It is the nightmare that faces almost every person every week. Filling up your personal car with gas prices on the rise. The cost of running your car has become not only a key economic indicator, but a real-world drain on your resources. Who hasn’t stood at the bowser and watched a good proportion of the weekly pocket money disappear into the tank?
Getting your vehicle, be it petrol or diesel, to go as far as possible on the least amount of fuel is ultimately going to put dollars back in your pocket… but how do you do it? Whether a short trip to the school or office, or a longer road trip to the woods to take in the fall colors, try these driving best practices and you could improve your fuel economy by up to 15%.
1. Set your cruise control to 55 mph.
Cruise control applies the throttle more smoothly, reducing fuel consumption. More than 50 percent of the energy required to move a car is spent overcoming aerodynamic drag (pushing air out of the way). The faster you drive, the more aerodynamic drag increases and fuel economy decreases. Increasing your cruising speed from 65 mph to 75 mph will drive up fuel consumption by about 20 percent. Reducing your speed from 65 mph to 55 mph improves fuel economy by about 10 percent. And try to anticipate changes in traffic flow so you can ease into stops and starts. Driving at a steady pace saves gas.
2. Drive off promptly to prevent wasting fuel.
Don’t leave your engine running when you first start up. Cars these days do not need to be warmed up before you drive them. Drive off straight away if you can, but drive gently until the engine has reached its normal operating temperature. This doesn’t increase fuel efficiency as such, but it does mean your engine is switched on for less time.
3. Use your gears wisely.
Driving in the highest gear possible without laboring the engine is a fuel-efficient way of driving. A vehicle traveling at 37 mph in third gear uses 25 percent more fuel than at the same speed in fifth gear.
4. Neutral is also an option.
Learn how to coast between traffic lights, applying power intermittently, as needed to keep the car rolling with traffic. If you know you need to stop down the road, you can also save a lot of gas by simply lifting your foot off the accelerator and coasting long before you need to stop. What’s the hurry? You’ll only have to sit there at the light anyway. You can reduce the load on your engine at a red light by putting it on neutral as you’re waiting. However, too many shifts between “N” and “D” can cause your transmission to wear out, so avoid using “N” for shorter wait times.
5. Switch off your engine.
There are two schools of thought on this one. Switching your engine off for short periods of time can actually increase fuel consumption, as it requires more fuel to get the engine started. Also your catalytic converter will no longer be running at full temperature and so your car will be less efficient, increasing the amount of pollution you cause. However if you are stopped for more than a few minutes then your car will simply burn less fuel with the engine stopped.
6. Fill up with a lower-octane gasoline.
Sorry to tell you this, but in spite of its name, buying premium gas won’t help you get better gas mileage or performance. Buy the lowest grade or octane of gasoline that is appropriate for your car. Unless your car requires premium gasoline, filling up your car with high-octane fuel is a waste of money. That pricey premium fuel won’t boost your car’s fuel economy or performance in the least, so skip it.
If you’re not sure what grade of fuel works best for your car, open up your owner’s manual and take a look. As long as your engine doesn’t knock or ping when you fuel up with regular unleaded, you’re good to drive on this much cheaper gas. Passing on pricey premium gasoline could save you hundreds of dollars a year.
7. Don’t top off.
Don’t bother topping off when filling your car’s gas tank. The gas tank needs room for the gas to expand, particularly on hot summer days when gas warms up and expands. If you continue fueling after the pump shuts off, you also increase the chance of releasing harmful gasoline vapors into the air. And why waste your money paying for gas your car won’t use?
8. Tighten up that gas cap.
Gas will evaporate from your car’s gas tank if it has an escape. Loose, missing or damaged gas caps cause 147 million gallons of gas to evaporate each year, according to the Car Care Council. So be sure to tighten up that gas cap each time you fuel up your car. Also remember that early in the morning and in the late evening are the best times to buy gas. This will mean less evaporation of gasoline as you pump. During these times gasoline is also most dense. Gas pumps measure volume of gasoline, not the density of fuel concentration.
9. Keep your tank above one third full.
If your fuel runs low, the engine might not receive a steady supply of gas (since it will splash around while you’re driving and it might momentarily splash away from the tube that leads gas out of the tank). Not having a steady supply of gas will make your engine less efficient. The benefits of having a full tank will outweigh the drawbacks of having the added weight.
10. Go easy on the air conditioning.
Roll down your car’s windows and let in the summer breeze. Using the gas-hogging air conditioning as sparingly as possible will give your car’s fuel economy a real boost. Air conditioning can drag down your car’s fuel economy by 10 percent to 20 percent.