Auto Repair #14:
Top Tips to Improve Fuel Efficiency
(How To Improve Your Car's Gas Mileage)


In today's world, fuel efficiency is becoming a higher and higher priority. With average gas prices hovering around $3 a gallon in the U.S., more and more consumers are trying to find ways to decrease the amount of gas they use. We have compiled a list of some of the best ways to reduce the amount of gas consumption for your household.

One of the most obvious ways to limit your gasoline consumption is to drive less. For years, everyone has touted the benefit of car pooling. Most cities have even created car pool lanes on their freeways and highways. Instead of 5 people taking 5 cars, 5 people can fit in one car. Using those numbers, 5 employees can reduce their to and from work travel gas cost by 80 percent each. If you live and work inside a city, also consider public transportation. Even though there may be a stigma attached to riding the bus, it can greatly reduce your community costs.

Besides car pooling and public transportation, combining trips and errands can greatly reduce your consumption. A vehicle will operate most efficiently after it has properly warmed up. Short trips usually do not let the car warm up to peak efficiency. When you combine your errands, you reduce the amount of inefficient trips and create a trip that lets the car get to peak efficiency. Many people tend to run errands throughout the week when it is most convenient. Try and combine all your errands for one trip. This will limit the amount of times you actually drive your car and reduces your overall gas cost. Errand combination especially helps when you find yourself going to the same area multiple times a week. A good example of this is the local strip mall. If you find yourself needing to pick up a prescription at the local drugstore, try and do the grocery shopping you had planned for later in the week since the supermarket is right next door to the pharmacy.

You can also adjust your driving habits. Most cars are designed to operate at peak fuel efficiency between 35 mph and 60 mph. Most highways have in city speed limits of 55 mph. This means not speeding will actually help conserve gasoline. Statistics show for every 5 mph over 60 mph you drive, you lose almost 10 percent of your fuel efficiency. Driving more sensibly also helps to conserve gas. Avoid hard acceleration, excessive braking and speeding. You can lower fuel efficiency by almost a third by hard driving. Cruise control is also a helpful tool in conserving gas. If you find yourself driving long flat stretches of road, try and use the cruise control. This helps the car maintain a constant speed which will lower your gas consumption. Most cars also have overdrive gears. This is usually the top gear in manual transmission and is the OD gear for automatics. Try and use these gears as much as possible. It will reduce the rpms of your engine and reduce gasoline usage. Idling is also a problem. When you idle your vehicle, you are using gas but not moving. This wastes almost 100 percent of the gas used.

Time of day can play a huge part in how much you use gas as well. If possible, try and reduce the amount of time you spend in rush hour traffic. More and more business are allowing employees to change their start and end time at work. If you can come manage to miss rush hour traffic, you can increase your fuel efficiency tremendously. During rush hour traffic, your vehicle will most likely not get the chance to get to a peak fuel efficiency speed.

Another item we overlook often is heavy items within your vehicle. Many people leave items in their car. For about every 100 lbs you carry in your car, you reduce your miles per gallon by about 2 percent. A mistake many truck owners make is to lower the tailgate to increase mpg. This is a fallacy. Trucks beds are most aerodynamic when the tailgate is in the up and closed position. When the tailgate is up, the bed of the truck will actually pressurize and the wind blowing over the truck will see the bed as an extension of the cab.

Other options include finding more fuel efficient transportation. Many consumers have been buying SUVs for their ability to haul the whole family with room left to spare for a lot of cargo. This makes sense when you are trying to carry a lot, but what about all the trips where your SUV is mostly empty. These vehicles usually get very poor mileage. If you plan on getting a new vehicle soon, plan on looking at some of the more fuel efficient vehicles. Many SUVs now come in hybrid versions as well. If you drive a lot by yourself with no need for cargo space, consider adding a motorcycle to your stable. Most motorcycles will see gas mileage in the 30 to 50 mpg range. This is considerably more than a lot of vehicles on the road. The purchase of a motorcycle can sometimes pay for itself in about a year with gas savings.

Now let's look at how maintenance plays a large role in your fuel consumption. A vehicle sees its best mpg when it is in peak running condition. Keeping your engine properly tuned can improve your actual mpg by up to 4%. Replacing your air filter on a regular basis can save you another 10%. Inflating your tires to the manufacturers specifications can save another 3%. On their own these are not very big, but added together they can save you a lot of money. One of the most important and overlooked parts of your vehicle are the oxygen sensors. These sensors are what helps the car's computer decided how much gasoline your engine needs at any given time. A faulty sensor can hurt your mpg by up to 40%. With gas at its current price, this is a huge dent in the wallet. Keeping the fuel system in your vehicle in tip top shape is also important. Check and replace if needed any component of the system. Filters, pumps, injectors and seals are all parts of the fuel system that should be checked on a regular basis and replaced if faulty.

Using the recommended octane of gas is important too. Even though the cheap stuff is considerably less than the premium, use the premium if your auto requires it. Many vehicles these days will actually suffer a considerable loss in fuel efficiency with the lower octane. People do not realize using the lower grade gas will actually increase their fuel cost by lower fuel efficiency. Using the correct motor oil should also be a consideration. Always use the oil your manufacturer specifies. In addition, look for motor oil that says energy conserving. These oils have additives to help reduce friction within the engine. The lower the friction, the better the engine operates. This also means follow recommended oil change intervals. As oil is used in the engine, it breaks down causing reduced friction protection for your engine.

A popular site that has arisen is Gas Buddy. This site helps users track gasoline prices all over the U.S. and Canada. It can help you find the stations with the lowest gas prices in your area. Just keep in mind you may lose the benefit of the cheaper gas if you have to drive too far to get it.

All these tips are meant to help you decrease your fuel usage. Most are simple tips that everyone can do. As the price of gasoline keeps rising, it is important to everyone's pocketbook that we increase the fuel efficiency of our vehicles. As an added benefit, conserving gasoline also helps the environment.

Don't Forget:

Repair articles are added regularly.
Come back often to check for new maintenance topics.

These repair tips are designed only as a starting point.
Please seek the assistance of a professional mechanic
for all repair problems beyond your capabilities.

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