How To Improve Gas Mileage: Start Cutting Emissions Now!
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Face it. We all love the ease and convenience of owning and driving cars, but it does come with a hefty price tag. With gas prices on the rise again, maximizing your gas mileage is just as important as keeping your vehicle well-maintained to avoid costly repairs. Knowing how to improve gas mileage is even more relevant for people with gas-guzzling vehicles. You don't have to own a hybrid to cut down on your gas expenses every week; all you need is a bit of common sense, diligence, and resourcefulness to do the deed and save money.
More than just a ride, your car has become a necessity because it transports you around as you go about doing your day-to-day tasks. As you read through these tips, you will also come to realize that they're not just about fuel efficiency, they also keep your car running smoothly in general. Our multi-faceted goal is to help you save money on your car expenses overall by teaching you how to improve gas mileage foremost in our mind.
Go Easy On The Pedal
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This directly affects your gas consumption and should be your top priority when it comes to working on how to improve gas mileage.There are actually several ways you can achieve this. Follow these driving tips and save money on gas in no time.
Drive At The Speed Limit Or Even Below It
Most drivers have the misconception that driving faster makes you consume less gas. While speeds vary for different cars when it comes to fuel efficiency, no vehicle is known to have a top-efficiency speed that's more than 60 miles per hour. Drive at the recommended top-efficiency speed or even below it to maximize gas mileage. It will also spare you from speeding and from getting a costly traffic ticket.
Use Cruise Control Whenever Possible Or As Needed
There's a reason why cars have cruise control; it ensures that you're driving at a legal, safe, and fuel-efficient speed. It also lessens the need for you to accelerate or brake, thus, improving your gas mileage even further.age. It will also spare you from speeding and from getting a costly traffic ticket.
Coast When Approaching Stop Signs Or Red Lights
It's a fact that beating the red light will get you a ticket. It's a costly traffic violation you need to avoid, so coasting and decelerating instead of stepping on the gas when the light turns yellow is always the better and safer option. This is also safe practice when you're about to take the exit ramp from the freeway or when you're approaching a curve on the road. Coasting also saves more gas, so practicing it the right way at the right circumstances is always a win-win situation.
Do The Pulse-and-Glide Technique ONLY When Conditions Are Safe And Ideal
This is a more advanced tip and not every driver may be comfortable using it. The pulse-and-glide technique requires that you accelerate quickly to your desired speed then coast until your vehicle slows down enough for you to repeat the process.
However, this technique should not be used when there's a lot of traffic on the road. Gliding too closely to the car in front of you is an accident waiting to happen. Use this technique ONLY when conditions are ideal and safe.
Use The Recommended Fuel Type For Your Vehicle
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The adage “if it ain't broke, don't fix it” applies. No one knows your vehicle best than the manufacturer, so follow their recommendations when it comes to the type of fuel to use. Using a high-octane fuel on a low-performance car is like drinking expensive champagne from a paper cup if you get our drift.
Additionally, it's also good practice to make that trip to the gas pump in the morning instead of at the end of the day. This is because petroleum products are denser in the morning due to colder temperatures. What this means is that you get more bang for your buck; you pay for a gallon, and you get your money's worth. As the day progresses and temperatures start rising, the molecules of petrol expand — giving you less than the actual volume of a gallon.
The goal is to get more gas and save more money.
Another factor that you need to keep track is fuel economy. If this drops significantly, it can mean that your vehicle is experiencing some sort of engine trouble. You can do this by taking note of your odometer reading and the number of gallons you loaded into your vehicle at the gas pump. Divide the number of miles you traveled between fill-ups by the number of gallons you loaded in order to calculate your gas mileage.
Check Your Tire Pressure
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Having the right tire pressure can work wonders for your gas mileage. Under-inflated tires make your engine use more gas even if they are only slightly low on pressure. Gas mileage and traction need to strike a perfect balance, so always make sure that your tires are optimally inflated. Follow the ideal tire pressure indicated in your owner's manual to ensure that your vehicle is maximizing gas mileage.
Reduce Excess Weight And Drag
You might be a stickler for emergencies and have a trunk-full of provisions: tools, bottled water, and every little thing that you deem necessary to lug around in your trunk, but did you know that carrying around all that weight significantly reduces your gas mileage? The extra load makes your engine work harder and consume more gas. Having a front-wheel drive makes it worse because of the weight you put on your rear axle, your front wheels don't get as much grip on the road as they should, thus increasing your gas consumption.
Another thing to look into is reducing aerodynamic drag. Roof racks, bike racks, storage compartments, and storage accessories serve a functional purpose, but they should be avoided because they only add to air resistance, thus necessitating your engine to work even harder. You know what that means; more gas is used in the process.
