27 Tips For Saving Gas

 

 

Maybe it's time to change your driving habits.

 

The cost of gas gyrates up and down like a yo-yo. So whether you’re trying to save a few bucks or doing your part to reduce your carbon footprint, cutting the amount of gas you use is the only way to go. Sure you could try carpooling, riding a bike, taking the bus, combining car trips, or even that old standby, walking. Unfortunately, these choices don’t always make sense. That’s why it pays to understand how the condition of your car and the way you drive impacts fuel efficiency. In this report, I’ll show you 27 proven methods for getting better gas mileage, with a special focus on driving skills that can cut gasoline consumption.

 

Driving these days can be stressful.

The cost of gas makes fuel efficiency critically important.

Let’s Start With Your Car

 

So what’s the best way to use less gas?  I’ll begin with the things related to your car and then go on to talk about the way we drive.

 

Tip #1 – Cut the weight of your vehicle. Start by removing as much weight from your vehicle as you can. Take out every single unneeded item from your trunk. Now, check the passenger compartment and under the seats for anything you might have left behind. Carrying extra weight means burning extra fuel every time you accelerate. It can even be helpful to strip down unneeded parts from the inside of your car. For example, switch to a small, lightweight spare tire instead of a regular-sized one.

 

Stuff in the trunk can weigh you down.

Carrying extra weight? Clean out that trunk.

Carrying an extra 100 pounds in the car can lower gas mileage by 2%. If you fill up your 12 gallon tank once a week, a gas savings of only 2% amounts to (12 gallons x 52 weeks = 624 gallons per year x 2% or ) about 12½ gallons of gas. In other words, every year you could save yourself an extra fill-up just by cutting out that extra weight. And at $4 a gallon, that’s fifty bucks!

 

 

Tip #2 – Cut passenger weight. Along with the car’s physical weight, there’s also the issue of what it’s being asked to carry. The more passenger pounds, the harder the engine works to travel the same distance and the worse mileage you can expect. Let’s be clear: We’re not talking about carpooling here. Carpooling almost always makes sense. When you carpool you cut down on gas consumption because you’re talking about bringing more people to a specific destination in one car instead of two. That can differ from the typical use of a family vehicle. Think of it this way: Are you dragging all the kids and pets along wherever you go? Do you need to? If you do, then just be aware of the negative impact on your mileage. And let’s be frank about weight: If certain family members are carrying a few extra pounds then that’s also going to cut down on your overall fuel efficiency.

 

Aerodynamics save gas.

Engineers design cars so air flows over and around your vehicle.

Tip #3 – Maximize your car’s aerodynamics. To save on gas, a vehicle should have a as smooth and aerodynamic a shape as possible. The enemy is something engineers call turbulence. That’s a fancy way to talk about air, or specifically what happens to air as we travel through it. When our cars push through the air, the air pushes right back. The more air pushing back the worse the drag, and the worse the drag the greater impact there is to gas mileage. It’s as simple as that.

 

To understand this concept in action think about putting a hand out a window as the vehicle travels down the road. The faster the car goes, the harder the air pushes back against it. Now, notice what happens as you point your fingers directly into the wind. Doesn’t the air flow past easier? That’s because there’s less of your hand to catch the wind and create turbulence. And isn’t it the opposite if you bend your wrist at 90 degrees and keep your palm open? Now, it takes a lot more effort to hold your hand in place, especially as you continue to speed up and the wind pushes against it with more force. This simple experiment goes a long way to explain how the shape of an object (or its aerodynamics) affects the drag upon it. All that extra drag takes more energy to counteract and that means using more fuel.

