22 Ways to Make Your Car More Fuel Efficient
“Efficiency is doing better what is already being done.”
- Peter F. Drucker
It is the nightmare that faces almost every person every week. Filling up your personal car with gas prices on the rise. The cost of running your car has become not only a key economic indicator, but a real-world drain on your resources. Who hasn’t stood at the bowser and watched a good proportion of the weekly pocket money disappear into the tank?
Getting your vehicle, be it petrol or diesel, to go as far as possible on the least amount of fuel is ultimately going to put dollars back in your pocket… but how do you do it? Whether a short trip to the school or office, or a longer road trip to the woods to take in the fall colors, try these driving best practices and you could improve your fuel economy by up to 15%.
1. Set your cruise control to 55 mph.
Cruise control applies the throttle more smoothly, reducing fuel consumption. More than 50 percent of the energy required to move a car is spent overcoming aerodynamic drag (pushing air out of the way). The faster you drive, the more aerodynamic drag increases and fuel economy decreases. Increasing your cruising speed from 65 mph to 75 mph will drive up fuel consumption by about 20 percent. Reducing your speed from 65 mph to 55 mph improves fuel economy by about 10 percent. And try to anticipate changes in traffic flow so you can ease into stops and starts. Driving at a steady pace saves gas.
2. Drive off promptly to prevent wasting fuel.
Don’t leave your engine running when you first start up. Cars these days do not need to be warmed up before you drive them. Drive off straight away if you can, but drive gently until the engine has reached its normal operating temperature. This doesn’t increase fuel efficiency as such, but it does mean your engine is switched on for less time.
3. Use your gears wisely.
Driving in the highest gear possible without laboring the engine is a fuel-efficient way of driving. A vehicle traveling at 37 mph in third gear uses 25 percent more fuel than at the same speed in fifth gear.
4. Neutral is also an option.
Learn how to coast between traffic lights, applying power intermittently, as needed to keep the car rolling with traffic. If you know you need to stop down the road, you can also save a lot of gas by simply lifting your foot off the accelerator and coasting long before you need to stop. What’s the hurry? You’ll only have to sit there at the light anyway. You can reduce the load on your engine at a red light by putting it on neutral as you’re waiting. However, too many shifts between “N” and “D” can cause your transmission to wear out, so avoid using “N” for shorter wait times.
5. Switch off your engine.
There are two schools of thought on this one. Switching your engine off for short periods of time can actually increase fuel consumption, as it requires more fuel to get the engine started. Also your catalytic converter will no longer be running at full temperature and so your car will be less efficient, increasing the amount of pollution you cause. However if you are stopped for more than a few minutes then your car will simply burn less fuel with the engine stopped.
6. Fill up with a lower-octane gasoline.
Sorry to tell you this, but in spite of its name, buying premium gas won’t help you get better gas mileage or performance. Buy the lowest grade or octane of gasoline that is appropriate for your car. Unless your car requires premium gasoline, filling up your car with high-octane fuel is a waste of money. That pricey premium fuel won’t boost your car’s fuel economy or performance in the least, so skip it.
If you’re not sure what grade of fuel works best for your car, open up your owner’s manual and take a look. As long as your engine doesn’t knock or ping when you fuel up with regular unleaded, you’re good to drive on this much cheaper gas. Passing on pricey premium gasoline could save you hundreds of dollars a year.
7. Don’t top off.
Don’t bother topping off when filling your car’s gas tank. The gas tank needs room for the gas to expand, particularly on hot summer days when gas warms up and expands. If you continue fueling after the pump shuts off, you also increase the chance of releasing harmful gasoline vapors into the air. And why waste your money paying for gas your car won’t use?
8. Tighten up that gas cap.
Gas will evaporate from your car’s gas tank if it has an escape. Loose, missing or damaged gas caps cause 147 million gallons of gas to evaporate each year, according to the Car Care Council. So be sure to tighten up that gas cap each time you fuel up your car. Also remember that early in the morning and in the late evening are the best times to buy gas. This will mean less evaporation of gasoline as you pump. During these times gasoline is also most dense. Gas pumps measure volume of gasoline, not the density of fuel concentration.
9. Keep your tank above one third full.
If your fuel runs low, the engine might not receive a steady supply of gas (since it will splash around while you’re driving and it might momentarily splash away from the tube that leads gas out of the tank). Not having a steady supply of gas will make your engine less efficient. The benefits of having a full tank will outweigh the drawbacks of having the added weight.
10. Go easy on the air conditioning.
Roll down your car’s windows and let in the summer breeze. Using the gas-hogging air conditioning as sparingly as possible will give your car’s fuel economy a real boost. Air conditioning can drag down your car’s fuel economy by 10 percent to 20 percent.
