11 EASY Ways to Get Better Gas Mileage

An automobile is more of a necessity than a luxury in many areas. Unlike U.S. cities that have square, box-like geographies New York, Philadelphia and Boston, many metropolitan areas are spread out. It’s not unusual for commuters to travel 20 to 40 miles to work on a daily basis.

In addition, with gas prices the way they are, the amount of miles per gallon (mpg) your vehicle provides becomes that much more vital to drivers.

Many residents drive vehicles that give them less than 20 miles per gallon, but there are ways for them to maximize their gas mileage. Conversely, there are ways that many drivers unknowingly waste gas with vehicles that yield 25 or more mpg.

Experts say the difference between a car that gets 20 mpg and one that gets 30 mpg amounts to $4,375 over five years, assuming gas costs $3.50 per gallon and you drive 15,000 miles a year.

Here are some tips to make sure your wasting the least amount of fuel as possible. The more you combine, the more you can save.

1. Listen to Your Engine

Toyota FJ Cruiser

Aggressive driving makes sense in an off-roading rig outfitted with all manner of Jeep lift kits, lighting, and 35-inch tires tearing up in the Rockies. Aggressive driving on the highway (speeding, sudden starts and stops), on the other hand, just wastes gas and decreases an automobile’s mpg by 33 percent on the freeways and 5 percent on city roads.

Driving at speeds over 50 miles per hour also decreases gas mileage. Every five mile increment above 50 mph wastes about 30 cents of gas, so observing the speed limit is not only safer, but more economical. In other words, when your car’s sounding like a vacuum cleaner red-lining it on your living room carpet, you are burning through too much fuel.

2. Don’t Travel With Unnecessary Weight

Traveling with excess items can adversely affect a car’s gas mileage. An extra 100 lbs. in a vehicle reduces an automobile’s mpg by 1 to 2 percent. Driving with bulky luggage or extra items in the trunk or hatchback compartment on a regular basis increases the vehicle’s need to burn more fuel to keep it in motion.

Traveling light should be the norm not only to eliminate vehicle wear and tear, but to increase gas mileage. Traveling with excess bulk is more detrimental to smaller automobiles than larger ones. Idling in a vehicle carrying a hundred pounds or more of excess weight wastes 10 cents (or more) per gallon.

3. Keep On or Turn Off

Idling (leaving the motor on while not in motion) uses about a quarter to half a gallon of gas per hour, depending on engine size and air conditioner use.

An car’s engine should be turned off when parked because it takes a negligible amount of gas to start most vehicles. Turning a vehicle on and off excessively, however, can damage the starter.

Here’s the general rule: drivers who need to stop for more than a minute should turn off their engines. For every two minutes spent not idling, money is saved. When restarting, there’s no need to “warm up” the vehicle the function and warmth of the engine will kick in naturally.

Read AlsoWhat Does “Eco Mode” Do?

4. The Air We Breathe

dirty air filter
Dirty air filter

Drivers should also be conscientious about checking air filters. A clean air filter can improve gas mileage up to 10 percent and replacing a dirty air filter can save drivers around 39 cents per gallon or take them 23 miles further on a full tank of gas. Additionally, this has the added value of reducing air pollution.

5. Proper Tire Pressure

Keeping your vehicle’s tires well-aired is a significant factor in optimizing fuel efficiency. At various times over the last decade, it is estimated that 1/4 of the automobiles on the road have been driven with underinflated tires.

The average under inflation rate of 7.5 pounds results in a nearly 3 percent drop in fuel efficiency. Drivers can save upwards from 11 cents per gallon by having properly inflated tires.

Most vehicles recommend inflating tires to a PSI (per square inch) level listed inside the driver’s side door jam. For maximum mileage, add 3-4 extra pounds above that factory set number if driving on dry roads. The slightly higher pressure helps reduce rolling resistance between the tire and road. Less drag equals better gas efficiency to help you travel farther without compromising handling.

6. Use Cruise Control on Highways

Using your vehicle’s cruise control when appropriate on highways helps maximize gas mileage by maintaining a steady speed. Fluctuating your speeds frequently forces the engine to work harder to accelerate.

Set your cruise control at the speed limit or a reasonable pace that traffic is flowing to take over the gas pedal work. Let cruise control make the small adjustments to speed so you get better fuel efficiency.

This allows a constant fuel burn rate rather than the stops and starts of manual acceleration. Cruise control works best on flat roads without many hills when traffic is light.

When using cruise control on a multi-lane highway, stay out of the left most lane unless you need to temporarily pass a vehicle. This actually applies regardless of cruise control status but it’s worth repeating as only a fraction of drivers seem to follow this rule.

7. Check and Replace Old Spark Plugs

fouled spark plug

Replacing worn spark plugs can significantly increase your engine’s efficiency and mileage. Spark plugs provide the spark for combustion of fuel and air in the cylinders. Over time, the electrodes erode and the plugs get fouled, negatively affecting the combustion process. This results in more unburned fuel and reduced power.

Swapping out old plugs for new ones helps the engine burn fuel better with stronger sparks for better gas mileage. Spark plug manufacturers recommend replacement every 30,000–100,000 miles depending on your make and model.

8. Remove Unnecessary Roof Racks and Attachments

Any external roof racks or attachments you leave on your vehicle when not actively using them create extra drag and wind resistance at highway speeds. The extra frontal surface area forces your engine to consume more fuel to overcome the added drag as you pick up speed.

Unless you need roof racks daily, take the time to remove them in between uses. For permanent luggage holders, consider low profile or angular containers that take up less area and cause less turbulence than square containers.

Limiting exterior attachments reduces aerodynamic drag for better mileage.

9. Plan Routes and Consolidate Trips

Carefully planning your trips and consolidating drives can significantly cut down on excess miles driven. Map out multiple stops in advance to create efficient routes and group destinations in the same part of town into one outing.

Organize grocery lists and errands so you make fewer trips. Streamlining rides by distance, location or priority lets you run all essential tasks while keeping miles down. The less time you have to spend driving around town for routine tasks, the less gas you will burn.

Google Maps and similar apps make this easy so there’s really no excuse for not taking optimal routes when you need to go to multiple destinations around town.

10. Pedal Control

car jerks when accelerating driver

Aggressive driving behaviors like sudden acceleration and hard braking can lower your gas mileage significantly.

Accelerating gently allows momentum to steadily build without fuel-wasting high RPMs. Avoiding sudden stops also cuts down on the need to get back up to speed. Driving smoother minimizes situations where you need to rapidly change momentum.

Patience pays off at the pump through smoother braking, coasting to lights and gradual acceleration.

11. Use A/C Selectively

Air conditioning puts extra load on a vehicle’s engine to divert energy to cooling versus forward momentum. This directly lowers MPG compared to driving with only open windows. Limit the A/C use to defogging windows or cooling down initially before switching to cracked windows at slower speeds.

Keep an eye on interior temps so you don’t reflexively blast cold air whenever it gets slightly warm. On highway drives, utilize natural wind flow first before flipping on AC. Every bit of A/C runtime switched to fresh airflow saves fuel your engine would otherwise divert to power your car’s cooling system.

Matthew Keegan

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