 

As you begin to understand a smooth shape is more efficient when it comes to saving gas, you’ll see why it’s important to remove the extra “stuff” hanging off your vehicle. This includes roof racks, bike racks, ladders, and so on. At high speeds, these things really stir up the air and create more drag. How do you maximize your vehicles aerodynamics? Try these ideas to reduce wind drag and increase mileage:

 

(a) Add grille covers or smooth hubcaps to the vehicle.
(b) Put a cover across the bed of an open pickup or open or remove its tailgate when driving.
(c) Clean off all snow and ice on a car before driving it.
(d) Keep the windows rolled up and the sunroof closed, especially at highway speeds.
(e) Avoid driving whenever you expect strong headwinds (winds coming at you) or crosswinds (winds hitting the side of a vehicle).
(f) Drive when tailwinds are in your favor. Just as headwinds hurt mileage, tailwinds can actually improve it—just ask any airline pilot.

 

The wrong tire pressure can harm your tires.

Have you checked your tire pressure recently?

Tip #4 Maintain your tire’s air pressure. A tire is like a balloon—as it’s filled with air, it takes on a certain shape. A tire that doesn’t have enough air is constantly being deformed by the weight of the car as it rolls down the road. This means more of the tire comes into contact with the road than is necessary to maintain good traction. Why is this important? As more surface contact creates more friction, the extra friction acts as a source of extra drag on the vehicle. And anytime there’s extra drag, the engine needs to work harder to accomplish the same thing.

 

Keeping your tires at the right pressure can increase gas mileage by 3%. For peak fuel efficiency, follow all your tire manufacturer’s recommendations for safety, while keeping tires inflated at a level close to the maximum pressure allowed. There is an exception: For wintertime driving, don’t use the maximum pressure, because it gives you less traction on slippery roads. Also, remember air temperature affects tire pressure, so check to see that your tires are properly inflated at regular intervals.

 

As a side note, it’s a good idea to have your tires spin balanced, so they rotate smoothly, and to make sure your wheels are aligned. This reduces friction on the edges of the tires, which can otherwise cause them to wear unevenly and lower your mileage.

 

Tip #5 – Use the right tires. Not all tires are created equally. A fuel efficient tire model, such as one with silica in the rubber, has less rolling resistance and it can improve gas mileage by up to 4%. Radial tires are often more fuel efficient than other types. And don’t forget to remove snow tires or studded tires as soon as the weather improves—that extra grip you get from these seasonal tires increases friction and cuts down on mileage.

 

Change your oil frequently.

Are you using the best grade of engine oil?

Tip #6 – Choose the right engine oil. Use the lowest weight motor oil your car manufacturer recommends in the owner’s manual. Think of it this way: It’s easier to stir a cup of coffee than a cup of molasses, since the coffee is thinner and lighter. In much the same way, you’ll get better mileage if your motor oil is a thinner and lighter for the simple reason it takes less effort to spin the engine.

 

For example, switching grades from 10W30 to 5W30 can improve your mileage by 1 or 2%. 5W30 works in most cars made after 1990. Switching from 5W30 to 5W20 can improve your mileage by 1 to 1.5%. The light weight 5W20 oil works in many vehicles made after 1995. However, DO NOT use any oil weight if it isn’t recommended by the car’s manufacturer—that can void your warranty! Also, light weight oils may not be advisable if the majority of driving occurs in hot weather. Look for the words “Energy Conserving” on the API performance symbol on the label, to make sure the oil has additives that reduce friction.

 

Tip #7 – Keep your car in tune. Tuning a car helps maximize its fuel efficiency. In a best case scenario, fixing a serious maintenance problem can improve mileage by up to 40%, which is really significant. Fixing an engine that has failed a smog test will increase mileage by 4% on average. However, not every repair will improve mileage. For example, fuel efficiency may actually decrease after some pollution repairs, such as fixing the EGR system or adjusting the timing to lower NO2 emissions.

 

Tip #8 – Skip extended warm ups. A warm engine runs better, but warming it up burns extra gas. Modern cars don’t require extended warm-ups. Wait just a few seconds, until the engine idles smooth. Then let the engine continue warming up by slowly driving away. For the first mile or so avoid accelerating too fast or loading down the engine. If your car is functioning as it should, the automatic choke will soon disengage. That prevents the car from idling too fast or accelerating all on its own before you press the gas pedal. If the choke stays on too long, get it fixed.