On days when air conditioning is a must, first try cooling your car the old fashioned way — rolling down the windows, opening the vents, peeling back the sunroof. You’d be amazed how much hot air you can clear out of your car just by opening up for awhile.
Flipping on the air conditioning full blast as soon as you hop into a hot car is a big waste of gas and money.
11. Air off, windows down at highway speeds.
Keep in mind, though, that at highway speeds, driving with your windows open drastically reduces your fuel efficiency, far more so than putting the air conditioning on. Yes, the air conditioning uses more gas, but with the decrease in drag and airflow obstruction, you’re probably just about breaking even. And you’ll have a quieter, more comfortable ride with a lot less stress.
12. Use the trunk.
A loaded-down roof rack cuts fuel economy by as much as 5 percent. But clear the trunk after a trip — and clean out your backseat. An extra 100 pounds reduces fuel economy by 1 to 2 percent. Smaller cars are affected more when they carry extra weight because the reduction is based on the percentage of extra weight relative to the vehicle’s weight. So, if you’ve been putting off cleaning out your trunk or emptying your roof carrier, there is no time like the present. Sure, maybe your garage will be more cluttered, but your gas mileage will increase.
13. Avoid rush hour.
Not only is stop-and-go traffic stressful and annoying, it’s bad for your car’s gas mileage. So avoid driving at rush hour whenever you can. Stagger your work hours so you can time your weekday commuting at less busy times of the day.
14. Use your garage for your car.
Got a garage? Clear it out and make room for your car. Parking in your garage will help your car stay warm in winter and cool in summer, and you won’t have to depend as much on your gas-guzzling air-conditioning or defroster when you drive.
15. Go for the shade.
The hot summer sun that makes the inside of your car feel like a sauna also zaps fuel from your gas tank. If you let your car bake in the sun there’s going to be a greater amount of evaporative emissions that take place than if you park in the shade.
So park your car in the shade of a building or tree whenever possible. And buy a good windshield shade. A windshield shade blocks sunlight and helps to keep heat out of the inside of your car.
16. Don’t circle in a parking lot, and keep well away from the store fronts.
Look for a spot in the empty half of the parking lot. Many people spend significant time idling and creeping, waiting for a “close spot” to open up.
17. Tires effect fuel efficiency.
It is estimated that about 50 percent of tires on the road are under inflated. Aside from increasing the rate of wear, this wastes fuel and decreased your fuel efficiency. Check your tire pressures every fortnight. Worn tires will also decrease fuel efficiency (and your safety!), so check the tread regularly. If you are replacing tires then consider some of the newer “Eco” tires that are designed specifically to increase fuel efficiency.
18. Keep your engine in tune.
Fixing a car that is out of tune or has failed an emissions test can boost gas mileage by about 4 percent. So be sure to give your car regular tune-ups. You’ll also want to watch out for worn spark plugs. A misfiring spark plug can reduce a car’s fuel efficiency by as much as 30 percent.
19. Replace air filters.
Keep a close eye on your engine’s air filter. When the engine air filter clogs with dirt, dust and bugs, it causes your engine to work harder and your car becomes less fuel-efficient. Replacing a clogged air filter could improve your gas mileage by as much as 10 percent and save you 15 cents a gallon. It’s a good idea to have your engine air filter checked at each oil change. The Car Care Council recommends changing your car’s air and oil filters every three months or 3,000 miles or as specified in your owner’s manual.
20. Use the right oil.
You can improve your car’s gas mileage by 1 percent to 2 percent by using the manufacturer’s recommended grade of motor oil. Opt for motor oil with the words “energy conserving” on the API performance label. This oil contains friction-reducing additives.
21. Maintain a log.
Maintain a log over time of how many miles you go (the main odometer) and how much gas you put in (from the gas pump, including fractions). Put it in a spreadsheet. It will keep you focused, and other methods are inaccurate; you will never know for sure if you’re saving fuel, wasting fuel or just seeing errors from gas pumps that stop pumping at different points, or fractions of miles being dropped off your “trip” odometer when you reset it.
22. Leave the car at home!
Probably the best way to decrease the amount of petrol you burn, is to leave the car and home, and take a bike, bus, or train, or to walk. A quarter of all car journeys in USA are less than two miles long, and walking or cycling are cheap and clean alternatives, and healthy too!
As gas prices continue to climb, increasing the fuel mileage is the best way to protect your pocket book. So give these tips a try and spend less money on gas by increasing your car’s fuel efficiency.
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