Reduce Idling Time To 20 Seconds
Running your engine at idle consumes a lot of gas — about half a gallon to a gallon of fuel each hour. If you need to warm up your engine in the morning, 20 seconds of idling time should suffice before driving off. If you need to wait for someone for more than 5 minutes, turn off your engine then turn it back on again when you're all set to leave. This will also prevent your vehicle from releasing too much carbon dioxide into the air. Lesser emissions, lesser gas consumption; everyone wins.
Replace Spark Plugs, Air Filter, And Gas Cap Seal As Needed
Worn or bad spark plugs can adversely affect your fuel economy and can cause sluggish acceleration as well as hard starting. A clogged or dirty air filter can significantly reduce acceleration and fuel economy. Engine deposits can also cause driving problems that can be solved by a fuel system cleaning or by using a fuel additive.
A tune-up can increase your gas mileage by 4 percent. But, a tune-up does more than that. When your vehicle's engine stalls or misfires, if you're having trouble starting it, or if you encounter issues during a smog test, that means it's time to get a tune-up.
You can do this on your own or during a routine car check-up. This task is fairly simple, so doing it on your own will save you even more money.
Another thing you should look into is your gas cap seal. Although this does not require as much periodic changing as your spark plugs and air filter, your gas cap seal also breaks down from time to time. Oxygen leaks into your gas tank, making your engine consume more fuel. Replacing your gas cap seal is a fairly simple task, and you can get one from the dealership for about $20 to $30. While it's tempting to purchase cheaper, non-dealer brands from an auto parts store, make sure that your car's built-in sensors can recognize it.
Use Synthetic Motor Oil
While it's tempting to cheapen out on your choice of motor oil, using the synthetic type can actually work wonders for your gas mileage. A heavier weight oil (though less expensive) creates a lot of friction in your engine which makes it burn more fuel than it should. Your owner's manual comes with recommendations on what type of oil to use. Following the recommended type of motor oil will not only spare you from costly trips to the gas pump, but it will also reduce maintenance costs for your vehicle.
Try Fuel Additives
This may sound a bit intimidating, but using fuel additives actually serves a dual purpose: it restores engine performance and lessens your carbon footprint at the same time.
Remove deposits from your fuel injectors, intake valves, and carburetors by using a fuel additive that contains polybutene amine (PBA). But, remember to use fuel additives ONLY according to specified instructions, as they can damage your sensors and some other features of your vehicle.
Get Your Fuel Injectors An Ultrasonic Cleaning
We have to warn you though, this can be a costly endeavor. An ultrasonic cleaning entails immersing your fuel injectors in a purpose-built cleaning solution and then putting them through ultra high-frequency sound waves to loosen and remove carbon deposit accumulation. Doing so will recover the full functionality of your fuel injectors, making them more fuel efficient in the process.
Avoid Aftermarket Solutions
It's always best to use parts that are recommended by your car manufacturer so any performance-enhancing part or technology such as airflow disruptors, fuel line magnetizers, and such won't really do much to improve fuel economy. Most auto reviews recommend against them as we would, so why waste your money on something that doesn't work right?
Other Common Sense Tips On How To Improve Gas Mileage
While this list of additional tips may seem insignificant at first, the results add up and still contribute immensely to fuel economy and to decreasing emissions as well. You've come this far in the process of knowing how to improve gas mileage so adding some more to your to-do list shouldn't hurt.
1. Map Out Your Trip For The Day
This may seem like a bit of a stretch, but if you're the type who carefully plans your day, this helps a lot in conserving fuel. For example, if you have several errands to run after work, why not go through all of them with a single trip before coming home? Plan a route that maximizes a single trip and spares you from driving back and forth.
2. Minimize Fuel Evaporation By Parking In The Shade, Whenever Possible
The summer months are going to be especially hot, so parking in the shade will greatly help in conserving your fuel. It will keep your vehicle cooler too, so you can avoid running the air conditioning for too long when you get back into your car.
3. Use Air-Conditioning Sensibly
It's a given fact that using the AC unit in your car reduces fuel economy. Unless temperatures are really high and uncomfortable, keeping your windows down (instead of turning on your AC) while driving on city streets with stop-and-go traffic because it ultimately saves you more gas.
However, if you're driving on the freeway at speeds faster than 60 miles per hour, it's best to keep your windows closed and use the AC instead. Why? Because rolling down your windows adds to the drag and you end up using more fuel that way.
4. Drive Defensively At A Steady Speed
This is always the best way to go. Driving defensively not only saves gas, but it can also save your life. Driving at a steady speed lessens the strain both on you and your engine.