 

My neighbors park their cars outside.

Parked outside? It'll take longer for your engine to reach peak fuel efficiency.

The weather and where you park can also make a difference in engine efficiency. During winter, park in a garage or in the sun so the engine stays warmer. Grille blocks or engine block heaters can also increase mileage in winter. On hot summer days park in a garage or in the shade to reduce evaporation of gasoline from the tank. Make sure your gas cap fits well and seals tightly.

 

Tip #10 – Skip extending idling. Getting coffee or fast food from a drive up lane? Waiting for service at the bank’s drive up widow? Turn the car off anytime you expect to be sitting longer than 30 seconds. You’ll save more gas than letting your vehicle idle, plus you’ll help cut down on air pollution, too.

 

The air conditioner consumes more power.

Accessories like CD players or air conditioners run on power and that results in burning more gas.

Tip #11 – Use accessories sparingly. The accessories in the car get their power from the car’s battery. The battery is recharged by the alternator which is powered off the engine’s drive belts. The more accessories being utilized the more gas it takes to power up the engine and keep those belts humming. You can therefore save gas by using your accessories less frequently. Accessories are all the items in a car that require electricity, like its CD player, the fan, the air conditioner, daytime headlights, and so on.

 

One of the biggest gas-guzzling accessories is a car’s air conditioner (AC). AC can lower gas mileage by 10% to 20%. That’s a significant reduction in your engine’s potential efficiency. You can cut the impact by skipping the AC and using the fan or cracking a window instead. However, the faster you go the more an open window causes extra turbulence and drag. That also cuts mileage. Thus, if you want to stay cool at higher speeds it’s generally better to keep the windows up and the AC on.

 

Tip #12 – Skip fuel-saving gadgets. If you’ve done any research on this topic you’ll run across a variety of gadgets you can add to your car for saving gas. Be wary—most of them are worthless. Careful testing by government and independent labs or by companies dedicated to motoring enthusiasts (like Popular Mechanics) prove very few “gas saving devices” help reduce gas consumption at all. In fact, many actually LOWER overall gas mileage.

 

Shifting Gears: Driving Matters

 

One of the best options for saving more gas is to change the way we drive. This can be a challenge, especially if you like to accelerate and brake fast. Bad habits like these can cut gas mileage by 28% to 33% on the highway and up to 6% in the city. Try the following driving tips for the biggest overall improvement to fuel efficiency:

 

Got a lead foot?

To save gas, try to accelerate slower.

Tip #13 – Wherever possible, drive the most fuel-efficient vehicle. If you and your partner own more than one vehicle, you’ll save the most fuel by letting the person who drives the longest route use the most fuel-efficient car. This could mean trading cars for the day, a week or for as long as it takes.

 

Tip #14 – Avoid the urge to show off. Competing with other drivers or showing off for passengers isn’t only dangerous it’s a waste of fuel. Try letting people zip around, pull ahead, or ride your tail without letting it get to you.

 

Tip #15 – Choose a better route. A slightly longer route might save on gas if it has less traffic and allows you to drive slower, involves less frequent braking, has fewer hills, and so on. The less you need to react to the road or other cars on it, the better your mileage.

 

Decreasing RPM's save's gas.

Try to reduce your engine's RPM's.

Tip #16 – Accelerate slow and smooth. As you drive, avoid jamming the pedal to the floor and focus on your tachometer. Try to keep the RPM’s below a certain level—for example, below 2,000. Remember, the higher the RPM’s the more fuel you’re burning.

 

Tip #17 – Drive in an efficient speed range. Fuel efficiency actually goes up as speed increases, until you reach a certain point. From there on it decreases rapidly. The most fuel efficient speed is typically in a range between 40 and 60 miles per hour. Often the “sweet spot” is at a speed just above the point the highest gear engages.

