No matter where you
live and what you drive, you can maximize every gallon of fuel.
Regular Servicing Is Important
Keep your vehicle well maintained with regular
servicing to keep it operating at peak efficiency. An inefficient
engine—with fouled spark plugs, for example—won't make optimum use
of fuel. Be sure the air filter and the fuel filter are clean. Put
in new ones if they're not. A new oxygen sensor alone can improve
gas mileage by as much as 15 percent, according to AutoZone, a car
Don't forget little things like the air in your tires. Having tires
inflated to the maximum recommended pressure can improve gas mileage
by as much as 6 percent, while periodic wheel alignments can help
improve fuel economy up to 10 percent, according to the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency.
Clean out that trunk, cargo area or pickup bed. Take out unneeded
items that only add weight to your vehicle. Extra weight decreases
gas mileage. According to AutoZone, every 200 pounds of unnecessary
weight shaves one mile per gallon off your fuel mileage.
Be a Different Driver
Change your driving style. Accelerate gradually,
drive smoothly and with care and you could see as much as a 20
percent gain in fuel economy compared with what you'd get with an
aggressive driving style, the EPA says. Skip those jackrabbit starts
and sudden pedal-to-the-metal maneuvers if you want to save gas.
Anticipate stops so you avoid sudden braking, and take a long view
of the road ahead, coasting safely to an intersection in front of
you where you see traffic stopped.
Don't speed. A car or truck moving at 55 miles an hour can get about
15 percent better fuel economy than the same car going 65 mph. Use
your vehicle's navigation system, if you have one, in your travels
to new locales. This can save you from getting lost and wasting gas.
Don't be idle too long. Don't waste fuel by sitting
in that drive-thru lane at McDonald's or Taco Bell. Park and go
inside instead. Don't let your vehicle idle as you wait outside the
elementary school to pick up your children. Idling uses more fuel
than turning the engine off, waiting for your youngsters and then
restarting the engine.
When you're in slow city traffic, keep the air conditioner off, if
possible. Roll down the windows and open the air vents to keep you
and your riders comfortable. That air conditioner is a burden that
uses fuel, and if you're tooling around town, you can see a "very
slight" improvement in gas mileage by keeping it turned off, a
Mercedes-Benz spokesman said.
Combine your errands into one trip, rather than
taking multiple trips from home. Organize your stops so they're near
each other and so you don't retrace your path. You may even be able
to park in one central spot and walk between some of your stops
rather than driving and parking at each one. For large gatherings
like family reunions and church picnics, organize a carpool. If the
distance to these events is long, Budget Rent a Car Corp. suggests
even renting a 15-person van to maximize fuel savings vs. driving a
number of separate vehicles in these circumstances.
Plan your trips so you go out during less-congested times of day.
When there's less traffic, you're more apt to be able to drive
smoothly. Use navigation aids on the Internet or in your vehicle to
keep from getting lost—and thus wasting fuel—when you're headed to a
new, unknown location.
Note that road and weather conditions have a role,
too, in the fuel economy of your vehicle. Driving into a 20-mph
headwind can reduce fuel economy by as much as 6 percent. Driving up
a mountain road with a 7 percent grade can cut fuel economy by as
much as 25 percent. Driving on gravel and in slush and snow requires
a bit more fuel, too.
Other Modes of Transport
Look at alternative transportation options—even if
it's just for one or two days a week. Walk, bicycle, carpool or take
public transportation and leave your vehicle at home. The League of
American Bicyclists, based in Washington D.C., notes that cycling to
work not only saves on gas, it is an excellent cardiovascular
workout. And in some cases, the league says, commuters actually
arrive at their destination quicker on a bicycle than they would via
congested auto roadways.
When you shop for a new vehicle, compare fuel
economy. Bear in mind how bigger vehicles, bigger engines,
four-wheel drive and lots of optional equipment can add to a
vehicle's weight and, as a result, reduce its fuel efficiency. Even
larger tires can have an effect. A tire with a larger "footprint" on
the road that doesn't have a special rubber compound designed to
improve fuel economy has more rolling resistance than a comparable
smaller tire, and this can lower fuel economy.