Fuel Saving Tips For Your Next Adventure
High fuel prices denting your adventure budget? The US Department of Energy offers some gas-wise tips to improve fuel economy.
One of the best ways to identify problems that may be causing lower mileage. A vehicle inspection also can help identify problems that may be lowering your gas mileage.
The DOE offers the following advice for drivers planning their next road trip:
- Engine care and turing: Regular maintenance is a key component of fuel economy. That means regular oil changes, spark plug replacement, clean fuel filters and a myriad of other adjustments and inspections for items that affect performance.
- Cars that pass their emissions tests and are regularly tuned can improve your mileage by an average of 4%. One way to tell it might be out of tune is if your mileage suddenly drops. Many newer vehicles seldom require tune-ups so it never hurts to ask your dealer or favorite mechanic.
- Check engine sensors: Modern vehicles have computerized sensors checking the mass air flow into the engine, impacting fuel injection. The oxygen sensor monitors air flow before and after the catalytic converter. Dirty sensors mean inaccurate readings causing your engine to work harder.
- Clean the air filter: Cleaning or changing the air filter will improve engine performance. For diesel vehicles, regularly cleaning the diesel particulate filter can improve fuel economy by 2% - 3%.
- Check the engine cooling fan: Today’s car, truck and SUV engines provide a lot of power to the engine cooling fan. Ensure it only runs when needed. A fan that runs constantly decreases fuel economy.
- Inflate your tires: Properly inflated tires can boost gas mileage by 3.3% (about 0.3% for every 1 psi your tires are under-inflated). Drop by for a quick check to see if your tires need a “fill up.”
- Check tire alignment and balance: Misaligned tires can cut fuel efficiency by up to 10% while also making your tires wear much faster. A common symptom is a vibration in the steering wheel.
- Use the right oil: Following the manufacturer’s recommended grade of motor oil can improve mileage by 1% - 2% over using the wrong weight oil. Also look for the words “Energy Conserving” on the oil label.
Other recommendations from DOE involve driving habits. Yet, they also can impact mileage per gallon and, as a result, your monthly fuel bill.
Consider the following advice, courtesy of the DOE:
- Don’t idle needlessly: Idling can use .25 - .50 gallons of fuel per hour depending on engine size and air conditioner use. When you are stuck in a traffic jam or otherwise parked, shut off your engine.
- Gear up: If you’re driving a vehicle with a manual transmission, shift to a higher gear at higher speeds. Higher gears are more economical in terms of fuel consumption.
- Lighten your load: The lighter your car, the better your mileage. Smaller vehicles benefit more than larger ones but hauling an extra 100 pounds can cost you about a 1% loss of fuel economy. For sports enthusiasts, that’s about the weight of a large punching bag. Or, if you are working on home projects, don’t leave the toolbox and materials in your truck--it could be lowering your mileage performance.
- Fill up your gas tank in the early morning early or late evening: Heat causes gasoline to expand. It’s denser in the morning and late at night. Filling up then gives you more gas for the same cost.
- Avoid aggressive driving: Speeding, rapidly accelerating and slamming on the brakes can cut your gas mileage by a third (33%) at highway speeds and about 5% elsewhere. Accelerate smoothly at a moderate rate to improve performance.
- Don’t speed: Once your vehicle’s speed hits 50 mph, mileage decreases by 7% - 14% or roughly $.18 per gallon for every 5 mph increase.
- Cruise along: More recent vehicles are equipped with cruise control. Using it on the open road helps maintain a constant speed, saving gas.
- Cargo tips: For rooftops, choose aerodaynamic container that reduces wind resistance. Those rectangular roof-top cargo carriers can reduce fuel performance by as much as 6% - 17% on the highway, 10% - 25% at Interstate speeds and by 2% - 8% in city driving. When you need more cargo space, use a container that mounts on the rear. The performance drop is only 1% - 5%.
- Plan and combine trips: Make one longer trip instead of several shorter ones, reducing your overall distance and travel time.
- Reduce your A/C use: On those extreme hot conditions, automotive air conditioners can place an extra burden on your engine and potentially cut your fuel economy by up to 25% on short trips. It depends on outside temperature, humidity and intensity of the sun. This reduction is especially pronounced for hybrids, according to DOE. An easy suggestion: Reduce fan speed when your vehicle is idling.
- The flip side to using air conditioning is opening windows while driving. DOE states it creates more drag that reduces fuel economy, especially for freeway speed. The effect is not pronounced on those local trips to the grocery store and around town, however.