Unpredictable gasoline prices mean there's never been a better time for a vehicle tune up and to practice energy-wise driving techniques. Below is a list of tips that will not only improve a vehicle’s gas mileage, but also improve the overall performance and safety while reducing engine wear and tear.
The first place to start is to drive smart - it pays. Simply practicing efficient driving techniques can improve fuel economy more tenfold.
Observe the Speed Limit
Over 50% of the energy required to move a vehicle down the road is spent overcoming aerodynamic drag (pushing air out of the way). When driving faster, the aerodynamic drag and rolling resistance increase. Consequently, the fuel economy decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 mph. Each 5 mph over 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.10 per gallon for gas.
Overdrive Gears and Cruise Control
When using overdrive gears it's possible to still drive at highway speeds, but the engine speed decreases. Overdrive gears reduce both fuel consumption and engine wear. Also, using cruise control on highway trips helps maintain a constant, steady speed rather then a variable speed and as a result helps reduce fuel consumption.
Anticipate Traffic Situations
Anticipating traffic conditions ahead and not tailgating can improve gas mileage by 5 to 10 percent. This driving strategy is not only safer, but it will also reduce wear on tires and brakes.
When driving in the city, nearly 50 percent of the energy needed to power a vehicle is for acceleration. Unnecessary braking wastes that energy. Also, accelerating quickly causes the engine to enter a less efficient "fuel enrichment mode."
Avoid Unnecessary Idling
Most vehicles do not need to be warmed up. In fact, no matter how efficient the car is, unnecessary idling wastes fuel, costs money and pollutes the air. If waiting for more then couple minutes in a drive-up lane, turn off the engine. Also, do not leave the car idling while running into a store for a "quick" errand. This is especially hard on a car during in the hot summer months and is an open invitation for auto theft.
Carpooling, Mass Transit, People Power and Telecommuting
On one or more days a week consider:
A loaded roof rack can decrease fuel economy by as much as five percent. Therefore, to reduce the aerodynamic drag of these space savers and improve fuel economy, place items inside the trunk whenever possible. Consider renting a more fuel-efficient car for road trips. Rental car agencies often have special weeklong rates and the increased fuel efficiency could make up the cost of the rental in fuel savings.
Be sure the tires are properly inflated. Car manufacturers are required to place a label in the car stating the correct tire pressure. This label may be found on the edge of the door or door jamb, in the glove box, or on the inside of the gas cap cover. If the label lists a psi range, use the higher number in order to maximize fuel efficiency.
Radial tires can be under inflated yet still look normal, so check the tires with a gauge. On average, tires lose about one psi per month and one psi for every 10-degree drop in temperature. Under inflated tires cause fuel consumption to increase by as much as six percent, cause the tires to wear quicker and can make it difficult to handle the vehicle. Be sure wheels are aligned and brakes are properly adjusted to minimize rolling resistance.
Change Your Motor Oil and Air Filter Regularly
Changing the oil regularly (as recommended by the vehicle manufacturer) will increase the life of the car's engine. Clean oil reduces wear caused by friction between moving parts and it removes harmful dirt and grit from the engine.
Some oils contain additives that reduce friction and may increase a vehicle's fuel economy by three percent or more. Look for the Energy Conserving API label. This symbol indicates that the oil is certified, fuel-efficient oil by the American Petroleum Institute (API).
The car's air filter keeps impurities in the air from damaging internal engine components. Not only will replacing a dirty air filter improve fuel economy, it will protect the engine. Clogged filters can cause up to a 10 percent increase in fuel consumption.
Keep Your Engine Tuned-up
Studies have shown that, depending on a car's condition; a poorly tuned engine can increase fuel consumption by as much as 10-20 percent. Following the recommended maintenance schedule in the owner's manual will save fuel, help the car run better and last longer.
Buying a New or Used Car
Selecting which vehicle to buy is the most important fuel economy decision. The difference between a car that gets 20 mpg and one that gets 30 mpg amounts to approximately $1,500 over five years, according to the U.S. Department of Energy's Environmental Protection Agency. These savings could be even great given the steady rise in gasoline prices.