5. Maintain Proper Following Distance
This not only helps with fuel economy, but it is also a safe driving practice. Driving too close to the vehicle in front of you makes you brake and accelerate more and drive erratically, thus making you susceptible to causing an accident.
6. Time Traffic Lights
This requires a bit of instinct and foresight, but if you're a defensive driver, it should come easy. There are traffic lights that are actually timed based on the speed limit. For example, if the speed limit is 25 miles per hour, running on that exact speed will ensure that you will be driving through all green lights. However, that's not always the case. There are instances where you will need to use your instincts. Little things like checking on pedestrian signals and the time left on a green light will give you a better idea of whether to slow down or to keep driving.
7. Avoid Traffic Jams As Much As Possible
Of course, this is easier said than done. A navigation system usually gives you a general idea of the traffic situation, and it can even give you last-minute re-routing tips to help you avoid a major traffic jam. You might end up driving more miles, but it's better than having a stationary vehicle eat up more gas and not move.
8. If You're Driving A Manual, Always Drive In The Highest Gear Without Subjecting Your Engine To Undue Stress.
To improve fuel efficiency, it's always best to use the higher gear which covers the speed that you're traveling on, albeit at a lower limit. Doing this makes the engine work less because it doesn't have to run on the higher speed limit of a lower gear. Driving at a fast speed on a lower gear decreases your fuel efficiency by as much as 45 percent.
9. Look For Ways To Avail Gas Discounts
While this may seem like looking for a needle in a haystack, gas discounts do exist. We know of partnerships between supermarkets and gas stations where you can get as much as 20 cents off a gallon by using your shopper's points. You can also search the internet for the cheapest gas prices in your area if discounts are unavailable.
10. Drive Less
When it comes to common sense solutions, this tip should probably be at the top of your list. However, it's more of an ideal rather than a realistic solution to the problem. You don't have to do it every day, just at those moments when it's not too inconvenient to keep your vehicle in the garage. Driving less often reduces not just the cost of fuel spending, but the environmental impact of your vehicle's emissions as well. Besides, walking and biking are good for your health; you should do them more often.
And Some Over-The-Top Ones!
If you're a fan of Mythbusters, then these tips shouldn't come as a shock. The show is known for conducting experiments based on known myths in order to prove or disprove them.
One of the techniques they tested is to find out whether “hypermiling” can actually double your fuel economy. Based on the outcome of their experiment, it's only possible to raise your MPG by 70 percent for both old and newer cars. That's still an impressive and incredible amount of savings from the pump.
Here are some legal driving techniques and modifications (based on California state laws) that Mythbusters employed during the experiment. It's up to you to try them or junk them, but they have been proven by Mythbusters to work when it comes to tips on how to improve gas mileage.
Remember, these tips are ONLY legal in the state of California. State laws vary, so you should check if the following techniques are permitted in your area. These tips are rather extreme, so we wouldn't outrightly recommend that you do them.
1. Rapid Acceleration And Braking Should Be Avoided.
This is pretty much the underlying principle behind “hypermiling.” Speeding up is done gradually while driving slow minimizes the need to brake. To sum it up, you need to drive slowly, look as far ahead as possible, and minimize braking when making turns.
2. Drive Only At 45 mph Tops Even On The Freeway
Mythbusters recommends doing this even on highways, so it's probably something you have to think about. It turns out driving at this recommended speed saves you more gas.
3. Reduce Wind Resistance By Removing The Passenger Side Mirror
This is another technique which may leave you scratching your head and wondering if it's safe to do so. Apparently, the guys at Mythbusters discovered that removing the passenger side mirror reduces wind resistance and improves gas mileage — we're just not sure by how much.
4. Turn Off Your Engine Whenever There's A Red Light
You'll probably get some unsavory comments and gestures from the car behind you, but turning off your engine at a red light actually saves a lot on gas.
5. Over-Inflate Your Tires By 10 Percent
We wouldn't recommend this per se because doing so will reduce the lifespan of your tires (and may compromise your safety, especially during these hot summer months because the air in your tires expand in hot weather) but the guys at Mythbusters have proven that this can improve your gas mileage by a few more miles.
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Now that we've elaborated on our own recommendations on how to improve gas mileage (and a few others that are rather extreme that we won't necessarily advise on trying), it's time for you to do your part.
When it comes to fuel economy (as well as safety), these tips strike a balance between maintaining your vehicle diligently and driving it properly. The results go beyond just fuel economy; they ensure that you are driving a vehicle that's safe and in top shape. By following some of our tips, you are actually killing at least two birds with one stone.
Therefore, lessons on how to improve gas mileage also translate to knowing how to improve your overall driving experience. Knowing how to improve gas mileage is not just a money-saver, it can also be a lifesaver as well.