Summer is prime time for road trips. So with all of that driving, it's a great time to look at different ways to improve the gas mileage in our cars.
Regular Vehicle Maintenance
The largest and most important item to look at when trying to improve gas mileage is the car’s engine. In addition to extending the life of the engine, proper and timely maintenance will allow you to get more miles per dollar spent on gas. Addressing small issues as soon as possible will also prevent them from turning into bigger (and more expensive) issues later. The three specific areas to maintain for great gas mileage are the emission control system, the air filter, and the spark plugs.
- Emission Control System. If the oxygen (O2) sensor in the emission control system goes bad, your gas mileage can drop as much as 40%. If the O2 sensor is malfunctioning, it may be falsely alerting that there is too much oxygen in your exhaust when there really isn’t. This causes your system to dump more fuel into your air fuel mixture, wasting excess gas and destroying your fuel economy.
- Air Filter. More frequent air filter changes can improve your vehicle’s gas mileage by as much as 10%, the Car Care Council says. The filter keeps dirty particles from damaging the inside of your engine and helps it run more efficiently. The Car Care Council, a consumer advocacy group that promotes vehicle maintenance, recommends checking the filter each time you change the oil every 3,000 miles.
- Tire Inflation and Wheel Alignment. When your tires are underinflated, you’ve got more rolling resistance, and your engine will burn more fuel in order to push you down the road. Check your tire pressure each month when the tires are cold, and make sure they’re inflated to the recommended pressure on the tire placard or your owner’s manual. Ask your service professional about tire balancing and wheel alignment, too. As with proper tire inflation, your engine won’t work as hard when all of your tires are pointing in the same direction.
Small changes in your current driving habits and even the time of day you drive can have a large impact on your gas mileage.
- Plan Your Route. It’s amazing how much gas you can save by combining trips and planning the most time-efficient driving route before you go. A route with right turns is generally more efficient than one with left turns because you won’t have to turn across oncoming traffic. Plus, many states allow cars to turn right at red lights, so you’ll spend less time idling.
- Stop signs and traffic lights. Because the accelerator pedal controls how much gasoline is fed to the engine, it makes sense that a light touch will yield the best mpg. A vehicle is least efficient when it is accelerating, so the trick is to use just enough power to get up to the desired speed quickly, without hard acceleration. On the other hand, accelerating too slowly can actually hinder overall gas mileage. An easy fuel-efficient driving technique: When you see a red light or stop sign ahead, let off the gas and coast to a stop.
- Lighten the load. Your engine uses less fuel when you’re carrying less weight. Roof racks are handy sometimes, but carrying things on the roof creates another source of drag that can increase your gas consumption. Keep your roof clear unless you actually need to haul something from one place to another. For every 100 pounds of weight you remove from your vehicle, you’ll increase your gas mileage by much as 2%.
- Drive Less. The absolute best way to increase the savings on gas is to use an alternative method to commute – carpooling, public transportation, roller skates, bicycle, or even walking can all help save money spent on gas.
Final Thoughts on Gas Mileage
Even with fuel efficient and electric cars, there are still steps you can take to improve your gas mileage. Performing basic car maintenance and changing your driving habits will bring noticeable results in the miles per gallon of your car.