Over the past few years, gasoline prices have seen its share of ups and downs — mostly ups, though. As it happens, the interest in more fuel efficient vehicles has sky rocketed to the point that manufacturers are having trouble keeping up with the ever increasing demands for higher miles-per-gallon ratings.
However, there are numerous strategies that can be employed to make the most with the vehicle you have. Wayne Gerdes, known for coining the term “hypermiling,” knows all about that — 80 miles per gallon from a Ford Ranger, 180 from a Honda Insight. That kind of performance takes immense dedication, but there are many things you can do to stretch your tank at least a bit further.
Still a skeptic that any meaningful improvement can be made to your daily driving routine? Check out what happened when some dedicated individuals were able to do with a Volkswagen Passat TDI: 77.99 mpg, during a 14-day trip around the country for 8,122 miles in total. That’s a full-size family sedan that is at best rated for 43 miles per gallon.
We combed the Internet for some tips to help you, the enduring commuter, get more miles out of fewer gallons. Some techniques were a bit extreme or uncontrollable (‘avoid bad weather’) while some were downright dangerous (though its proven to work, we can’t in good consciousness recommend drafting behind a semi on the freeway.) Here were seven suggestions that we believe are perfectly reasonable and will more than likely help drop your car’s fuel consumption.
1. Keep Your Tires Inflated
It’s a well-known fact that keeping your tires properly inflated within a few pounds of the maximum rating is essential to ensure safety, but it also helps save fuel. When tires are low, the car is working harder to move the car forward as the rolling resistance increases. While it doesn’t seem like it would be that significant, multiplied by four tires and countless miles, the savings can certainly add up over time.
It’s also important to remember that the air pressure inside your tire is affected by the changing of the external pressure. Cooler air will cause the pounds per square inch in the tire to fall, so it’s especially crucial to watch your tire pressure when the weather gets colder.
2. Drive Conservatively
Aggressive driving isn’t just terrible for your mileage — it increases the wear and tear on your vehicle by a significant factor. Gunning it off the line might be fun, but considering acceleration is when your car is burning the most fuel, it’s also the worst for your tank. Unless it’s an emergency, there’s no harm in taking a little extra time in driving more carefully, and both your car and your wallet will thank you.
Coupled with rapid acceleration is rapid braking — the faster you slow down, the more speed you lose and have to make up once cruising speed can once again be obtained. There’s no sense in speeding up to a red light — it only results in a loss of momentum if it turns green before you come to a complete stop, which in turn translates to more speed you’ll have to make up, and thus more gas consumed.
3. Avoid Unnecessary Braking and Stopping
Piggy-backing on the former point, braking is among the more harmful factors to your mileage, simply because it only translates into more acceleration on the other end. Complete stops should only be executed unless absolutely necessary; compared to traveling at cruising speeds, it takes a tremendous amount of energy to get a 3,000-plus pound vehicle rolling form a complete standstill.
That being said, coasting is your friend, particularly in traffic. No need to sit on the bumper of the car in front of you — you won’t get any further ahead anyway. Staying at a slow roll will not only be easier on your fuel economy and your car’s components, but could also help keep traffic moving more consistently than a stop-start-stop scenario.
4. Maintain a Reasonable Speed
As has been discussed, slowing and speeding back up won’t be doing you any favors on the MPG front. Staying at a consistent speed that isn’t too fast (but isn’t too slow, either) will allow the car to operate at an optimum point so it doesn’t need to expend great effort to maintain speed. As the speed increases, the air resistance holding the car back becomes great, so the engine needs to expend more power — thus, more fuel — to overcome it. The generally accepted happy medium is at about 55 miles an hour, so a little bit below most highway speeds.
Further, cruise control can be immensely helpful in saving gas if used correctly. “Only use cruise control on flat roads,” EcoModder explains. “On hilly roads, cruise responds to changes in grade — by feeding in more throttle on the uphill and releasing on the descent — in the exact opposite way an efficient driver would.”
5. Shed Excess Weight
Automakers go to great lengths to shed weight from their vehicles, and it’s easy to see why — dropping pounds is beneficial to virtually every aspect of driving, from helping boost handling and fuel economy, to allowing the engine to more of its power to good use. Performance car engineers are often more worried about what the car could do without than what it could use.
Therefore, if you’re carrying around lots of junk in the trunk that you don’t need to have with you wherever you go, get it out of there. You’d be amazed at how much weight can be saved by a regular cleaning and de-cluttering of the car. Still, carrying around some old tires from your last changeover? Leave ‘em at home. That stuff in the trunk that you insist will be dropped off next time? Make it happen — you might be able to help your fuel consumption go down.
6. Lose the Major Drag Contributors
There’s no doubt that roof racks are incredibly handy and helpful, as are those cargo pods that sit on top of them. However, they are also adding a significant amount of drag. Unless you’re using them, take them off and watch your fuel consumption climb, even if slightly. This can be quite inconvenient for those who use their roof racks and cargo pods regularly, but for those who use it mostly for say, skiing — removing the rack could be quite beneficial during the warm summer months.
Drag can be found in other places, too. Those big mirror extenders for trucks are a notable offender, as are spoilers — so if you’re ride has one, and it’s removable, it might be worth asking if the performance benefits are worth the added resistance. Then again, drivers of most spoiler adorned cars probably aren’t as concerned about extending their range per gallon.
7. Opt for Lesser Traveled Roads Versus Busier Ones
This might be difficult for some, who only have so many ways of getting around. However, if you have the option of taking a quieter road with fewer lights, stop signs, and cars, it’s worth it — it means less slowing down, less braking, and therefore more fuel saved. Stop and go traffic — which leads to lots of idling — is among the worst things for fuel consumption, so avoiding it where ever possible will be in your and your wallet’s best interest.