Fuel Economy Hacks: Can A Little Tape and Tire Pressure Increase MPGs?

With the outrageous gas prices right now, it seems like everyone is begging for a better fuel economy. Fortunately, when you daily drive a compact car like a Ford Fiesta ST, you’re in better shape than many folks. Pour one out for the V8 and truck owners. Still, any improvement is still an improvement. Other than the obvious solutions for optimizing gas mileage, there are some fuel economy hacks that may or may not increase your mpg. Let’s try a couple of them out.

Can $7 worth of tape and air take the Fiesta from 36 to 40 mpg?

2016 Ford Fiesta ST covered in masking tape in an attempt to test fuel economy hacks for improving mpgs on road trip
Fiesta ST taped and ready to roll | Braden Carlson, Motorbiscuit

My Fiesta ST sees a lot of road trips, and this is certainly not its first venture from my home in Boise, Idaho, to fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada. So, I know what kind of fuel economy it typically gets on this drive. The best I’ve seen it between here and Vegas is in the mid-36 mpg range. With that in mind, I set my sights on clearing 40 miles per gallon this time with that in mind.

There is, however, one stipulation. Driving the car as if I would any other time was a must. After all, anyone can big toe drive 20 miles per hour under the speed limit and see a drastic fuel economy increase. That really defeats the purpose of testing these methods against a control. So, I did the speed limit and drove as if I would any other time, safe for being a bit more careful with coasting to stops and reducing idle times.

Before I took off, I used a $5 roll of two-inch-wide blue painter’s tape to cover all of the body lines on the car. For obvious reasons, I left the grille uncovered. Is it scientifically perfect? No. One could argue that I should have enclosed the fog light indents or lower grille for maximum aero improvement, but, for the most part, any substantial discrepancies in airflow were flattened out with tape.

Before venturing off to the open roads, the final step was bumping the tire pressure up to 45 PSI on all four corners. While that may sound like a lot, the Fiesta ST’s factory tire pressures are 39 PSI for the front tires and 36 PSI for the rear. Additionally, 45 PSI is still five pounds lower than the manufacturer recommended maximum pressure for these tires.

Surprisingly, there was indeed an improvement after these fuel economy hacks

Rear spoiler of tape covered 2016 Ford Fiesta ST in parking lot before road trip
Hatch spoiler flattened with masking tape to reduce drag | Braden Carlson, Motorbiscuit

If the drive from Boise to Las Vegas were perfectly flat, I’d have zero issues hitting 40 miles per gallon. It’d probably go quite a bit higher than that, too. The biggest factors working against me in the case of this trip are the 80-mile-per-hour speed limits on Idaho interstates and the monumental elevation changes.

Admittedly, I had zero expectations to see any sort of improvement from these fuel economy hacks. However, as the average mpg number continued to climb throughout the drive, I became more optimistic about it. The dash was reading an average of 40.3 miles per gallon at one point.

I set my destination to the Rio Hotel and Casino just off the freeway in Vegas. As I descended the final hill in Las Vegas, I switched off the average mpg reading to keep it a surprise for myself.

Pulling into the hotel’s parking lot, I coasted my way over the speed bumps into one of the auxiliary parking areas as a last-ditch effort for even the tiniest bump in the mpg average. Once parked, I shut the engine off to prevent excess fuel consumption and switched back to the average mpg screen. The final result? 39.5 mpg.

2016 Ford Fiesta ST dash average mpg display after attempting to break 40 with fuel economy hacks
The final average mpg result | Braden Carlson, Motorbiscuit

One could argue that it was all the tire pressure that made the difference, but hey, there’s no definitive way to say that the tape did nothing in this case! Ultimately, this improvement saved me around two gallons of fuel on this trip. That’s about $12 when using premium gas!

Considering the price of the tape and the emotional trauma of climbing through my window in public settings, though, it’s probably a wash. Oh well! It was fun.

RELATED: The 7 Best Fuel Rewards Programs in 2022 to Save Money on Gas