 

Tip #18 – Avoid excessive speeding. Mileage quickly deteriorates once you start driving faster than the point of maximum efficiency. For example, increasing speed from 55 to 70 mph may lower your gas mileage by 17%. For the best mileage, drive in the highest gear that doesn’t bog down the engine and watch that speed.

 

Tip #19 – Hold the pedal steady. After you achieve a desired cruising speed, hold the gas pedal steady by moving it as little as possible. If you own it, the use of cruise control can be your best option. Tests prove it can improve fuel efficiency as much as 14%. However, that doesn’t hold true for going up hills.

 

Try to gauge the traffic ahead.

Look ahead for slowing traffic.

Tip #20 – Anticipate. Leave plenty of distance and look far enough ahead to anticipate your next move. The object is to avoid a sudden surprise and the need to brake or change speeds. Either results in worse mileage.

 

Tip #21 – Ride the wake. On the freeway, stay within a line of vehicles traveling at a constant, steady speed (but not following too closely). A line of cars pulls a column of air along and lowers the wind resistance for the vehicles in its wake.

 

Tip #22 – Cruise up hills, don’t challenge them. Try accelerating gradually as you approach the hill—that is, as long as conditions make it safe. Then gradually ease off the gas pedal as you climb instead of holding it steady or pushing it down—that eats up gas. If you can, you also want to avoid the need to downshift. Downshifting revs the engine faster and burns up more gas. Don’t worry: Getting this right takes practice.

 

Tip #23 – Take advantage of gravity. Don’t race downhill. Let gravity do its magic and accelerate gradually, until you’re back up to speed. However, you’ll want to watch out ahead for potential hazards like curves and try to avoid stopping at the bottom.

 

Tip #24 – Corner appropriately. Squealing tires are a sign of an overabundance of friction. Yet even if your tires aren’t squealing the extra g-forces created in a turn are a result of too much speed and can still result in poor mileage. To increase mileage, slow down and follow the warning signs as you go around corners.

 

Tip #25 – Brake less. Avoid using your brakes whenever you can. Braking more often requires more re-acceleration, which burns more fuel. To avoid braking as often increase following distance. And when stopping is unavoidable, try easing off on the accelerator earlier and coasting to a stop. Manual transmission drivers can also shift down.

 

Tip #26 – When in idle shift to neutral. If you must idle and have an automatic transmission, shift into neutral. Otherwise the car will try to creep forward, pushing against the brakes and wasting fuel. Putting the transmission into neutral also allows it to cool down.

 

Tip #27 – Park smart. When possible, choose an empty area to park or else a drive-through parking space. This avoids the need to maneuver as you park or when you leave. To really squeeze out the last bit of fuel-efficiency, turn off the engine as soon as the car has stopped and before shifting into park (this applies only if you have an automatic transmission).

 

Final Word

 

A parking enforcement officer.

There are many reasons to carpool besides saving gas. Have you really checked into it?

How we maintain our car and the habits we develop as we learn to drive have a huge impact on gas mileage. With a little practice and by making a conscious decision to avoid driving aggressively (or avoid driving altogether), we can save money, gas, and maybe even cut back on our everyday stress.

 

For source and additional information on this topic, see the following websites.

FuelEconomy.gov “Driving More Efficiently”
FuelEconcomy.gov “Keeping Your Car In Shape”
FuelEconomy.gov “Owner Related Fuel Economy Improvements” (pdf)
OfficeEnergyEfficiencyNaturalResourcesCanada  “Auto$mart Thinking: Fuel Efficient Driving Tips”
Ecomodder.com “100+ Driving Tips”
Edmonds.com “Hypermiling: Quest for Ultimate Fuel Economy”
Bankrate.com “10 Ways Being A Smart Driver Saves You Gas”
Money.CNN.com “Take It Slow & Save Big On Gas”
Auto.HowStuffWorks.com “What Speed Should I Drive To Get Maximum Efficiency”

 

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