I’m sure you’re seeing a trend on a lot of the blogs and web pages out there with gas prices as they are giving you tips to save gas. They’re telling you to keep your maintenance schedule, carpool, and even change your vehicle. Well what about those of us that don’t feel that isn’t enough, or think we can get even more out of it? Now, I’m not telling you to ignore their advice, as they are the building blocks to maximizing your fuel economy.
Before I even get going, there are a couple of things I’m assuming you’re doing already to keep your car in shape and at the best operating potential. These include: using gas grade per instructed by your manual, changing your oil (with the type intended for your engine) every 3000-5000 miles, checking your air filter to make sure it’s clean, and keeping your tires inflated to their proper pressure. If you weren’t doing that already, you may see a significant increase in your gas mileage just doing that (an estimated 5-20% depending on the amount of change).
The next step is to change your habits about when you choose to drive. Instead of driving on a whim when you realize you forgot to pick up milk or cream cheese at the grocery store when you were out last time, wait until you’re going by the store next time around. If you’re needing it right then, before you head out make a list of other items you may need.
I don’t totally endorse getting a new, more efficient vehicle mainly because that’s a significant investment and the idea behind getting better gas mileage for me has nothing to do with “saving the environment” and is more about saving my money.
Now, onto the ways to drastically increase your gas mileage.
- Go the speed limit or just under it, unless you’re drafting (see below).
- Don’t accellerate from stop as quickly as you usually do. Take it easy, hard acceleration is the quickest way to lose your average mpg.
- When accelerating onto a limited access highway while on an inclining ramp, do your best to estimate the amount of power you will need to apply to reach the speed limit at the time you will be merging onto the highway. Doing so will allow you to appeal to traffic behind you, while conserving the most fuel.
- Coast downhill for 80% of a decline, the last 20% or so should be used to boost your speed to make it up the next hill without having to downshift (*note* On longer uphill drags, don’t be afraid to downshift if it means keeping within 10 mph of the speed limit, you will be making up for plenty of gas mileage if you stick with the rest of my tips). Coasting is best done in Neutral so your engine isn’t stealing the energy from the coast. Automatics typically have a neutral position on one side of the “D” position. Manual transmissions can just be pulled out of gear, or clutch engaged for the duration of the coast.
- Make the most of turns in the road when changing lanes. If possible, change lanes when you’re already going around a bend in the road. Forcing your tires away from direct parallel of each other takes energy away from moving forward and puts it into heat caused by friction on your tires. To realize how much this effect has, find an empty flat road and coast for the distance of it once. Do it again but weave back and forth across the lanes. I can assure you your vehicle won’t make near the distance it did before. This effect has a larger impact on those of us with wider/softer tires.
- Draft off of bigger vehicles. BE CAREFUL AND ALERT. This is the absolute best way to make drastic improvements in gas mileage, but it doesn’t come without consequence if you aren’t paying attention. Drafting requires that you stay inside of the wind braking available from the vehicle or trailer ahead of you, and thus you will be well within safe limits for an immediate braking situation. I am able to “feel” when I’m at the maximum distance to still receive the benefits of drafting when I drive in my Nissan Pathfinder as it tends to get pushed in the turbulence behind the trailers I am drafting off of at my back end. Drafting off of trailers has allowed me to increase my gas mileage by nearly 50% over short highway distances (less than 30 mile trips). Make sure the truck driver can see you once every mile and a half so he/she doesn’t get paranoid.
Check back later for a possible part 2 as I check some more theories.