Improving Gas Mileage: You don’t have to park your car to save on fuel costs. Attention to detail and modest changes to your driving habits can reap significant savings.
In recent years when the cost of gasoline skyrocketed, many drivers began to question their current vehicle. For some, trading a car with high gas consumption for something newer and more fuel efficient seemed like a logical choice. However, with a few tweaks to your driving and maintenance, you might find that keeping your current car (that may be paid off, or close to) is a better option than incurring a new car payment.
Consider keeping your existing, paid for, cheap to insure vehicle and make some simple no and low cost changes:
Correct tire pressures will definitely help mileage when compared to tires that are under inflated. Consult the small print on the tire sidewall- it will list the maximum pressure allowed for that tire. On many newer tires that pressure might be as high as 44 psi or more. Check your owner’s manual or ask your service professional for specific recommendations. Proper balancing and alignment will allow the car to roll with less resistance as well as prolong tire life.
Normal maintenance can help maximize fuel economy. An engine with a clean air filter will breathe easier. As engine oil ages it can thicken with contaminants; internal engine parts will not slide as freely, requiring more fuel to keep moving. Every time a spark plug misfires, some efficiency is lost. Anything that increases resistance to rolling, from a binding brake component, to a worn wheel bearing will have a detrimental effect on fuel mileage. An engine that doesn’t reach normal operating temperature due to a thermostat that is stuck will definitely burn more fuel. Following the recommended service schedule for your model will not only save gas, but will extend the life of your car and help to identify developing problems before they become more expensive or even dangerous.
Warning lights are not for decoration; they come on for a reason. That pesky “check engine” or “service engine soon” light indicates a malfunction that left alone may not sideline the car, but will certainly impact fuel use. Other warning lights may come on to indicate an impending failure. This applies to gauges too. If the temperature gauge says the engine is overheating, don’t keep driving! Pull over and consult your owner’s manual or call a shop for advice. All that money you saved on gasoline will not come close to paying for a damaged engine.
Modifying certain driving habits can also have a significant impact on fuel mileage. Before you even start the engine, know where you’re going. If you can combine errands on each outing, you will save fuel and time. Map out your route to avoid left turns (thanks UPS for that tip) and try to go when traffic is light.
Once you start the engine – get moving. Unless your engine has a turbo-charger, there is no advantage in allowing the engine to “warm up”. As soon as the instrument panel warning lights have extinguished, the engine is ready to go. The engine is most efficient after it has reached normal operating temperature, and it will get there faster with driving (if you have a turbo model or the outside temperature is below freezing, allow a minute or two of idling after a cold start).
When accelerating, be gentle. Drive as if the ¾ cup of coffee in your cup holder doesn’t have a lid and you don’t want to slosh it. The same goes for cornering and braking. Use the momentum of the car (generated by the fuel you’ve already burned) to get the car down the road. If you have to brake hard, you are squandering some of that already paid for energy.
Use the Cruise. Utilize your cruise control whenever conditions are safe. On most cars it will adjust the throttle with more smoothness and precision than the average right foot; it isn’t prone to pulsing with the music or creeping faster to keep up with the car in the next lane.
Drive a bit slower. The energy needed to keep a car moving increases exponentially with the increase in speed.
You will notice there was no discussion of the various “miracle” gizmos or engine additives appearing on the market. The simple reason is that they don’t work. They are marketed to those that want to believe in something for nothing.
Attention to detail and a systematic approach will result in measurable improvements.
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