start with the easiest one first. There has always been a constant battle between windows down or turning your AC on. The answer is both, depending on how fast you’re going, but obviously not at the same time. If you’re driving under 45 mph, windows down will save you more cash since there is not much drag resistance. Over 45 mpg, turning your AC on will save you more than having your windows open.
Let’s take a look at highway driving next. Cruise Control will save you gas on long trips but don’t be mistaken, it will not help at 100 mph. Highway drivers naturally speed up and slow down even if there is no traffic on the roads. Using Cruise Control well keep your engine at a constant RPM which will only take the minimum amount of gas from your tank to run at that speed. Recommended speed to improve fuel efficiency is right around 50 mph, but we all know the average highway speed limit is higher than this. Once you hit 65 mph you lose an average of 8% efficiency, and after that it more than doubles to 17% less efficient at 70 mph and so on up to 28% at 80 mph and more. Drive closer to the speed limit!
A more advanced trick you can use on the highways to improve fuel economy is taking advantage of driving behind large trucks, “slipstream driving.” While this sounds pretty awesome, it could be dangerous. The science behind this is the same reason driving faster uses more gas. The less air resistance your vehicle encounters, the less harder your engine has to work to maintain one speed. Large trucks plow through the air and create large tails of slipstream up to 150 feet. Mythbusters tested this out and found that following a truck at 10 feet could improve fuel economy by 40%, but this is definitely not recommended. At 100 feet back they saw an increase in efficiency of 11%. Take this into consideration but remember, safety first!
City and around town driving can be a little tricky. Brake pedal and gas pedal are the biggest culprits here. Be aware of tailgating. When you brake then speed up frequently your engine is using way more gas to get back up to speed than if you were just cruising. If you are approaching a red light or stop sign, let off the gas and slow cruise for as long as you can. If the light happens to turn green before you fully stop, you are actively saving gas since your engine has to work less to get back up to speed. Whatever you do, do not floor the gas pedal after every stop. Don’t even press it halfway down! Slowly roll out and get up to speed. In my own experience, this is the biggest reason why my MPG drops.
Quick Tips to Improve Fuel Economy
– In Winter and Summer months when you need to heat up or cool down your vehicle, you will see a noticeable decrease in MPG’s. Keep this at a minimum, only let your vehicle idle for a couple minutes instead of starting it up 20 minutes before you leave the house.
– Decrease the amount of useless junk in your vehicle. Especially pickup trucks. Less weight = more fuel efficiency.
– If you own a truck, consider purchasing a Tonneau cover. Not only will this keep items in your truck bed safe, but it will decrease air resistance.
– Use an app to find the best gas prices closer to home. I recommended GasBuddy in a previous article Top 10 Apps for Driving.
– Avoid traffic and rush hour!
If all else fails, or you’re stubborn like me, maybe it’s time to consider an electric or hybrid vehicle!